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10 Most Influential Albums Number 4


Sam Burnett

Number 4 Buena Vista Social Club

This album has played a massive role in introducing us western music fans to the fantastic genre of World Music.

The history of the Buena Vista Social Club is as fascinating as the musical exploits of the group. Originally the “Buena Vista Social Club” Was a club based in Havana Cuba in the 1940’s. The club played host to Cuba’s and some of the Caribbean’s most influential musicians.

During the communist political up rise of the country during the 1950’s, led by Che Guevara and Castro. The country eventually broke ties with many of its capitalist neighbours, including infamously the USA.

This of course limited the influence of Cuban culture on the United States music scene, the USA instead drawing on Mexican and Latino rhythms to inspire a generation of World Music fans.

Whilst Cuba’s most famous musician in Tito Puente, resided in the USA and was also featured on popular television shows such as The Simpsons, his influence over American and western culture is limited at best. His pure percussive sounds that are instantly recognizable with the Samba bands of Brazil and other South American nations, have introduced to Western audiences and hardcore music fans the idea of syncopated rhythm.

However as fantastic as Tito and his band are, to a non-percussive Jazz fan it can be quite daunting to listen to.

Buena Vista Social Club, was originally meant to be a documentary, led by American musician Ry Cooder. As an American, Cuban music fascinated Ry Cooder, the idea of a nation that kept it’s cards very close to her chest inevitably led to curiosity amongst many Americans.

Ry Cooder’s aim was to make a documentary to try and bring alive the Buena Vista Social club and drag its sounds right into the homes of American’s. In turn inspiring a generation of Americans on their close neigbour Cuba, who for so long has been perceived to be an enemy.

It is a documentary filmed to not only showcase the wonders of Cuban music, but to reveal to American audiences the passion, life and soul of a nation that defies life of the Capitalist superpowers, politically stating that, although you may not like how the Cuban nation is living under a communism ruling, however it is a country of passion, laughter and music as much as the next.

To Ry Cooder’s amazement, most of the original musicians who played at the infamous Buena Vista Social Club, were still alive and well. As a result of the film, the group “Buena Vista Social Club” formed to play a music that had been long forgotten by so many music fans.

The result is the amazing self-titled album “Buena Vista Social Club”.

The album itself is a World Music masterpiece, achieving not only mainstream success amongst Western music fans, not only introducing an entire generation of music lovers to the wonders of World Music. But, the most impressive aspect of this album is it’s pure authenticity. Simply put, this album has not at all been watered down to appeal to the mainstream market, using the traditional Clave Cuban beats and rhythms, along with the syncopated rhythmic Guitar and Piano. Combine to create the sound of the album. The trumpet work on “Chan Chan”, (the albums opening track) is fantastic. You cannot listen to the haunting brass lines without taking yourself right back to the original Buena Vista Social Club. This authenticity translates from the musicians social status as Cubans living through Castro’s reign, this album is so impressive in the knowledge that these musicians are not multi millionaires or even highly trained musicians in the sense of degrees and grades. These musicians are playing purely from their soul. They have been brought up playing this music, there fathers were brought up playing this music, creating a unique line of traditional music from a nation that has not only survived the test of time, but has inspired countless genres, and musicians from around the world to Latin Jazz, to Latin Hip Hop.

The pure soul of this album and its affect on the mainstream market as a world music masterpiece has led to its conclusion in my list. If you have not heard this album I urge you to buy it.

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