Buena Vista Social Club put on historic gig for Obama

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club performs at a reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, for Hispanic Heritage Month and the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Based in Cuba from the 1940s to the early 1960s, the band is on its farewell tour in the United States ™ and their performance tonight marks the first time a Cuban musical act has played at the White House in more than 50 years. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)/DCSW115/867399535700/1510160002

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club performs at a reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, for Hispanic Heritage Month and the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Based in Cuba from the 1940s to the early 1960s, the band is on its farewell tour in the United States ™ and their performance tonight marks the first time a Cuban musical act has played at the White House in more than 50 years. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)/DCSW115/867399535700/1510160002

HAVANA, Oct. 16 The Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club has become the first Cuba-based band to play in the White House for the first time in more than 50 years.

The band performed at a White House reception on Thursday to mark Hispanic Heritage Month and the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

“It is wonderful to have you here. I was explaining to them that when the documentary about the Buena Vista Social Club came out, I was told it was around 1998, I bought a CD,” said Barack Obama, who asked the audience to “give it up” for the group.

After 16 years of touring the ensemble went out with its signature mix of nostalgia and celebration of the next generation of Cuban musicians.

The White House said they were the first Cuba-based musical act to perform under its roof in more than five decades.
The appearance came amid warming relations between the US and Cuba – cold war foes whose leaders surprised the world nearly a year ago with the announcement that they were restoring diplomatic relations after more than half a century of animosity.

Obama and the Cuban president, Raul Castro, have met twice and have spoken by telephone since their stunning December announcement.

The Buena Vista Social Club started as a members’ only venue in the Marianao neighbourhood of the Cuban capital of Havana for musicians and performers based on the island nation between the 1940s and early 1960s. In its heyday the club encouraged and continued the development of traditional Afro-Cuban musical styles such as “son”, which is the root of salsa.

In the 1990s, after the club had closed, it inspired a recording made by the Cuban musician Juan de Marcos Gonzalez and American guitarist Ry Cooder with traditional Cuban musicians.

After the death of some key members, Cuban singer and dancer Omara Portuondo; guitarist and vocalist Eliades Ochoa; Barbarito Torres, who plays the laud; trumpeter Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal; and trombonist Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos began spreading Cuban music internationally as The Buena Vista Social Club.

The recording became an international success as the biggest-selling Cuban album in history. The group is on a worldwide farewell tour.

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/oct/16/direct-from-cuba-buena-vista-social-club-put-on-historic-gig-for-obama