Sunday, 8 March 2015

Buena Vista Social Club: The Revolution Is Eternal

I watched the Wim Wenders' 1999 movie Buena Vista Social Club last night & found it really inspiring. It has a sort of ambient style but like Cuban music, its own snaking hypnotic pace as you are introduced to the band members, their various life stories, their culture & history. It portrays the music as an outgrowth of their personalities. This culminates in their phenomenal 1998 gig at Carnegie Hall New York. Until watching this movie I had no idea how much Buena Vista Social Club had contributed to the popularisation of Cuban, Latin American, Bossa and World music generally, or indeed how influential Ry Cooder was in reuniting the band members. I had a bit of a mental blind spot over Ry Cooder since my mate handed me a copy of his 1978 album Jazz, which I admit I didn't really appreciate at the time (it was the 1980's). Strangely though, those songs (In A Mist; Shine; Nobody, etc) have kept playing on in my head all those years, so they must have some power. Anyway, heres the blurb:

The Buena Vista Social Club was a members club in Havana, Cuba, that closed in the 1940s, as well as a 1990's band, an album, a film and an unofficial brand name representing the musical spirit of the original Havana club. The original Buena Vista Social Club held dances and musical activities, becoming a popular location for musicians to meet and play during the 1940s. In the 1990s, nearly 50 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 April 1998 (two nights). German director Wim Wenders captured the performance on film and the one that followed on the 1st of July 1998 in Carnegie Hall, New York City for a documentary also called Buena Vista Social Club that included interviews with the musicians conducted in Havana. Wenders' film was released on 4 June 1999 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.

North Utsire

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