Buena Vista Social Club

Ice Boy Tell, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, trumpet, piano • Active 1996-2015 • Cuban music: Son Cubano, bolero, guajira, danzón

Fast Facts

  • Musical group of iconic Cuban musicians, some pulled out of retirement, brought together to record an album in 1996
  • The Buena Vista Social Club was a revival of pre-revolutionary sound.
  • Original Buena Vista Social Club included Joaquim Cooder (percussion and drums), Alberto ‘Virgilio’ Valdéz (maracas and backing vocals), Compay Segundo (vocals and guitar; deceased), Omara Portuondo (vocals), Eliades Ochoa (guitar and vocals), Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal (trumpet), Orlando ‘Cachaíto’ López (bass; deceased), Manuel ‘Puntillita’ Licea (vocals; deceased), Rubén González (piano; deceased), Juan de Marcos González (bandleader, backing vocals), Ibrahim Ferrer (vocals; deceased), and Ry Cooder (guitars)
  • Album project was initiated by American guitarist Ry Cooder, executive Nick Gold, and bandleader Juan de Marcos González
  • Ensemble was named after the Buena Vista Social Club of the 1940s, a sociedad de negros (Black club), when clubs were racially segregated
  • Album was initially supposed to be a group of Malian artists recording an Afro-Cuban album. Passports didn’t come through so musicians were unable to travel; Ry Cooder decided to shift the focus to Buena Vista Social Club
  • Album was recorded in just six days and became an instant hit, becoming the highest selling Cuban album ever; a world tour followed its release
  • Film director Wim Wenders directed a documentary about how the group came together at his friend Ry Cooder’s urging