Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club to play U.S., Europe

Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:27pm EDT
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By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club will make its first appearance in the United States since 2003, with concerts this week in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles before heading off to Europe, a band spokesman said on Monday.

The Cuban band will be the latest of Cuba's entertainment exports to the United States as cultural contacts between Cuba and the United States thaw under President Barack Obama.

Trombonist and band director Jesus "Aguaje" Ramos said the group was looking forward to playing again for American fans, who embraced the band despite many years of hostile U.S.-Cuban relations.

"For us, it's beautiful, because we left behind a public interested in Cuban music -- a public loyal to son, to danzon, to bolero," he said, referring to the group's musical styles.

The band of aging Cuban musical legends was rescued from oblivion by U.S. musician Ry Cooder, who went to Havana in 1996 to produce what became their self-titled Grammy Award-winning album, "Buena Vista Social Club."

A 1999 documentary by the same name, directed by Germany's Wim Wenders, was nominated for an Academy Award.

In the intervening years, some of the best-known members of the group have died, including singers Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Pio Leiva, pianist Ruben Gonzalez and bass player Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez.

Others still alive, including singer Omara Portuondo and percussionist Amadito Valdes, will not be on the tour.   Continued...