Music Analysis, Buena Vista Social Club

July 12, 2017 Music

The revolutionary music of the Buena Vista Social Club launched the growth of Afro-Cuban music around the world. This inspiring group combines American jazz with Spanish melodies and African rhythm. The lyrics and sound come together, to create an emotional experience that defines Cuban culture.

The ensemble consisted of: Ibrahim Ferrer (singer), Compay Segundo (guitarist), Ruben Gonzales (pianist), Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal (trumpeter), Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos (trombonist), Barbarito Torres (laud), Eliades Ochoa (guitarist), Papi Oviedo (tres), Ry Cooder (guitar), Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez (bassist), Joachim Cooder (drums), Carlos Gonzalez (bongos), Julienne Oviedo Sanchez (timbales), Amadito Valdes (percussion), Juan de Marcos Gonzales (percussion), as well as other percussion players.

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The Buena Vista Social Club performed live at Le Carre in Amsterdam in 1998. The song “Candela” is an amazing performance with metaphorical lyrics and solos by Manuel Mirabal and Barbarito Torres. Ry Cooder, an American guitarist was invited to Havana and brought together many famous Cuban musicians to create the Buena Vista Social Club. The name of the group was inspired by the “Buena Vista Social Club,” a members club located in Havana during the 1940’s and 50’s.

Many of the group’s performers had played at the club during its height or had been performing during this era. The album was recorded in 1996 and then later released in September of 1997. The music displays an emotional and mysterious tone with traditional/pre-revolutionary roots. The style of the music is dated back to its origins between 1930’s and 50’s. Cuba’s long history provides a powerful blend of Spanish and African culture, which was displayed in the music during this time with the infusion of Cuban and African music, creating Afro-Cuban music.

The song “Candela” first starts out with Eliades playing the acoustic guitar at a moderate pace (moderato) and moderately loud (mezzo forte). Within seconds the percussion and vocalist begin, creating a crescendo from mezzo forte to forte/fortissimo, while also becoming faster (allegro). Ten second into the song, the vocalist stops and the vibrant trumpet enters. For about 20 seconds the trumpet dominates with some disjunct movement and ending the 20 seconds with a trill and vibrato. The texture of the entire song seems to e polyphonic, highlighting many different instruments at once. The rhythm seems to be polyrhythm, meaning many rhythms. About two minutes into the song, the trumpet has a solo, playing disjunct motion using trills and becoming more powerful as he plays. Shortly after the trumpet solo, Barbarito (playing the laud) comes in. It seems he starts by playing a scale (conjunct motion) and then moves on to disjunct motion. Throughout the song you can hear the snaps of the upright bass in the background.

Towards the end of the song a decrescendo is used to end the song becoming more mezzo piano as the vocalist ends the song with the word “Candelita,” vibrating his voice with a powerful ending. I really enjoyed listening to this song; I thought it was very powerful and meaningful. Although I do not understand the meaning behind the song, after listening to “Candela” I was blown away from the variety of sounds flowing throughout the song. Normally I do not enjoy the sound of brass instruments, but the trumpet solo gave me a better appreciation for these instruments.


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