Monday, August 6, 2012

Celebrating A Legend: The Buena Vista Social Club

Our trip through the Colon Cemetery featured a stop at the grave of Ibrahim Ferrer, a former member of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club.

Now I may be the only person on earth who has still not seen the documentary about this musical group, but even I know that they brought Cuban music back to the global scene in a big way.  I tried to like the group's music before I left for Cuba but found it to be rather repetitive...I decided to get the CD and wait until I got back to listen to it, suspecting that my love for Cuban music would come once I'd heard it live.  It worked: I can't get enough of it now!

Thanks to Erik, I got the chance to experience at least a version of the Buena Vista Social Club in person.  For $25 I entered the world of the Hotel National for an evening. I'm still not exactly sure what group we heard - I think one of the members used to play with Buena Vista Social Club.  Whoever they were, they were a group of truly outstanding musicians.

And they were accompanied by an overly-dramatic, over-costumed salsa dance team that were fun to watch even though we were in constant danger of one of them ending up tripping into our laps.  (The video is sideways because I have a bad habit of turning the camera vertical every. single.time.)

Now this was in no way a real Cuban music experience.  This room at the Hotel National had the vibe of the UN on spring break - it was a collection that felt like the upper echelon of every wealthy nation on earth, whether or not it actually was.  The only people in the room as awkward as our tourist clothes-clad group was the Californian couple who loved to salsa no matter who watched.  But we enjoyed every minute of that upper-class experience, and at the end the whole room proved that Guantanamera breaks down all social and language barriers - we all sang and danced like the music enthusiasts that we were.

As if the evening weren't already perfect, I added more with quiet time on the patio of the National.  Bob, my dear friend and my own personal version of Hemingway, joined me to watch the Malecón come alive with Cubans gathering to sing, dance and gossip in the late-night hours.

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