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In Havana, music isn't a pastime, it's a way of life.
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The Buena Vista Social Club is a Cuban music band who took their name from a musicians club in Havana, Cuba, that was popular in the 1940s until it closed in the 1960s. In 1996 many former musicians of this club reunited to perform traditional son, bolero, guajira and danzón music. The immediate cause for this reunion was American guitarist Ry Cooder, who visited the island around that time with the intention of recording a collaboration project between Malinese and Cuban musicians. When the Malinese musicians couldn't acquire visas to enter the country Cooder changed plans and recorded an album with the Cuban musicians instead. He played guitar on some of the tracks and also produced the record.

The Buena Vista Social Club was an incredible project because most of the Cuban musicians hadn't performed in decades and were old enough to be permanently retired. But they agreed to go back in the studio again and record in optimal circumstances. The consequent album, "Buena Vista Social Club" (1997) became an unexpected international bestseller, won a Grammy Award and brough the veteran musicians universal fame. For the first time since the Communist coup in 1959 the band members were allowed to leave the island to go on a world wide tour. In 2000 Wim Wenders directed a Rockumentary/Concert Film about them, which was nominated for an Academy Award and won Best Documentary at the European Film Awards.

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The success also lead to individual musicians of the band recording solo albums. Ibrahim Ferrer also performed a song, "Latin Simone (¿Qué Pasa Contigo?)", on Gorillaz' album Gorillaz.

Since many band members were in their senior years their superstardom was overwhelming but brief. Many passed away in the 2000s. The band still tours today with the remaining members and younger musicians falling in for them.

Discography

  • "Buena Vista Social Club" (1997)
  • "Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall" (2008)
  • "Lost And Found" (2015)

Tracklist

  1. "Chan Chan" (4:16)
  2. "De Camino a la Vereda" (5:03)
  3. "El Cuarto de Tula" (7:27)
  4. "Pueblo Nuevo" (6:05)
  5. "Dos Gardenias" (3:02)
  6. "¿Y Tú Qué Has Hecho?" (3:13)
  7. "Veinte Años" (3:29)
  8. "El Carretero" (5:27)
  9. "Candela" (5:27)
  10. "Amor de Loca Juventud" (3:21)
  11. "Orguellecida" (3:18)
  12. "Murmullo" (3:50)
  13. "Buena Vista Social Club" (4:50)
  14. "La Bayamesa" (2:54)
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Personnel

  • Compay Segundo: vocals, tres
  • Eliades Ochoa: vocals, guitar
  • Ry Cooder: slide guitar
  • Joachim Cooder: percussion
  • Ibrahim Ferrer: vocals, congas, claves, bongos
  • Omara Portuondo: vocals
  • Rubén González: piano
  • Carlos González: percussion
  • Orlando "Cachaito" López: double bass
  • Amadito Valdés: percussion
  • Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal: trumpet
  • Barbarito Torres: laúd note 
  • Pío Leyva: vocals
  • Manuel "Puntillita" Licea: vocals
  • Juan de Marcos González: güiro

Buena Vista Tropes

  • Alliterative Title: "Chan Chan".
  • Boléro Effect: "Dos Gardenias" is a bolero song.
  • Concert Film: Wim Wenders' documentary about the band is a part concert movie.
  • Cool Old Guy: At time of recording all musicians were well into their sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties and still performed on stage. The oldest was Compay Segundo (1907-2003), who was 89 at time of recording the album.
  • Double Entendre: "Candela" makes use of sexual innuendo.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Compay Segundo claimed he woke up one morning with the melody of "Chan Chan" in his head. Thus he wrote it down and recorded it.
  • Face on the Cover: Ibrahim Ferrer walking down the street.
  • Folk Music: The songs are traditionals, performed with acoustic instruments.
  • Handicapped Badass: Pianist Rubén González suffered from artritis in old age and still managed to give amazing performances.
  • Improv: Ibrahim Ferrer improvised vocals at certain points during "Candela".
  • Nostalgia Filter: The band is named after a disbanded musicians' club and they play traditional music.
  • One-Word Title: "Candela", "Orgullecida" and "Murmullo".
  • Patriotic Fervor: "La Bayamesa" is a Cuban patriotic song.
  • Questioning Title?: "¿Y Tú Qué Has Hecho?"
  • Record Producer: Ry Cooder.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: Most songs are either traditionals or songs that appeared on earlier albums. "Chan Chan", for instance, was already a 10 year old composition by Compay Segundo.
  • Self-Titled Album: The album was named after the band.
  • Smoking Is Cool: On the cover Ibrahim Ferrer smokes a cigarette.
  • Special Guest: Ry Cooder, who organized the concerts and produced the album, plays slide guitar on several songs.
  • Time Marches On: It can be sad to realize that almost one decade after this recording many musicians died of old age.
  • Title Track: "Buena Vista Social Club".
  • World Music: The album sparked world wide interest in Cuban and Caribbean traditional music in general.

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