Malian, Cuban musicians take Buena Vista back to roots

Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:34am EDT
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By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) - Problems with passports scuppered producer Nick Gold's first attempt to bring together Cuban and Malian musicians to record in Havana 14 years ago.

But the album that did emerge from sessions by the Cubans who had been left bereft became one of the music phenomenons of recent times -- the Buena Vista Social Club.

It sold millions, led to concerts worldwide, resurrected the careers of several veteran Cuban musicians, and fueled global interest in the exotic Caribbean island in the grip of Fidel Castro's revolution.

Now Gold has brought the story full circle and gathered together the original invitees to make an album mixing the tight rhythms of Cuba with the snaky guitars and desert drums of Mali.

Eliades Ochoa, the cowboy-hatted Cuban singer and guitar player, and his Grupo Patria blend seamlessly with Malian lutist Bassekou Kouyate and guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, among others, on the album "AfroCubism" which will be released on October 11.

They are also hitting the road together, including a showcase at London's Barbican on November 21 as part of the London Jazz Festival.

"Both Cuba and Mali are relatively small in population but how they nurture music, what they've done with music, is incredible," Gold told Reuters in his London office.

Cuban music has its roots in Africa due to the thousands of Africans brought to the Americas as slaves in the colonial era. In the 20th Century, the sounds that emerged were imported back across the Atlantic.   Continued...