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Daniel Sahad, frontman of Austin's Nané, dies at 29

A person with long curly hair and glasses sings into a microphone
Gabriel C. Pérez
Daniel Sahad of Nané performs at a Dolly Parton tribute to benefit Front Steps at Stubb's last July.

Daniel Sahad, the charismatic frontman for the Austin-based indie-soul outfit Nané, has died. He was 29.

The band confirmed his death on Instagram on Monday.

"It is with unbelievable pain that we have to share our beautiful band leader, Daniel Sahad passed away last night," the post read.

It did not mention a cause of death.

Sahad started Nané with his songwriting partner Ian Green in 2016, first playing on smaller stages like Stay Gold. A breakout year in 2020 vaulted the band into the national spotlight and on to larger stages like the Austin City Limits Festival and on bills opening for Black Pumas and Sir Woman.

Grammy-winning drummer and producer John Speice, who helped hone Nané’s sound and produced their self-titled 2020 debut, said in a Facebook post that he was “at a complete loss.”

“It’s too much,” he wrote. “It’s so unfair that we were robbed of this beautiful boy and all his gifts.”

Sahad embraced his Afro-Hispanic heritage. The band's moniker, Nańe, was a term of endearment his family called him as a child. Both his parents emigrated to the U.S. in their 20s from the Dominican Republic. Sahad grew up in Amarillo, but he and his sister spent time in the Caribbean nation as kids.

In a December 2020 interview, Sahad told Atwood Magazine he always felt a sense of "displacement."

"I felt a large amount of displacement, both in the Dominican Republic and growing up in Texas (hell of a juxtaposition). When you’ve felt displaced, different, and alone, I think you strive to make sure nobody ever feels that emotion around you," he said. "You create a culture; the culture you always needed. I do pride myself on this international identity."

Sahad and Nańe were primed for a breakout year in 2020 when the pandemic hit. The band made the best of it, parleying a performance of their single "Blue Velvet" into a viral NPR Tiny Desk Concert entry that garnered praise from Brittany Howard. The former frontwoman for Alabama Shakes picked Nańe's entry as one of her top 5 favorites from the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest, taking note of Sahad's humor, stage presence and distinctive vocal range.

"I love the hair swinging! I found myself smiling the whole video," Howard said in an interview with NPR Music's Bob Boilen. "It had me cracking up, but also had me feeling good ... I love his energy!"

During a set at KUTX's Studio 1A last year, Sahad said the praise was surreal, given that Howard and Alabama Shakes were some of his biggest musical influences.

Locally, the band racked up accolades, as well. Nańe was KUTX's artist of the month in January 2021, and both the band and Sahad himself were nominated for Austin Music Awards this year.

Just last week, Nańe played a set at the opening of Tesla's $1 billion factory on the same day City Council proclaimed April 7 to be "Nané Day" in the City of Austin.

Last year, Sahad reflected on the band's meteoric success and the tumult of the pandemic in a Facebook post announcing the band had nabbed a spot playing at ACL Fest. He said it was a goal to play ACL Fest in Nańe's first three years, and that he was "glad we're ahead of projections."

"Thank you all for believing in me when I couldn’t see this is where I was headed," he wrote. "I’ve known it was coming for a while, but this is the year where there really is no turning back."

This is a developing story.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.