I’ve been on a music documentary kick and revisiting some old favorites. Buena Vista Social Club may not have turned me onto Latin jazz in the 1990s, but it certainly cemented my appreciation.
Rewatching the film the other weekend, it’s such a different experience with another 20+ years of life in the rearview. Ry Cooder seeking these musicians out, finding their songs, pulling them all into the studio from the lives they’ve been leading in a country estranged. It’s beautiful.
There’s a scene, shot by the water, where Cooder is talking about the project’s origins He talks about him and his wife traveling by boat to the country in the 1970s and loving the whole scene. He talks about getting the chance to go back in the mid-90s and do a session. How they recruited some local musicians from the 1940s and 1950s and kept asking, “who else is around?” How the people kept falling out of the woodwork and blowing their minds.
As the old legends and new friends resurfaced, they’d ask them what songs they’d like to do. And then they’d record them.
If you’ve never seen it, Buena Vista Social Club is pure magic. If you haven’t seen it in a minute, give it a revisit. Here’s the signature song, “Chan Chan.”