Saturday, November 5, 2011

260 Buena Vista Social Club- World Music's greatest triumph

Album: Beuna Vista Social Club
Artist: Buena Vista Social Club
Year: 1997
Genre: World Music

  1. Chan Chan
  2. De camino a la vereda
  3. El cuarto de Tula
  4. Pueblo nuevo
  5. Dos gardenias
  6. ¿Y tú qué has hecho?
  7. Veinte años
  8. El carretero
  9. Candela
  10. Amor de loca juventud
  11. Orgullecida
  12. Murmullo
  13. Buena Vista Social Club
  14. La bayamesa

There is a genre of music called "World Music" which apparently is best defined as "Anything not recorded in English". Kind of arrogant isn't it? We've decided that anything not sung by white people in a language the Queen can understand isn't just music it's "World Music". I wonder if people in other cultures who record albums think of themselves as World Musicians?

Most World Music albums sell a handful of copies to a niche market made up of people who have a taste for the exotic or like to look like they do. But the genre's greatest triumph by far is The Buena Vista Social Club which I'm happy to say come about completely by accident.

The original intention was to fly renowned guitarist Ry Cooder (a man with a penchant for jamming with interesting people) to Cuba where he would play with some local musicians and two performers from Mali who would form a strange new musical genre. Sadly (or maybe happily) the African musicians couldn't get their visa's sorted out so Cooder decided to spend a few days recording some traditional Cuban music with some traditional Cubans. They spent six days playing together and then released an album for the heck of it.

Somehow the public's imagination was captured. The album sold steadily despite not receiving much promotion. Word of mouth drove sales throughout the year that followed and eventually a film was made about the music's creation and a subsequent reunion concert. The movie bolstered album sales still further and the most unlikely hit was created.

Buena Vista Social Club is a fun listen. It's light and breezy and jazz that people who say they hate jazz would love. Most of the copies sold are probably used to background music but that doesn't stop it from being a great album that's hard not to enjoy. It's popular all over the world (where it's called World Music) and in Cuba (where it's just called music) and presumably even in Mali (where two frustrated musicians must be gnashing their teeth thinking about what they missed out on)

Highlight: Candela
Lowlight: Murmullo

Influenced by: Cuba's history
Influenced: Record labels to pump out any Cuban music they could find.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote  "If this is the best of Cuba, then maybe the US trade embargo was a good thing after all."

-That's a bit harsh.

So will this music live as long as Fidel? Let me know below.


  1. You should also check out the Live @ Carnegie Hall 2-CD live album. It's an excellent live set, and, seeing that you like live music, I think that you would highly appreciate it.

  2. Thanks. I'll put in on my check-out list.