Catching up on forty years. 1997: Chan Chan – Buena Vista Social Club

compay segundo

If the World Cup is slowing down my blogging  creative juices and replacing them with beer and the usual disappointment of following England, there was no lack of juices flowing in 1997. Enter a bunch of  septuagenarian and octogenarian Cubans who returned from exile to claim a final moment of glory courtesy of Ry Cooder’s tenacity.

I discovered the album Buena Vista Social Club through a lucky accident and the type of impulse record buying that can never happen in the same way ever again.  Traipsing around clothes shops in Leamington, I made a dash for a local small independent record shop as a welcome break.  This album was playing and on promotion that week and within a few minutes it was in a bag in my hand and back off around Leamington!

I went Cuban mad this year with further forays in the BVSC catalogue and associated.  These were musicians who had shaped music fifty years before as part of the big Cuban bands that disappeared from our sights with the revolution.  I also had the privilege of seeing them live at the NEC a few years later in one of the most unique experiences there.  Not a single electrical instrument in sight and they stormed the place.  In particular, pianist Rubén González, walked on to that stage riddled with arthiritis and played like he was sixty years younger.  Not a dry eye in the place.   Their stories are magnificently told in a film made by Wim Wenders of the same title, well worth it for the great music, the touching interviews and insight in to the humble lives of the men that made up this brief-lived gathering.

The video clip is of the signature tune from the album Chan Chan, written by Compay Segundo and performed in Amsterdam with full band interspersed with scenes from Havana.  They also played a celebration concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, one of the few if only occasions that the Cuban flag has been waved with passion on that stage.

In the world of other music, Elton John reworked a song from 1973 for a dead princess and Aqua sang Barbie Girl.