The recorded “story” in “Buena Vista Social Club” began in 1996, when American guitarist Ry Cooder – a longtime friend of Wim Wenders – was invited to the recording sessions for a world music album to be recorded in Havana, Cuba. Initial plans for the album fell through (via PBS), prompting Cooder to assemble a group of local musicians and make a full recording of Cuban. son music.
This is how living legends like Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Eliades Ochoa and Rubén González, among others, formed the all-star ensemble that would become known as the “Buena Vista Social Club”. Wenders ‘film, shot at Cooder’s suggestion, documents the band’s recording sessions in Havana, and Havana’s cultural cauldron in the’ 90s more broadly, as the city’s rich past and complex present intersect, sometimes with difficulty, sometimes beautifully.
The film also later traveled to the United States to record the momentous achievement of a Buena Vista Social Club concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. In addition to the trip itself being a fascinating process, as many musicians in the film had never set foot in the United States due to the country’s travel embargo on Cuba, footage from the concert which results are among the most vibrant and magnificent of all time. While tensions between the two nations have been and are high, part of the greatness of the “Buena Vista Social Club” lies in capturing, in real time, how great music can transcend political barriers while still carrying a vital political load of its own. .