Nicolas Hernandez, one of the oldest members of the Gaiteros de San Jacinto and one of the most iconic folk artists in Colombia, died Saturday.
The elderly artist died early in the morning in the Caribbean city of Cartagena after his health had deteriorated which reportedly spurred his hospitalization a few days ago.
Hernandez joined the Gaiteros in 1962 — 22 years after the orchestra’s foundation — after which the group increasingly became the face of one of Colombia’s most prolific music styles, gaita, cumbia and porro.
Following health problems of his uncle and founder of the group, “Toño” Fernandez, Hernandez took over the leadership of the group in 1982.
The Caribbean artists won a Latin Grammy in 2007 with an album released by the U.S. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label.
Apart from being one of Colombia’s most iconic musicians in history, Hernandez was also responsible for the production of folkloric instruments used by musicians of all generations in his native San Jacinto.
Colombian media are inconclusive about the age of the late musical hero. According to Cordoba newspaper El Universal, the singer died at 79. According to national newspaper El Espectador, Hernandez was 82.
Hernandez will be buried in the village of San Jacinto, Bolivar, where he was born and raised and where his historic folk group got their name from. National musicians are expected to pay tribute to one of the most influential musicians of the past 50 years.