Show goes on for Cuba's Buena Vista band

Fri Apr 4, 2008 10:50am EDT
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HAVANA (Reuters) - Its oldest stars died after a late burst of international fame, but the show goes on for Cuba's trademark Buena Vista Social Club band as it taps new blood to keep touring.

The 13-piece band travels to Britain next week to perform 32 concerts from London to Liverpool and Edinburgh.

Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez will be playing the bass again and Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal will be on trumpet. The survivors of the original 1997 Grammy-winning recording that gave the band its name and fame are now in their mid-70s.

The young addition to the group is lead singer Idania Valdes, 26, who started as a chorus girl with Buena Vista six years ago and played keyboard for an off-shoot band of the late Ibrahim Ferrer.

Barbarito Torres, 52, who plays the laud, an instrument like a lute, and timbal percussionist Amadito Valdes, 62, the "golden sticks" of Buena Vista, are still regular performers who will join the tour.

"The most famous names in the Buena Vista project have died but the band has become a trademark of Cuban music," said Valdes, creator of a unique style of playing the timbales, a Cuban instrument made famous by Puerto Rican Tito Puentes.

Since the 2003 death of Buena Vista's elder-statesman singer Compay Segundo at the age of 95, another three of its original line-up have passed away: pianist Ruben Gonzalez, singer Ibrahim Ferrer and vocalist and composer Pio Leyva.

Other members have gone their own way, such as guitarist Eliades Ochoa, who tours Europe every year with his own band, and Buena Vista diva and ballad singer Omara Portuondo, who last played with the original band members in Mexico in 2006.

Portuondo will sing at Kenwood House on London's Hampstead Heath in July with her own band.   Continued...

<p>Timbal percussionist Amadito Valdes, 62, of Cuba's trademark Buena Vista Social Club band performs talks to Reuters in Havana, March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa</p>