Guitar legend Julián Coco passes away at age 89

POSTED: 02/6/13 12:30 PM

Julian CocoBILTHOVEN – Curacao-born musician Julián Basílico Coco passed away on Monday at the age of 89 in the Netherlands. He will be cremated on Friday in Bilthoven.

Coco graduated as a double bass player from the Conservatory in Amsterdam and he played for years in the Symphony Orchestra of Utrecht. Next to that Coco studies guitar at the conservatory in Amsterdam. He was the first abiturient to capture a soloist diploma for guitar at a Dutch conservatory.

“We lost a great musician, a master, a mentor, and advisor but above all a great personality who was always ready to help you but also – if necessary – to correct you,” the Aruban piano player Alwin Toppenberg said in a reaction to the news of Coco’s passing. “He was a highly appreciated guitar player who often performed on Dutch television. Abroad he was also a welcome guitar player who did many guest performances. During torus abroad he often played together with global top musicians. With his excellent play he put the Caribbean part of the Kingdom on the map. We will miss him.”

Film producer Jermain Lo and Marije Berkhouwer, the head of the information department at the Curacao home in the Netherlands said in a joint statement that Coco was a beautiful man with a warm character. “In the few meetings I had with him he always took my hand with his fingers entwined with mine. He said, look, your skin color is lighter and mine is darker. Together our fingers form a zebra crossing and that is how it ought to be in life. Now that he has left us, it feels unreal, but he wanted to go and rest. Let us pass on his philosophy to the new generation and live the way he wanted.”

Almost three years ago, in May 2010, Aruban guitar player Marlon Titre and jazz piano player Randal Corsen organized a tribute to Julian Coco in the Doelen in Rotterdam. It was the opening concert of the Antilles festival that year.

Coco lived until 1953 in Curacao. He came from a poor background and taught himself to play the double-bass. In the forties and fifties he performed with all musicians that mattered in Curacao line Benny Priviana, Padu del Caribe, and Rufo Wever.

In an interview in 2008 coca said that he had to give his guitar a rest. He only played for small parties at the age of 85. “There is a new wave of young artists; it is no use to prove myself anymore. It is passé and so am I.”

Corsen and Titre performed in 2010 with the New European ensemble in the Doelen to honor Coco. “I am happy that people are now able to hear how many beautiful things are coming from the Antilles.”

Volkskrant reporter Karolien Knols added for good measure to her article: “He will not repeat what a colleague recently said: that goes to show that not all Antilleans are bolita-swallowers.”

Corsen’s reaction: “Like we have to defend ourselves.”

That day in Rotterdam Corsen, and Titre showed what coco excelled in: making crossovers between different styles. “That’s because we come from a rich culture, whatever some Dutch may say about us,” Corsen said.

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