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Have you ever discovered something, be it music or in film, on a whim, only to realize later that what you found was a true treasure in entertainment?

That happened to me a few years ago. I was in a local video store (this was before we got Netflix) and I picked up a DVD cover for a documentary on a Cuban band. I had seen the DVD time and time again each time I went to said video store, but for some reason would always pass it up and rent something lame.

Well on that day I decided to rent it. I read the description on the back of the cover and saw it mentioned something about Havana and other parts of Cuba. I though the film would be of interest to the Cuban part of my family.

That DVD was an Oscar-nominated documentary by German director Wim Wenders entitled, Buena Vista Social Club.


Synopsis: A group of legendary Cuban musicians, some as old as their nineties, were brought together by Ry Cooder to record a CD. In this film, we see and hear some of the songs being recorded in Havana. There is also footage from concerts in Amsterdam and New York City's Carnegie Hall. In addition, many of the individual musicians talk about their lives in Cuba and about how they got started in music.


What ensued after that first viewing of the DVD was a loyal following of the band that has continued to this very day. I purchased the CD recorded by the Buena Vista Social Club, and the CD's released by the various members of the band. There was even an attempt to view them in concert when some of the band memebers performed in Houston, but we had to cancel due to a trip to NYC.

The members of the Buena Vista Social Club are not young. But that doesn't matter because when they play their music, it's like the band has found their own fountain of youth in the notes and lyrics of the songs they perform.

Sadly, over the past few years a handful of the musicians in the Buena Vista Social Club have passed away.

It first started when guitarist Compay Segundo, and pianist Ruben Gonzalez died in 2003, aged 95 and 84. Last year singer Ibrahim Ferrer died at the age of 78.

And today there is news that Pio Leyva, singer and composer in the Buena Vista Social Club died of a heart attack. He was 88.

PBS online has an excellent site about the Buena Vista social club. The site contains biographies on the musicians, audio clips of interviews and a short video of the band.

PBS.org - Buena Vista Social Club

There are several band members that are still around and living in Cuba. Many of them have released solo albums or compilation albums with other musicians. If you are in the mood for a change of pace, I suggest listening to the Buena Vista Social Club CD first, then you will discover the rest of the musicians on your own.