Buena Vista Social Club

The Buena Vista Social Club is the name the album released a couple of years ago by Ry Cooder and many forgotten Cuban musicians. The documentary by Wim Wenders (The End of Violence) is a montage of scenes from the past and the present. The album went on to win a Grammy, and is still atop the best-selling list for world music. A new album spotlighting Ibrahim Ferrer is the product of Wenders' and Cooder's return trip. Over the years, Cooder, slide guitarist extraordinaire, has dabbled in many different genres of music.

Cooder is primarily responsible for the movie and the album. When Cooder discovered the music, he was curious as to the whereabouts of these great musicians. None of the music he heard was recent and not many people had heard from these musicians for years. Cooder assembled together many of these Cuban musicians, many of them in their eighties and nineties, to record an album, before they would be lost. The performers, Compay Segundo, Eliades Ochoa, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Ruben Gonzalez, Barbarito Torres, Manuel Vazquez, Orlando Vergara, Manuel Licia, and others are a breath of fresh air. They happily relate their stories to Cooder and Wenders, and their love of their craft is easily evident when watching them sing and perform. The initial success of the album led to a series of sold out concerts at Carnegie Hall. Throughout the movie, we are able to listen to many of their songs and their life stories.

The only thing missing from the movie was the intervening years. The interviews with the musicians revealed much about their childhood and how they initially fell in love with music. The next time we hear about them is when Cooder relays how he found them. What happened in between? There are small mentions here and there, of what some of the Cubans did, but overall, the period of their life after they fell out of the spotlight and before Cooder is largely untouched.

But don't let this cause you to miss this film. It is heartwarming, full of great music and lots of emotion. The success of the album and the documentary has reinvigorated the performing lives of these Cuban musicians. They will soon be touring the United States separately, with many mini reunions, and possibly, hopefully, a large reunion.

Mongoose rates it: Not Bad
1 hour, 41 minutes Spanish with English subtitles, Rated G.