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Buena Vista Social Club Carnegie Hall: Review

Updated on June 13, 2015
Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club | Source

A musical Cuban celebration of life

The original Buena Vista Social Club recording was, and still remains, a huge commercial success. We listen to it often - or we watch the DVD. We both fell in love with it many years ago.

Now a new concert recording

When these musicians performed at the famous Carnegie Hall and that was released,we wondered if there was any point in buying it - we loved the original and thought it couldn't be bettered. We were wrong.

The story behind this incredible music

It begins in 1996 guitarist Ry Cooder went to Cuba to record the music of musicians from Mali. Luckily (for us) the musicians weren't allowed into Cuba because of immigration difficulties and this is when Cooder made his fabulous discovery...

The Buena Vista Social Club

Yes, this had been a genuine social club back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. It was a popular meeting place for musicians. Ry Cooder discovered that many of these people were still alive - so his project was born.

Music for everyone

I'd never known much about Cuban music. I wasn't attracted to this by a fondness for the genre. This is, quite simply, music that will make you happy.

These musicians hadn't had an easy life and now, they were old people. I believe that the oldest, at the time of the original recording, was in his late eighties.

Many, despite their age, had to work doing menial jobs - several used to work on the streets shining shoes - and we all know about the privations that exist in Cuba.

Nevertheless, they had (and in the cases of those who are still living, still have) an amazing joie de vivre. This is very evident when you watch them perform and this celebration of life comes across completely in their music.

Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club

We saw the documentary before we bought the music. Yes, we could put the DVD on at any time when we were at home but we wanted to be more mobile. Nevertheless, we still watch the documentary regularly. I have always wanted to visit Cuba (and hope to do so one day) and this captures the essence of the country so well, in addition to letting us meet the amazing characters behind this astonishing music. The music and the DVD together make a remarkable gift.There are also some incredibly moving moments in this classic documentary.

Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club

This is the original recording. It was released in 1997 and several of the musicians who perform on this are no longer with us - hardly surprising when you consider their ages. As time passes, sadly more will be taken from us. I am so glad that I have this. It's available in several formats (even on vinyl!) but we have the CD. Like the CD featured above, you can also purchase individual MP3s which is a good way to experience a sample of this fabulous music but I'm sure that a few MP3s or looking at the videos on this page will convince you that you need the full album.


Meet just one of the musicians in his solo album.

Introducing Ruben Gonzalez
Introducing Ruben Gonzalez

I decided to feature just one of the individual musicians on this page and deciding which one wasn't easy. But this is one of the several we have and I think it's very special, Gonzalez was born in 1919 so 88 when this, his debut CD, was made. You can learn a lot more about him in the documentary above. This is wonderful music and is bound to become a collectors' item in the future.


Now this is just amazing - watch a 92 year old guitarist.

From the Carnegie Hall concert.

The documentary's trailer.

A triumph for old age

To coin a phrase, these amazingly talented people were on the scrap-heap. They were old, probably felt useless and largely ignored.

What they achieved demonstrated to people everywhere that we all - whatever our age may be - have something to contribute to society.

I think that's a wonderful thing. Let me know what you think about this aspect, plus the music of course, in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson


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    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Diana Wenzel: Enjoy! I was so sad that these fabulously talented musicians were unknown, isn't it? But how wonderful that they were discovered.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Oh how I love all of the Buena Vista Social Club music (and the documentary, too). This music, and the musicians, make me happy. What a Cinderella story (Carnegie Hall). Your review makes me want to head right over to my iTunes playlist to crank up some of their awesome music. In fact, that's what I'm going to do right now. :-)

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Adventuretravels: Thank you! What I love is that the musicians themselves have such a great time when performing. That really makes it extra special.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 4 years ago from Perth UK

      Love Cuban music you're very right when you say it makes you happy. It's dancing party music. Nice lens. Thanks