All month, World Cafe invites listeners to discover the music of Havana, Cuba, with the series Sense of Place.
The final installment of this series is all about the greatest Cuban cultural export of the last two decades: Buena Vista Social Club.
It all started with the great American guitarist and producer Ry Cooder's 1997 visit to Havana and his three-week session with British world-music producer Nick Gold of World Circuit Records. They recorded at the legendary Egrem Studios, where the plan was to make an album with two African high-life musicians from Mali who were to collaborate with Cuban performers. The African musicians did not make it to Havana, but Cooder and Gold chose to continue with a record anyway. The result was the Buena Vista Social Club album, a huge unexpected commercial hit. The sessions were even captured for a film documentary of the same name.
In this session, we revisit a 1998 conversation with Cooder about his experiences making the original Buena Vista album, and how the rise of Fidel Castro stopped time in a way. Cooder also talks about Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzalez and the Cuban recording industry. We also chat with younger Cuban musicians and virtuosos of another generation: Idania Valdés, one of the main voices of the orchestra, and pianist Rolando Luna. Both are members of the new Buena Vista Social Club group, and each provides more insight into Cuban life and music.
World Cafe's Sense of Place series is made possible by a grant from The Wyncote Foundation.