I’m back (again). Uni application is sent, I can now breathe.
Today’s post is about Buena Vista Social Club. I grew up with their first album, the 53 minutes of Afro-Cuban Jazz (Son Cubano to be more specific) ingrained early on in my memory probably being the reason why I love jazz so much today. There’s something so atmospheric about their music that I only wish I could achieve one day (my secret lifelong dream is to learn the art of jazz…) The first track, Chan Chan, is my favourite (although El Carretero and Dos Gardenias are close second & third) and probably their most famous.
There’s a BBC 3 tune in session of two founder members of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo and Eliades Ochoa, and it’s wonderful. If you like that sort of thing I suggest you listen to it. If you don’t, I still suggest you do.
Buena Vista Social Club started out in the mid 1990s as a group of Cuban musicians taking the name of a Havana-based club that had closed in the 1940s. Cuban musician Juan de Marcos Gonzalez and American guitarist Ry Cooder decided to come together with a selection of traditional Cuban musicians, some of whom were veterans who themselves had played at the club during its peak years.
What I didn’t know was that the club itself was closed after the Cuban revolution- once a hub for the Afro-Cuban musical community in Havana, the new president Manuel Urrutia Lleó, being a devout Christian, decided to begin a program of closing gambling outlets, nightclubs and other establishments associated with Havana’s hedonistic lifestyle. Essentially, as the government shifted towards the left, the idea of racially exclusive clubs conflicted with the attempts to create a ‘colour blind’ society and many societies created to preserve forms of cultural expression in the black community were deemed to emphasize cultural differences and closed down, which is tragic.
The band’s first and main album (and pretty much their only proper one) was Buena Vista Social Club which was an instant success. They’ve performed around the world and featured in a 1999 documentary of their performance at Carnegie Hall called – guess what- Buena Vista Social Club. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary feature and won numerous accolades. A great success, woo.
***They’re doing a farewell tour this year, starting today (a massive coincidence, I had no idea) in USA, then going to Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Oman and finishing in Hong Kong on the 12th of March 2016… so if you live near don’t wait a second longer! (and here the over-enthusiastic advertisement ends)*** http://www.buenavistasocialclub.com/tour/