LOS ANGELES -- Richard Egues, the Cuban musician whose distinctive flute playing and catchy songwriting left an indelible imprint on the island's dance music during the cha-cha-cha craze of the 1950s, died Sept. 1 in Havana. He was 82.
Reports in Cuba's official media said Mr. Egues had suffered a long illness, but gave no cause of death.
During a memorial service in the Cuban capital, the man nicknamed ``la flauta magica" (the magic flute) was remembered as an influential instrumentalist with the fabled Aragon orchestra, whose style was studied by peers and proteges alike.
Original versions of Egues's lighthearted hits were played at the service, including his most famous composition, ``El Bodeguero," about the neighborhood grocer whose playful chorus remains part of the pop music lexicon throughout the Spanish-speaking world: ``Toma chocolate/Paga lo que debes" (Drink chocolate/Pay what you owe).
``He had a very sweet sound," recalled Raul A. Fernandez, professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a Cuban music scholar. ``He was really the first person in all of Cuban popular music who was an upfront soloist, replacing the vocalists who had been the stars until then."