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Buena Vista Social Club - Live at Carnegie Hall


Available for the first time: the legendary Carnegie Hall concert by the original Buena Vista Social Club in a lavishly-packaged 2CD set.

“The concert was more than a musical occasion. Musicians from Cuba in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, some emerging from retirement, were making their United States debuts at no less than Carnegie Hall. With the bittersweet delicacy of a classic bolero, the Buena Vista Social Club simultaneously celebrated the vitality and virtuosity of its musicians and mourned the era they embody.” The New York Times.

Buena Vista Social Club, the Grammy Award–winning 1997 World Circuit album produced by Ry Cooder, is the biggest-selling world music album ever, with more than eight million records sold to date. It showcased a dream team of veterans from Cuban music's golden age and introduced the rhythms of son, bolero and danzón to a new audience making stars of Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, Eliades Ochoa, Omara Portuondo and Compay Segundo.

The complete original band played a sold-out, one-night-only concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall on July 1st 1998. That show became the climax of the acclaimed 1999 Wim Wenders’ documentary about the musicians, also called Buena Vista Social Club. The recording of that historic night is only the second release by the original band.

The Buena Vista Social Club was never a regular band: they had come together for ten days in a studio in Havana to record an album and then gone their separate ways. Some of them were touring the world with Juan de Marcos González and his Afro-Cuban All Stars. Others, such as Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa, had their own touring bands. Omara Portuondo had her own busy schedule and, so, too, did producer and guitarist Ry Cooder.

Eventually, a window was found to bring them all together in April 1998 for two nights at The Carré Theatre in Amsterdam. The concerts were such a success that this once-in-a-lifetime final show was staged at New York's Carnegie Hall, the most prestigious concert platform in America.

Due to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, most of the musicians had never been to America let alone played the Carnegie Hall and the night was an event and a celebration as much as a concert performance. "Being on stage anywhere with those musicians and singers was a dream for me,'' recalls band leader Juan de Marcos. '' But Carnegie Hall was something else. It's the top venue in the world and I was so happy to be there and to see people like Rubén and Ibrahim on that stage. It was never going to happen. Except that it did." After that night, it was clear there would not be another concert; busy schedules kept the individual musicians touring and recording with their own projects, the brief window of opportunity for U.S. shows closed with the renewing of political hostilities and sadly within a few years a number of Buena Vista's leading stars including Rubén González, Compay Segundo and Ibrahim Ferrer had passed away.

Until now, apart from the moments seen in Wim Wenders' film, the music from that magical, memorable night has only ever been heard by the lucky few who were privileged to be there.

“When the musicians finally walked on stage, the crowd stood and cheered, then erupted at the opening strains of ‘Chan Chan,’ much as a rock audience does on hearing a band’s biggest hit.” The Los Angeles Times.

"Listening to the tapes of the concert for the first time in ten years, I'm struck by what an amazing musical event it was,'' Ry Cooder says today. ''These were great artists, old masters and they got inside the music and they did it on a level you don't hear any more. It was real and honest and you could feel the audience being pulled along by this music. It was like all the genies were out of the bottle."

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