Buena Vista Social Club
Less a band than an assemblage of some of Cuba's most renowned musical forces, Buena Vista Social Club's origins lie with noted American guitarist Ry Cooder, who in 1996 traveled to Havana to seek out a number of legendary local musicians whose performing careers largely ended decades earlier with the rise of Fidel Castro.
Recruiting the long-forgotten likes of singer Ibrahim Ferrer, guitarists/singers Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa, and pianist Rubén González, Cooder entered Havana's Egrem Studios to record the album Buena Vista Social Club; the project was an unexpected commercial and critical smash, earning a Grammy and becoming the best-selling release of Cooder's long career. In 1998 he returned to Havana with percussionist son Joaquim to record a solo LP with Ferrer; the sessions were captured on film by director Wim Wenders, who also documented sell-out Buena Vista Social Club live performances in Amsterdam and New York City. (Wenders' film, also titled simply Buena Vista Social Club, earned an Academy Award nomination in 2000.) The public's continued interest in Cuban music subsequently generated solo efforts from Segundo and González as well as a series of international live performances promoted under the Buena Vista Social Club aegis. A concert CD, At Carnegie Hall, drawn from the same triumphant show that Wenders featured in his documentary, was released in 2008. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi