Saturday Playlist: Buena Vista Social Club

buena_vista_social_club_sli-632x456Buena Vista Social Club

”The Buena Vista Social Club is the story of a group of musicians who were trapped by history but who were also ultimately granted a reprieve, and as result revived a genre that was almost lost.” The Culture Trip

The Buena Vista Social Club was based in Cuba during the 1940s to early 60s and started off as a members only venue. Located in the over populated Marianao neighbourhood, it acted as a social hub for musicians and performers, leading a programme of artistic activities such as dances and musical happenings. In its golden era it encouraged and continued the development of traditional Afro-Cuban musical styles such as Son. The club was run along the lines of a Cabildo (African ethnic associations in colonial Cuba), as Cuban society was organised around these clubs whose membership was determined by ethnicity, at a time when slavery and racial discrimination against Afro-Cubans was institutionalised.  By the mid-1960s, a generation of music and musicians suffered after the Cold War restraints on the island took effect. Consequently, the cultural and social centres were abolished to make way for racially integrated societies. Private festivities were limited to weekend parties and organisers’ funds were confiscated, these measures soon resulting in the closure of the Buena Vista Social Club.


Despite this decline, The Buena Vista Social Club was reintroduced during the 90s with the help of American guitarist Ry Cooder and British world music producer Nick Gold. They visited Havana in 1996 and started working with Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González, along with traditional Cuban musicians, some of whom were veterans who had performed at the club during its golden era. On their album’s release, entitled Buena Vista Social Club (1997) no one realised how big an impact it would make. Today the album has sold over eight million copies, making it the biggest-selling Cuban album in history. The Culture Trip


Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 12.37.56 PMBuena Vista Social Club

The Musicians

Luis Barzaga – Vocals

Joachim Cooder – Drums, Percussion

Ry Cooder – Guitars

Julio Alberto Fernández – Vocals, Maracas

Ibrahim Ferrer – Vocals

Carlos González – Bongos

Juan de Marcos González – Bandleader, Backing Vocals, Guiro

Rubén González – Piano

Manuel ”Puntillita” Licea – Vocals

Orlando ”Cachaito” lópez – Bass

Manuel ”Guajiro” Mirabal – Trumpet

Eliades Ochoa – Guitar, Vocals

Julienne Oviedo Sánchez – Vocals

Omara Portuondo – Vocals

Salvador Repilado – Vocals

Campay Segundo – Guitar, Vocals

Benito Suárez Magana – Guitar

Barbarito Torres – Laoud

Alberto ”Virgilio” Valdés – Maracas, Backing Vocals

Lázaro Vila – Congas


Sit back, relax, and enjoy the music


During the production of the album, Ry Cooder also began working with German film director Wim Wenders. Wenders started to film the recording sessions and interviewed each member in different Havana locations. This resulted in a well-structured documentary which received great acclaim. The film shows scenes with the Cubans, some of whom had never left the island before, travelling to New York following the international success of the studio album. Both the legendary concerts in Amsterdam and at Carnegie Hall show their experiences in these contrasting societies. Some scenes show them window shopping and visiting tourist sites, catching the hearts of many. The film was awarded an Academy Award for best documentary feature in 1999. The Culture Trip

Watch the documentary (Spanish)


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