Mourners showered the casket of the 95-year-old performer with applause as his body left a funeral home where a memorial was held. He was to buried Tuesday in his boyhood home of Santiago, the heart of Cuban music in the eastern part of the island.

Born Maximo Francisco Repilado Munoz, the wiry, jovial, cigar-smoking musician carried traditional Cuban music to the world in his final decade. He was honored with a Grammy as part of the Buena Vista Social Club in his 90th year and helped draw attention to other aging but talented Cuban musicians.

Compay set audiences dancing from Havana to Paris with hits such as “Chan Chan,” which created a worldwide sensation around a musical genre which had largely been forgotten even at home in Cuba.

“He represented our culture to the entire world,” said Omara Portuondo, who sang on the Buena Vista record and who stood alongside Compay’s casket during a viewing at a Havana funeral parlor on Monday. “I would say that he is part of the Cuban flag.”

Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto called the death “a great loss because of everything that Compay represented: the most authentic part of our popular tradition, of our musical tradition.”

Compay died late Sunday night of kidney failure, according to relatives. On Monday, he had made a final performance, playing briefly at a tribute concert hosted by his sons at Havana’s Hotel Nacional, where a concert room is dedicated to him.

Still joking, Compay said then that he hoped to father another child.

Born Nov. 18, 1907, in the eastern town of Siboney, he was nine when he moved with his family to nearby Santiago. By age 14, he was playing the clarinet in a municipal band.

Each concert, he recalled, had to begin with a waltz and several stately “danzon” dance pieces. “It was the era of romanticism,” he said in a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, setting down a glass or rum to saw at an imaginary violin.

Cuban “son” – mixing harder African rhythms with Spanish lyricism – was coming into its own, breaking down discrimination against “black” music and laying the groundwork for modern Cuban music such as salsa.

Compay emerged as a well-known musician in Cuba, playing with Nico Saquito, the Cuarteto Hatuey and his own duo, Los Compadres, until 1953.

He developed a unique seven-string guitar that he called the “armonica” that had a doubled middle string to add harmonics for Cuban son rhythms.

He got his nickname when he was about 40 and performing as the second voice in the duo Los Compadres – a word Cubans shorten to “compay.”

In the late 1950s, he formed a group called Compay Segundo y sus Muchachos (Compay Segundo and his Boys) for a tour of the Dominican Republic.

After the 1959 triumph of the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro, Compay continued to perform intermittently as a solo artist and occasionally made appearances on local radio stations. His day job was rolling H. Upmann coronas in a local cigar factory.

The Cuban music magazine Salsa Cubana reported that some music experts in the 1980s did not even know he was still alive.

Compay was playing at Havana hotel when a Spanish tourist heard him and invited him to perform in Spain in 1994. He was a hit, and went on to make several records there.

A few years later, he was packing concert halls in Europe and his fame grew far wider when he was featured on the hit record Buena Vista Social Club, a record of traditional Cuban son produced by Ry Cooder which won a 1997 Grammy.

On Monday, the Grammy stood with other awards and medals before his open casket, which was draped with the Cuban flag and topped with his trademark Borsalino-style hat. Alongside was a huge spray of flowers from Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Even more of a personal trademark were cigars. Compay told friends he had smoked his first one at age 5 and he continued almost until the end.

The Buena Vista record, and Compay’s popularity, also helped bring renewed fame to musician such as Pio Leyva, Ruben Gonzalez and Omara Portuondo.

A widely praised film of the same name, based on the sessions, was directed by Wim Wenders.

The Hotel Nacional held a three-day celebration in Compay’s honor on his 95th birthday last year. He moved a bit slowly and was slightly hard of hearing, but remained notably lucid.

“I feel content, successful … you shouldn’t succumb to boredom,” he told reporters.