25 years of Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club recorded their self titled album 25 years ago in Havana in 7 days. It brought together an extraordinary ensemble with many of the great names of of the golden age of Cuban music from the 1940s and '50s.

Ry Cooder was invited  to Havana by World Circuit record label executive Nick Gold to record an experimental hybrid album with African and Cuban musicians, but the African musicians had visa problems and couldn't come to Cuba. This forced Ry Cooder, Nick Gold and band leader Juan de Marcos to improvise, they changed their plans and decided to record an album with local musicians. This included some elderly musicians, like vocalist/guitarist Francisco Repilado "Compay Segundo" (89), Pianist Rubén González (77), and vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer (70) who came out of retirement to take part. The album become an international success which prompted the ensemble to perform concerts in Amsterdam and at Carnegie Hall in New York City which was recorded and later released as a live album. During the tour, director Wim Wenders made a documentary film also called Buena Vista Social Club which also helped propel the band to fame. The documentary was nominated for an Academy Award in 1999.

If you haven't heard of Buena Vista Social Club, you can listen, watch and read about them with your library card. A great starting point is the opening track of the original album Chan Chan by Buena Vista Social Club.


Some Cuban Sizzle: Ry Cooder turns up the musical heat in Havana by Nicholas Jennings
Published around the release of the album in October 1997. This article and others are available on Rock's Backpages


Watch the Oscar nominated documentary and the follow up documentary:

Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club Adios


Listen to these great albums, including the original and the recording at Carnegie Hall