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Cola Boyy, Indie Singer and Disability Activist, Dies at 34

Cola Boyy, Indie Singer and Disability Activist, Dies at 34

Cola Boyy, the California singer-songwriter who collaborated with MGMT and the Avalanches and advocated for people with disabilities, has died. He was 34.

Cola Boyy, who was born Matthew Urango, died Sunday at his home in Oxnard, his mother, Lisa Urango, said. No cause was given.

A self-described “disabled disco innovator,” Mr. Urango assembled diverse instruments to create a brimming mixture of funky rhythm and colorful sounds that accompanied his alluring voice, a striking balance of silk and chirp.

Mr. Urango was born spina bifida, kyphosis and scoliosis and had used a prosthetic leg since he was 2.

As Cola Boyy, he released a debut 2021 album, “Prosthetic Boombox,” that garnered millions of streams on Spotify and other platforms and boasted lively and introspective tunes such as “Don’t Forget Your Neighborhood,” a collaboration with the indie pop group the Avalanches.

He used his burgeoning platform as an artist to speak out for social causes, including those related to people with disabilities.

“Not a lot of artists are visibly disabled,” he said in an interview with Tmrw magazine. “Society wants us to stay inside and to be timid and docile, and to not feel confident, or cool, or sexy.”

As Cola Boyy, he performed for audiences at major music festivals, including Coachella in 2019, where he appeared on a lineup that included Ariana Grande and Bad Bunny.

He was signed to the French indie label Record Makers and collaborated with Mac DeMarco, MGMT and others, according to his manager, Jack Sills.

Mr. Urango had been a community organizer who worked on issues in Oxnard’s agricultural and immigrant communities, Mr. Sills said.

Matthew Joseph Urango was born on Feb. 14, 1990, in Ventura County, his mother said. He grew up in Oxnard, a largely Latino and working-class city on the Southern California coast that is known for the vast farms nearby.

Mr. Urango taught himself to play several instruments, his mother said. His first was a “little kid drum set,” he said in an interview with The Fader that was published in 2018, adding that he had later picked up piano and guitar.

On Monday night, at an impromptu vigil in an Oxnard alleyway, scores of people turned out to mourn, his mother said. Flowers and candles amassed on the ground, the words “RIP COLA BOYY” spray-painted on a wall above.

Mr. Urango is survived by his twin brother, Marcus; his younger brother, Noah; and his mother and father, Lisa and Joseph Urango.

When he was a teenager, Mr. Urango joined Oxnard’s thriving punk scene, playing in several bands, Mr. Sills said. Before becoming a solo artist, he had been a member of an indie pop band called Sea Lions, his manager said, which toured and played shows overseas.

In the Fader interview, Mr. Urango spoke at length about the influence of his hometown.

“The people I grew up with and the people that I surround myself with now are real people who’ve been through a lot,” he said, talking about the people in Oxnard. “They’re very resilient.”


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