Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Buena Vista Social Club was a members club in Havana, Cuba that held dances and musical activities, becoming a popular location for musicians to meet and play during the 1940s. In the 1990s, nearly 40 years after the club was closed, it inspired a recording made by Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González and American guitarist Ry Cooder with traditional Cuban musicians, some of whom were veterans who had performed at the club during the height of its popularity.
The recording, named Buena Vista Social Club after the Havana institution, became an international success, and the ensemble was encouraged to perform with a full line-up in Amsterdam in 1998. German director Wim Wenders captured the performance on film, followed by a second concert in Carnegie Hall, New York City for a documentary that included interviews with the musicians conducted in Havana. Wenders's film, also called Buena Vista Social Club, was released to critical acclaim, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary feature and winning numerous accolades including Best Documentary at the European Film Awards.
The success of both the album and film sparked a revival of international interest in traditional Cuban music and Latin American music in general. Some of the Cuban performers later released well-received solo albums and recorded collaborations with international stars from different musical genres. The "Buena Vista Social Club" name became an umbrella term to describe these performances and releases, and has been likened to a brand label that encapsulates Cuba's "musical golden age" between the 1930s and 1950s. The new success was fleeting for the most recognizable artists in the ensemble: Compay Segundo, Rubén González, and Ibrahim Ferrer, who died at the ages of ninety-five, eighty-four, and seventy-eight respectively; Segundo and González in 2003, then Ferrer in 2005.

A total of twenty musicians contributed to the recording including Ry Cooder's son Joachim Cooder, (b. 1978) who at the time was a 19 year old scholar of Latin percussion and provided drums for the band. Ry Cooder himself played slide guitar on several songs and helped produce and mix the album, afterwards describing the sessions as "the greatest musical experience of my life".

Buena Vista Social Club Musicians

Main article: Buena Vista Social Club (film) Film
The first performances by the full line up of "Buena Vista Social Club", including Cooder, were those filmed by Wenders in Amsterdam and New York. Other international shows and T.V. appearances soon followed with varying line ups. Ibrahim Ferrer and Rubén González performed together in Los Angeles in 1998 to an audience that included Alanis Morissette, Sean Combs, and Jennifer Lopez, Ferrer dedicating the song Mami Me Gusto to the Hispanic Lopez.

The international success of the Buena Vista Social Club generated a revival of interest in traditional Cuban music and Latin American music as a whole.

Impact and analysis

Buena Vista Social Club (September 16, 1997). World Circuit / Nonesuch Records. Discography
The below discography includes solo albums released since the first Buena Vista Social Club album that feature the musicians in the ensemble, and that are considered to be under the "Buena Vista Social Club" aegis.

Rubén González

  • Introducing... Rubén González (September 17, 1997). Elektra/Asylum.
    (Guest Musicians include Ry Cooder, Manuel Galbán, Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez and Manuel "El Guajiro" Mirabal.) Other releases

    Further reading

    Tropicana Club

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