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Please don’t sleep on these talented elders!
I look back on my time working in the San Francisco Public Library and Stacey’s Bookstore of SF with much fondness, because I learned so much about my black culture, and as I have said many times before, black culture is global! Back in the year 2000, while I was still working at Staceys bookstore, I came across a lone video which was labelled as what was called a “remainder”, simply meaning books and other items that were deeply discounted. Usually remainders are books that were published a while back, or book related items that are bought by the pallet at deep discounts. Bookstores resell these items at discounted prices, and they are somewhat like loss leaders.
So as I browsed the discount section, I found this video which had photos of elder black cubanos on it, and it was stated that they were all musicians and singers. I was curious, so I bought the video to find out who these people were. Little did I know what I was about to experience!
So after organizing those members and forming a new band, they got to work recording once again. How romantic and exciting! The music of their time was so achingly beautiful, and the elder artists still had their phenomenal talents after all those years. Ibrahim Ferrer’s voice is exquisite, even at the age of 70 plus! Cigar chomping Compay Segundo could still play his guitar beautifully, and piano virtuoso Ruben Gonzalez’ playing was just phenomenal! Just as I imagine it was in his heyday!
The songs the elders sang were simple songs: of their country, of love, of beauty, of poverty, and of a love for the music. The lyrics were simple, and deeply touching, piercing through to the soul, and warming the heart. This is a magnificent music, nearly lost to modern times! Of course The Buena Vista Social Club became wildly famous all over again, probably more so than before, and it was so beautiful since they were in their 60s, 70s and 80s! I love how they looked so comfortable and satisfied with success or more so the beauty of the music!! What a beautiful renaissance!
I invite you to watch the movie that was made about these lengendary musicians! Take the time to hear what these elders are tellling us about their connections to the music and to their families and to Africa! Listen to this music and take it into your heart. The elders will pull you in with their slow, relaxed way. You’ll feel like you’re sitting at the feet of your favorite grandma and grandpa, as they share the wisdom with us about their lives, and loves. Its very wonderful to watch.
The story culminates in the group performing in the Netherlands, then at Carnegie Hall! It’s so beautiful to watch the reactions of the elders as they are given standing ovations. I marvel at their emotions as they contemplate the rebirth of their careers, and as they came to America, their reactions to it all–they truly are amazed!
You will be too. Enjoy!
- Buena Vista Singer Portuondo, 81, Going Strong (repeatingislands.com)
- Cuban Musician Manuel Galbán Dies (repeatingislands.com)