Music review: Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club

FIRST, the Buena Vista Social Club was a club in 1940s Havana, where musicians played mambo, cha-cha and rumba until the post-revolutionary crackdown on racially segregated clubs and changing musical tastes closed it down.

At the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Creative Commons
At the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Creative Commons

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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Fifty years later, it was an album project involving US guitarist Ry Cooder, who tracked down veteran players; then a hit documentary by Wim Wenders celebrating the rebirth of this type of traditional Cuban music. With “Orquesta” added to the name, it became an international touring phenomenon, with new members replacing the veterans as they passed away. It became a brand. So how can a brand retire, as this tour is billed as “Adios”? Well, clearly the three remaining originals are drawing their second careers to an end and perhaps it’s time to draw a line under the past. But on this showing, there is plenty of life in the format, with a spirited, beautifully constructed set of standards which pays tribute to their departed friends. The highlight is the stunning ballad Veinte Anos from Omara Portuondo, selling it with every bit of stagecraft she’s acquired in 84 years, but each member, old and new, has something to offer.

Seen on 10.04.15.