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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 14 | volume III | April-May, 2000



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 14April-May, 2000
Sound Reviews

Ry Cooder's Buena Vista

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Lucy Mallows

Buena Vista Social Club

Long live the revolution! The two best films – by a long shot – so far this year both originate from a small island in the Caribbean. Life is to Whistle and now Buena Vista Social Club.
    Using a hand-held steadicam, director Wim Wenders and cameraman Jörg Widmer followed musician Ry Cooder and his percussionist son Joachim around Cuba as they collected together the now aging musicians and singers to record some of the most beautiful, inspiring and life-enhancing music on CD.
    Ry Cooder’s film scores include Wenders’s Paris, Texas, and The End of Violence. However, the film came about through the enthusiasm of London record producer Nick Gold who suggested a recording of African and Cuban musicians, and when the Africans dropped out the idea for the Buena Vista Social Club evolved.
    This elegant film portrays the quiet dignity of the musicians as they tell in their own words the sad, often moving stories of their lives. Subtly directed by Wenders, it documents Cooder’s discovery of long-forgotten Cuban musicians and how he reassembled them into a wonderful band named after a defunct but legendary Havana club.
    The elderly gentlemen all smoke fat cigars, drink rum, wear off-white linen suits and walk unsteadily. But, once behind the microphone or the piano, the years fall away and the sheer joy of living radiates from beneath the wrinkles and the years of hardship.
    There are long, lazy scenes showing the recording procedure in the decrepit Egrem Studio, built by RCA in 1940 and in much the same state as them. Ferrer sings a beautiful duet, Dos gardenias para ti, with Omara Portuondo, the only lady in the band.
    Compay Segundo, born in 1910, started smoking aged five, when he lit the cigars for his grandma. “So you could say I have been smoking for 85 years,” he says with great enthusiasm, noting how he has five children and is working on a sixth.
    Ruben Gonzalez, a dignified old gentleman with a white beard, is portrayed looking at photos while sitting under a rustling banyan tree. He had not played the piano for years, and was said to be crippled with arthritis, so when you see his “light fingers” dancing over the keys, it is very moving.
    The show in Carnegie Hall on July 1, 1998 “was to be the band’s last show” according to Cooder. He does not explain why, but when you see the frail old men, some






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