Magazine article New Internationalist

[Buena Vista Social Club]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[Buena Vista Social Club]

Article excerpt

It's something of an understatement to describe either German director Wim Wenders as simply a film director or Ry Cooder as just a musician with a classy line in slide guitar. Jointly and separately, the two (who worked together on the 1980s film Paris, Texas) have become pillars of singular and independently minded projects that create a subtle poetics suitable for all landscapes - be it Cold War Berlin or the Californian desert.

Unsurprisingly, the Cuba that the pair encountered on making Buena Vista Social Club provides a ripe topic. Everything on the island is ramshackle; steamy heat seems to rise from every surface. The attention is often in the details: the dusty Havana Egrem studio, built in the 1940s by RCA and still going strong; little girls playing on wobbly gymnastic equipment, a household shrine, a rusty chain around the city's harbour. And yet, what resurrects the place, time and again, is an indomitable spirit.

Buena Vista Social Club grew out of the album of the same name (reviewed in NI 307). Ry Cooder, a long-time enthusiast for son and mambo, tracked down the forgotten stars of the 1950s and before: a sprightly 90-year-old Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzales head the list. He brought them together to form Buena Vista Social Club, named after a long-closed entertainment spot. The album was an international smash hit and, in 1998, Cooder returned, accompanied by Wenders and a small crew, to record with the band now renamed the Super-Abuelos (Super Grandparents). …

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