Tag Archives: Buena Vista Social Club

Artist Profiles: Guajiro Mirabal

Guajiro Mirabal – Photo by Tomas

Luis Manuel Mirabal Vázquez, better known as Manuel El Guajiro Mirabal, was born May 5, 1933. He has been a key figure in the Cuban music scene for over 50 years and has played with most Cuban stars. He one of the most known and respected trumpet players in Cuba. He founded Conjunto Rumbavana and has played with Riverside Jazz Orchestra, the ICRT, the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and most recently, the Buena Vista Social Club.

During World Circuit’s now famous recording sessions in Havana in 1996, Guajiro featured on all three of these seminal albums: Afro-Cuban All Stars A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, Buena Vista Social Club, and Introducing Rubén González.

The trumpet occupies a hugely important role within Cuban music, and Guajiro is its archetypal exponent, making him the unquestioned choice as the trumpet soloist for all three albums. The phenomenon that followed these releases has brought about a renewed reverence for artists such as Guajiro, who is now in greater demand than ever.

For his debut solo album, Guajiro Mirabal made a tribute to the spirit of the legendary giant of Cuban music, Arsenio Rodriguez. All of the tracks on the album were written by or associated with Arsenio. The music was performed by a specially assembled group in the style of Arsenio’s great trumpet led conjuntos of the 1940s and 1950s.

Recorded in Havana’s iconic Egrem studios, the ensemble featured on Buena Vista Social Club Presents: Manuel Guajiro Mirabal is an A-list cast of Cuba’s finest musicians. With a driving percussion section including Miguel ‘Angá’ Diaz, Amadito Valdés, and Carlos González, combined with the double bass of Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López, the keys of Roberto Fonseca, and Manuel Galbán on acoustic guitar, one can feel the fire and passion in these recordings. Vocalists on the album include Calunga, a rising star of the timba scene in Cuba, and Ibrahim Ferrer, who makes a guest appearance on the album, singing lead vocals on ‘Deuda’.

The all important trumpet section consists of Guajiro, his Tropicana partner of almost thirty years Luis Alemañy, and the late Alejandro Pichardo Perez, to whom Buena Vista Social Club Presents: Manuel Guajiro Mirabal is dedicated. Featured soloists on the album include Papi Oviedo on tres and Roberto Fonseca on piano. The closing track ‘Dombe Dombe’ has Arsenio’s original pianist, the great Rubén González, perform a piece that he specifically requested be included on this album.

Buena Vista Social Club Presents: Manuel Guajiro Mirabal was recorded almost entirely live in the studio, with minimal overdubs, thus giving it a more spontaneous, late night feel, allowing the musicians room to flex their musical muscle. There is a great deal of warmth and humor throughout Arsenio’s music and that is certainly the case with this recording.

In 2004 Mirabal released an album in partnership with Buena Vista Social Club entitled Buena Vista Social Club Presents Manuel Guajiro Mirabal.


Artist Profiles: Juan de Marcos González

Juan de Marcos González

Juan de Marcos González is a central figure in Cuban music today. He has played a great part in introducing the wealth, diversity and vitality of Cuban music to the world. His work with the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Ruben Gonzalez Ensemble, Ibrahim Ferrer, Sierra Maestra, the co-creation of Buena Vista Social Club (BVSC) and others, has made an extraordinary contribution to raising the profile of Cuban music internationally.

Juan de Marcos was bestowed the first WOMEX (World Music Expo) Award in 2000.


A Toda Cuba le Gusta (1997)
Distinto, Diferente (1999)
Baila mi Son (2000)
Bajando Gervasio (2002)
Live in Japan (2005)
Step Forward (2005)
Absolutely Live (2009)
Absolutely Live II (2017)


Artist Profiles: Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club

In 1996, American guitarist Ry Cooder went to Cuba in search of the music he had heard on old Cuban recordings: sones, mambos, guajiras, etc. With the help of Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González (Afro Cuban All Stars), he was able to put together a new band called The Buena Vista Social Club, formed by some of the finest veteran musicians from Cuba, such as pianist Rubén González, armónico guitar instrumentalist Compay Segundo, vocalists Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo, and Cuban country music (música guajira) guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa.

The album by the new group had an enormous success throughout the world, selling well over a million copies. Most of the musicians continued on with their solo careers and recorded several albums afterwards.


Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit Records, 1997)
Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall (World Circuit Records, 2008)
Lost and Found (World Circuit Records, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder

Ryland Peter Cooder (Ry Cooder) was born in Los Angeles, California, on March 15, 1947. He is a guitarist well-known for his slide guitar style.

Ry Cooder first attracted attention in the 1960s, playing with bluesman Taj Mahal in The Rising Sons, The Seeds, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.

Cooder played a role in the new appreciation for traditional Cuban music thanks to his collaboration as producer in the Buena Vista Social Club (1997) recording that became a worldwide hit.

German filmmaker Wim Wenders directed a documentary film of the Cuban musicians involved, titled Buena Vista Social Club (1999) that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000. Cooder also produced Ibrahim Ferrer’s Buenos Hermanos, and Mambo Sinuendo, all Grammy winners.

Ry Cooder’s solo work has been an eclectic mix on american roots music, including dustbowl folk music, tex-mex, soul, gospel, rock and other genrese. He has collaborated with many influential musicians, including the Rolling Stones, Little Feat, the Chieftains, John Lee Hooker, Hawaiian master Gabby Pahinui, and the late Ali Farka Toure. Cooder also formed the Little Village supergroup with Nick Lowe, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner.



Cooder’s 1978 album Bop Till You Drop was the first popular music album to be recorded digitally.

Ry Cooder’s Chávez Ravine, released in 2005 is a tribute to the long-gone Los Angeles Mexican-American enclave known as Chávez Ravine. Using real and imagined historical characters, Cooder and friends created an album that recollects various aspects of the poor but vibrant hillside Chicano community that was razed by developers in the 1950s in the interest of “progress.” The Dodgers Stadium (The Dodgers are a famous American professional baseball team) eventually was built on the spot. Cooder said at the time, “Here is some music for a place you don’t know, up a road you don’t go. Chávez Ravine, where the sidewalk ends.”

Chávez Ravine features various musical genres found in Los Angeles, including conjunto, corrido, R&B, Latin pop, and jazz. The 15-track album is sung in Spanish and English/ Cooder is joined by East Los Angeles legends like Chicano music patriarch Lalo Guerrero, Pachuco boogie king Don Tosti, Thee Midniters front man Little Willie G., and Ersi Arvizu of The Sisters and El Chicano.

Los Angeles was paved over, malled up, high-rised, and urban-renewed, as fortunes were made, power was concentrated, and everything got faster and bigger,” explained Cooder. “But there is a lot I miss now. The texture of certain older neighborhoods, like Bunker Hill, a rural feel in urban places, like Chávez Ravine and the timbre of life there, and just peace and quiet,” he said.

Chavez Ravine was the first recording of a California trilogy. The second volume was 2007’s My Name Is Buddy.


Ry Cooder – Photo by Susan Titelman


The last recording of the California trilogy is I, Flathead, an album of music by the fictional musician Kash Buk and his band the Klowns, characters in Cooder’s 95-page tale. The album and novella were released together on June 24, 2008, by Nonesuch / Perro Verde Records.

The novella tells the story of Kash Buk and his friend Shakey the alien, together with various friends, lovers, enemies, and associates in a long-gone California filled with deserts, salt-flat racing, Native Americans, seedy dance halls, amusement parks, and sinister plots. The album includes fourteen songs by Buk, a hard-edged salt flat racer and roadhouse musician. With the story and the music, Cooder creates a world where “strange people are the norm,” inspired by country western music, Popular Mechanics magazines, and science fiction movies.

Flathead reflects change and disruption in a young, post-war, do-it-yourself culture of outsiders obsessed with racing cars fashioned from military surplus parts and flathead engines. As Kash Buk explains, “You got your hard times, your good times, a dog story for you animal lovers, and a forbidden-race love song, which every record ought to have at least one of.”

Cooder produced I, Flathead and wrote or co-wrote all the songs. He sings and plays mandolin, guitar, and bass on the album, alongside Mariachi Los Camperos; Joachim Cooder, and Jim Keltner on drums; Rene Camacho on bass; Francisco Torres on trombone; Ron Blake and Jon Hassell on trumpet; Anthony Gil on bass sax; Flaco Jiménez on accordion, Gil Bernal on tenor sax; Jared Smith on keyboards; Martin Pradler on electric piano and drums; and Juliette Commagere on vocals.


Ry Cooder – Photo by Susan Titelman


Ry Cooder has composed soundtracks for more than twenty films, including Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, and The End of Violence.




* Ry Cooder (Reprise, 1970)
* Performance, soundtrack (1970)
* Into the Purple Valley (Reprise, 1972)
* Boomer’s Story (Reprise, 1972)
* Paradise and Lunch (Reprise, 1974)
* Chicken Skin Music (Reprise, 1976)
* Showtime (Warner Brothers, 1977)
* Jazz (Reprise, 1978)
* Bop Till You Drop (Warner Brothers, 1979)
* Borderline (Warner Brothers, 1980)
* The Long Riders, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1980)
* The Border, soundtrack (1981)
* Southern Comfort, soundtrack (1981)
* The Slide Area (Warner Brothers, 1982)
* Paris, Texas, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1985)
* Music from Alamo Bay, soundtrack (1985)
* Blue City, soundtrack (1986)
* Crossroads, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1986)
* Why Don’t You Try Me Tonight, compilation (Warner Brothers, 1986)
* Get Rhythm (Warner Brothers, 1987)
* Pecos Bill (Windham Hill, 1988)
* Johnny Handsome, soundtrack (1989)
* Rising Sons, with Taj Mahal(recorded 1965/66, released 1992)
* A Meeting By The River, with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Water Lily Acoustics, 1993)
* Trespass, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1993)
* Geronimo: An American Legend, soundtrack (Sony, 1993)
* River Rescue – The Very Best Of Ry Cooder (1994)
* Talking Timbuktu, with Ali Farka Touré (Hannibal, 1994)
* Music by Ry Cooder, film music (1Warner Brothers, 1995)
* Last Man Standing, soundtrack (Polygram Records, 1996)
* The End of Violence, soundtrack (Outpost Records, 1997)
* Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit/Nonesuch, 1997)
* Primary Colors, soundtrack (1998)
* Mambo Sinuendo, with Manuel Galbán (Nonesuch, 2003)
* Chávez Ravine (Nonesuch Records, 2005)
* My Name Is Buddy (Nonesuch Records, 2007)
* I, Flathead (Nonesuch Records,2008)
* The Ry Cooder Anthology: The UFO Has Landed (2008)
* San Patricio, with The Chieftains (2010)
* Live On Air (2010)
* Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (Mobile Fidelity, 2011)
* Election Special (Nonesuch, 2012)
* Live in San Francisco, with Corridos Famosos (Nonesuch, 2013)


Artist Profiles: Jesús Aguaje Ramos

Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos

Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos was born in 1951 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, where he began his musical studies in the National School of Arts. He started playing the trombone in local groups until 1979 when he moved to Havana and began playing with the great female quartet Los D’Aida. That same year he took part in the Estrellas de Areito recordings.

Aguaje has played on the World Circuit Records recordings of the Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban All Stars, and the solo albums of Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Omara Portuondo. He was Ruben Gonzalez’s musical director and toured extensively since 1997 with the various Buena Vista Social Club projects.


Los Heroes, with Estrellas de Areito (1979)
Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit, 1997)
Buena Vista Social Club At Carnegie Hall (World Circuit, 2008)
Lost and Found, with Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit, 2015)