Noel Nicola was a pioneer of the nueva trova movement that dominated Cuban music during the late '60s. Born October 7, 1946, in Havana, Nicola was the product of a family of professional musicians, and was playing guitar and writing his own songs by 13. He made his professional debut in 1968 alongside Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, and with them spearheaded the rise of trova, an enormously popular and influential form of contemporary protest music rooted in the troubadour ballads of Cuba's fight for independence.
In 1969, Nicola joined the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos' Grupo de Experimentación Sonora (Sound Experimentation Group), workshopping under Cuban music masters Leo Brouwer, Juan Elósegui, and Federico Smith. Three years later, he was named the first president of the Movimiento de la Nueva Trova. With 1977's Comienzio el Dia, Nicola launched a recording career that would swell to include close to a dozen LPs and over 350 songs, among them the hits "Por la Vida Juntos," "Para una Imaginaria Maria del Carmen," "Son Oscuro," and "Es Mas, Te Perdono." He also maintained an extensive touring schedule, performing in more than 30 countries in Europe, Africa, and North and South America. Nicola died of cancer on August 7, 2005, at the age of 58. ~ Jason Ankeny