Buena Vista Social Club – OST

I hope everyone got out to vote today.  I decided to go at 7 this morning …under the impression that it would be quick.

I was wrong.

Not that I’m complaining though…quite the contrary.  It was so inspiring to see that many folks actually getting out and participating that I found myself whistling an jaunty patriotic tune under my breath.  Go USA!

One of the issues that got some press was Barack Obama’s stance that he would sit down and talk with our enemies without any pre-conditions.  This seems like a decent idea because not talking to them doesn’t seem to be making any progress, and adding pre-conditions just make us kind of seem like arrogant pricks on the world stage.

But most of all, I think it’s time we start talking to Cuba again.

Sure Cuba did some bad things, we barely got out of the missile crisis with our world intact…but we did start that whole Bay of Pigs fiasco and try and assassinate their leader, so why not call it a draw and start over.  All our embargo is doing is denying the American people access to the best cigars and some truly awesome music.  Nowhere was this latter point more evident than in Ry Cooder’s amazing 1997 project/documentary “The Buena Vista Social Club.”

Cooder, for those who don’t know, is sort of a musical journeyman who has appeared on many albums from Randy Newman to The Rolling Stones.  When he isn’t contributing to someone else’s project, he scores movies like Wim Wenders “Paris, Texas’ and Mike Nichol’s “Primary Colors.” But deep down Cooder has a passion for old music as is evident in his own reworkings of blues, country and jazz works.  It was this passion that eventually would lead him to Cuba.

In 1996, Cooder was invited to Havana by UK producer Nick Gold to participate in a collaboration between some African High-Life musicians and traditional Cuban artists. When the African delegation’s visa’s were denied, Cooder and Gold who had traveled to Cuba from Mexico decided to go ahead and record an album of traditional Cuban Son music with the artists they did have.

Luckily, Cuban musical director Juan de Marcos González was already working on something similar for The Afro Cuban All Stars and had the right people ready to go. People like guitarist Eliades Ochoa, pianist Rubén González, bassist Orlando López, and singers like Ibrahim Ferrer, Manuel “Puntillita” Licea, and Compay Segundo.  Within three days they all got down to business at EGREM Studios in Havana, and soon found that musicians really needed no translator to work well together.

Six days later they had an album.

Full of warmth and good vibes, you’d be hard pressed to hate any of these songs.  They simply rule on such a primal level, that they over-ride any preconceived notions about music or borders.  I’m a hug fan of Ibrahim Ferrer, whose voice I can only describe as like water flowing downhill, and so my favorite song has to be ‘Dos Gardenas.’ I also recommend his solo album as well.  Rubén González’s piano work just shines, as does Orlando López’s bass playing.  Shit…I really have no favorite tracks here…I love the album as a whole.

So do yourself a favor and expand your Latin collection with a little Cuban flavor.  It goes down like a plate of fried plantains.


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