Entertainment

Let’s Keep The Love For The Buena Vista Social Club Going Forever Because They Are True Icons

Alright, fam. Our parents’ generation was hella into The Buena Vista Social Club. They’re Cuban. That’s all I really knew. Maybe that makes me a bobo or maybe every other 20-something is just as clueless about this group.

What I learned is that they are a legacy of viejos that actually remember what Afro-Cubano music was like in the homeland before the revolution. They’re keeping it alive and we should, too. Here is everything your mother expects to know about The Buena Vista Social Club.

The Buena Vista Social Club started out in the 1940s as a result of racial discrimination.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Cuba’s socializing back then took place at “social clubs” which were institutionally segregated by skin color. The Buena Vista Social Club was a social hub for Afro-Cuban musicians and performers that kept it’s niche musical styles alive.

This is the original building, now abandoned.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. Wikipedia. 11 October 2018.

It was founded in 1932 in Marianao, Havana and was wildly known as a cabildo, a legacy from slavery. During the 19th century, African slaves organized fraternities, i.e. cabildos. Back then, there were cabildos for cigar wrappers, one for baseball players, and even one for doctors and engineers. The BVSC was for musicians.

After the Revolution, all cabildos were shut down.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

When President Manuel Urratia Lleó was elected in 1959, he tried to build a classless and color blind society, and closed down cultural centers as an effort to integrate society. The new administration went on to favor the emergence of pop and salsa music.

Viejos went out of work while young artists started to flourish with a new wave of 1960’s Cuban music.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

It seemed as if this traditional Cuban son music was dying, and the African influences of Cuban music would be gone forever. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Thirty years later, American guitarist Ry Cooder and British producer Nick Gold revived the BVSC.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Gold invited Cooder to Havana in 1996 to record a session with Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González and African musicians from Mali, who last minute were not able to secure visas to visit. That was when they decided to record Cuban son.

Within three days, they gathered the 20 or so musicians that would make up The Buena Vista Social Club.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Already on board was guitarist Eliades Ochoa (pictured above), bassist Orlando “Cachaíto” López and González. Eventually, they found a pianist named Rubén González (who was in his 80s at the time) and Manuel “Puntillita” Licea.

Their only album was recorded in just six days.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

The album is made up of fourteen tracks. It opens with “Chan Chan,” which would become what Cooder would later describe as Buena Vista’s calling card, and ending with “La Bayamesa.” These fourteen songs are just the start of BVSC’s legacy.

Nobody expected how big BVSC would get.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

The album was released on September 17, 1997 as a CD and quickly became a word of mouth hit. Rolling Stone listed it as No. 260 on The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003.

It sold more than 1 million copies and won a Grammy.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

I know, now, why the moms love this story. First, their music is good. You must listen to the album start to finish. Segundo, this gives us all hope that no matter how old we are, the best could still be yet to come.

They went on to perform in Amsterdam and Carnegie Hall.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

For most of the members, going on tour was the first time they ever left the island, and these are all viejos we’re talking about here.

Even before they blew up, Cooder started working on getting a documentary production together to record their stories.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

At the same time Cooder was working on producing the album after recording, he started working with a German film director, Wim Wenders. The documentary, “The Buena Vista Social Club,” shows the faces of each of the members as they see NYC for the first time. It’s incredible.

Meet the band, one by one.

Ibrahim Ferrer

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

The lead singer of BVSC was born in an actual social club dance in Santiago in 1927. Ferrer spent his whole life performing sets with various different bands, including legendary Beny Moré. By the time producer Juan de Marcos González found him taking his daily walk, he was living in a decaying apartment in Old Havana, occasionally shining shoes to make ends meet.

Rúben González

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

González has been a master pianist since he was a young kid. He went to medical school in the hopes of becoming a doctor by day and pianist by night but couldn’t spend that much time away from the piano. He was in a few different bands and was happy with his quiet life of semi-retirement. Allegedly, Juan de Marcos González had to drag him to the studios.

 Ruben had a successful solo career after BVSC.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Immediately after recording BVSC, he started recording “Introducing…Rubén González.” It took him two days with no overdubs and Cooder released it all at the same time as BVSC. He famously told The Telegraph, “If I can’t take a piano with me to heaven, then I don’t want to go.”

Omara Portuondo

CREDIT: @CUBAONU / Twitter

The only woman in the entire band, Omara is a legend who went on to drop her own solo albums. The story goes that her mother was born into a rich Spanish family and eloped with an Afro-Cuban baseball player. Her and her sisters were famous for their quartet in Havana. Her sister went into exile in the U.S., while Omara stayed and was coincidentally recording at the same studio as BVSC when Cooder snagged her for the project.

She still performs in Havana.

Compay Segundo

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Compay Segundo, born as Francisco Repilado Muñoz Telles, was born in 1907 and lived until he was 96 years old. As a young boy, he made a living in the tobacco fields and cutting hair but by 15 years old, he wrote his first song, “Yo bengo aquí.” He even invented his own instrument, the armónico. He played in his 1950’s formed band “Compay Segundo y su Muchachos” until he died.

Pio Levya

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Leyva was born great. When he was 6 years old, he won a bongo contest and wrote over 25 albums before ever partnering with BVSC. He actually was a muchacho de Compay Segundo.

Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Miribal learned the trumpet on his father’s knee. He was in several different famous jazz bands and orchestras before getting with the BVSC, which took him farther than imaginable.

Eliades Ochoa

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

Guitarist and vocalist, Ochoa, started playing when he was just 6 years old and by his early teens, he was playing in the “underground” circuit. In 1978, he actually took over Cuarteto Patria, which had been around since 1940 and brought them to international famedom and tours.

He vowed to wear the cowboy hat to pay tribute to his campo roots.

Viva The Buena Vista Social Club.

CREDIT: Untitled. Buena Vista Social Club. 11 October 2018.

The thought of losing a musical tradition that comes from strong Afro-Latinx roots and has fought to stay alive under political and fiscal duress is unacceptable. While those that are still alive in the BVSC made their “Adios” tour, I hope you’ll vow with me to say the same thing to our kids, “No, pero no te sabes just how maravillosa The Buena Vista Social Club really was, dime.”


READ: If You’re Into Rock Music, These Latino Bands Are Essential Additions To Your Playlist

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Spanish Actor Javier Bardem Will Be Playing Cuban Entertainer Desi Arnaz in a New Movie and Fans Wish Hollywood Cast a Latino Instead

Entertainment

Spanish Actor Javier Bardem Will Be Playing Cuban Entertainer Desi Arnaz in a New Movie and Fans Wish Hollywood Cast a Latino Instead

Images via Getty

Recently, it was announced that Amazon studios will be producing a movie based on the lives of groundbreaking Old Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. According to reports, Nicole Kidman is set to play Ball while Spanish actor Javier Bardem will be playing Arnaz.

Seeing as Arnaz is widely viewed as one of the first Latino actors to achieve mainstream success in the United States, this news was positive for many. But for others, the news was less than ideal.

Some critics are lambasting the decision to cast Bardem as Arnaz, seeing that Bardem was born and raised in Spain, and is therefore not Latino.

One disgruntled Twitter user wrote: “I guess it’s really hard to find a Cuban actor so you have to hire a Spaniard…Whitewashing can happen to Latinos too.”

The criticism around Hollywood relying on Spanish actors and actresses to play Latino roles is not a new one. For years, Spanish actors like Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, and Paz Vega have played Latino characters in American movies. The preponderance of this phenomenon have led some people to accuse Hollywood of “white washing” Latino characters by casting Spanish actors.

Antonio Banderas is one of the most famous examples of a Spanish actor who built his career off of playing Latinos.

He has played Latinos for so long that many people think he is, in fact, Latino. But when he was erroneously called a “person of color” by American publications when he was nominated for an Oscar in 2020, there was quiet the outcry in Spain.

Spanish publications condemned American media for having an “absurd obsession” with race, and not understanding that Spaniards are, in fact, white.

Publications wrote arguments like: “Banderas might pass as a Latino ‘person of color,’ to an Arkansas farmer, great-grandson of Germans, but never to a California delivery man born to Guatemalan immigrants.”

To some observers, it seems that Hollywood prefers casting Europeans as Latinos because Hollywood sees Europe as more “sophisticated” than Latinidad.

25-year-old Spaniard Juan Pedro Sánchez, summed up the problem on Twitter, saying: “A lot of people in Spain are bothered if others confuse them for Latin American because Spaniards see Latinos as people of color, and they don’t want to be associated with that.”

He went on to say: “What bothers me is not being considered a person of color, but that people ignore that Spain was a colonizer country. It erases that history.”

The bottom line is, fans are frustrated that Hollywood keeps looking to European actors to cast Latin American characters.

Study after study shows that there is still a stubborn lack of representation for Latinos onscreen. And when there is finally a role that puts a Latino character front and center, Hollywood prefers to hire a European actor over a Latino one.

Javier Bardem is an exceptionally talented actor and there’s no doubt that he will tackle the role of Desi Arnaz with creativity and dedication–but fans’ frustrations at the casting choice doesn’t have to do with Bardem’s acting capabilities. It has to do with the all of the ways that Latinos are discounted–including professionally.

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Bad Bunny Talks Depression And Says Sometimes He Still Feels Like The Boy Who Bagged Groceries Back Home

Entertainment

Bad Bunny Talks Depression And Says Sometimes He Still Feels Like The Boy Who Bagged Groceries Back Home

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Bad Bunny is on top of the world. Or, at least, that’s how it appears to all of us on the outside enjoying his record-breaking year. Not only did he release three albums in 2020 but he also landed his debut acting role in the Netflix series Narcos: Mexico and from his Instagram stories, he seems to be in a happy, contentful relationship.

But like so many others, Bad Bunny has his experience with mental health issues, of which he recently opened up about in an interview with El País.

Bad Bunny recently spoke up about his struggle with depression.

Despite his immense success that’s catapulted him to, arguably, the world’s biggest superstar, Bad Bunny admits that sometimes he still feels like the young man who bagged groceries in a supermarket.

The reggaetonero revealed in an interview with El País that right as his career really started to take off, he was not happy. “You asked me before how I hadn’t gone crazy. Well, I think that was the moment that was going to determine if I was going to go crazy or not. From 2016 to 2018 I disappeared, I was stuck in a capsule, without knowing anything. The world saw me, but I was missing,” he said.

Although no doctor diagnosed him, he is sure of what was happening. it only did he feel lost and empty but he had stopped doing many of the things that brought him joy, like watching movies and boxing. Without realizing it, he had also fallen out of contact with much of his family, with whom he was typically very close.

“And that’s when I said: who am I? What’s going on?” he told El País. When he returned home to Puerto Rico from spending time in Argentina, he was able to get back into the right state of mind and remember who he was.

Despite his success, Bad Bunny still worries he’s in financial trouble.

Although today, he is the number one Latin artist on Spotify and the awards for his music keep coming, there are times when Bad Bunny still thinks that he has financial problems.

“Not long ago, I was 100% clear in my head what I have achieved, maybe a year or six months ago; but until then, many times I forgot, I felt that I was the kid from the supermarket. He would happen something and say: “Hell!” And then: “Ah, no, wait, if I have here,” he said, touching his pocket.

Much like Bad Bunny, J Balvin has also been candid about his own mental health struggles.

Bad Bunny is just the most recent to speak to the emotional havoc he experiences despite being a global superstar. And, thankfully, like many other celebrities, he’s been able to find refuge in a reality that allows him to keep his feet on the ground so that he too can enjoy the achievements of his career.

Much like El Conejo, J Balvin is known for the brightness of his style and mentality. But he’s long addressed the importance of caring for one’s mental health. During his Arcoíris Tour, he encouraged people to not be ashamed of seeking professional help, and let the audience know they are not alone.   

“Las enfermedades de salud mental son una realidad. Yo he sufrido de depresión y he sufrido de ansiedad, así que tengo que aceptarlo. Y eso me hace más humano, me hace entender que la vida tiene pruebas,” Balvin said. “Pero si alguien está pasando una situación difícil, no están solos, siempre llega la luz. Tarde o temprano llega la luz.”  

“Mental health illnesses are a reality. I have suffered from depression and anxiety, so I have to accept it. And this makes me more human. It makes me understand that life has challenges,” Balvin said in Spanish. “But if someone is going through a difficult time, they are not alone, light always comes. Sooner or later, the light comes.”  

We need more men like Benito and J Balvin to speak up about their mental health struggles, to help destroy the stigma that exists within our community.

And in the same interview, he also spoke about why he works to elevate the Spanish language.

As for the possibility of singing in English, the answer remains the same: a resounding no.

“You have to break this view that the gringos are Gods…No, papi,” he told El País. And, although he’s collaborated with artists like Drake, Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez, he has always sang in Spanish and with his famous accent.

“I am very proud to reach the level where we are speaking in Spanish, and not only in Spanish, but in the Spanish that we speak in Puerto Rico. Without changing the accent,” he said.

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