Bluesfest: Buena Vista Social Club

THE heart of Havana’s dancehalls will breeze into the hills behind Byron Bay next month when Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® play Bluesfest.

Responsible for the highest-selling world music record, the formidable 13-piece band features some of the biggest legends of Cuban music and stars of the Buena Vista Social Club film.

Guajiro Mirabal’s distinctive trumpet sound and characterful playing has earned him the monicker ‘The Trumpet of Cuba’. Aguaje Ramos’ trombone has been an integral part of World Circuit’s Cuban recordings for the past decade. Grammy-winning guitarist Manuel Galbán made his name with seminal 1960s Cuban doo-wop group Los Zafiros. Amadito Valdés is considered Cuba’s leading timbales player, and Barbarito Torres is widely regarded as the world’s leading virtuoso laoud player.

Jesus ‘Aguaje’ Ramos, musical director and trombone – Buena Vista, recently spoke with Pulse with the help of a translator

Question: How did you all meet?

Oh well, this is a long story (laughs). Actually we all knew each other from many many years ago. In Cuba we’ve played together and we’ve done radio and television programs together. When Buena Vista Social Club album was recorded with Nick Gold by World Circuit and Ry Cooder, they’ve called us through Juan de Marcos and most of us found each other in the studio after some years without seeing each other. That was a magic encounter and we recorded that album surrounded by smiles, laughs and great friends.

Question: Where does the name Buena Vista Social Club come from?

Well, there are lot of people who say that the name comes from Social Buena Vista Club. In that time, there were these social clubs, where people went to dance and to enjoy. Actually, the name comes from music composed by Cachaíto Lopez’s uncle, Israle ‘Cachao’ Lopez, who is the composer of this ‘danzon’ which appears in BVSC album.

Question: Describe the early days of the club.

In each district there was a social club where people used to go to play domino, cards, or just to have a chat, and there used to be balls, and the orquestras used to play. Buena Vista Social Club was one of those clubs, but there were lots of them. Some of them were for white people, some others only for black people, and a few were for all kinds of people.

Question: What is it to have the highest-selling world music album?

Each news we’ve been receiving during all these years, we’ve received with happiness and satisfaction, and to know that people are buying our albums, and that they are enjoying our music all around the world is something very, very special.

Question: What has been the highlight of your success?

Lots of things, first of all the film, which had so much success, and the album, but even before that, we started touring first with Juan de Marcos Gonzalez’s band Afro Cuban all Stars, and then with Ruben Gonzalez who was the most successful since the beginning, then arrived Ibrahim Ferrer’s success, and the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club was always there, but we should never forget the success of the solo albums of Ibrahim or our loved friend Omara Portuondo or of Guajiro Mirabal de Cachaito.

Question: Are you looking forward to performing at Bluesfest?

We are really happy to come back to Australia! Last time we were there, Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Chachaito were there, too. The country is incredible and we really enjoyed visiting the country, we liked everything. Now, we are really excited to arrive in Bluesfest, so it is a great festival, and we are pretty sure that we will enjoy every single minute we are going to be there. We will enjoy the music and all the moments together.

Question: How would you describe your music to the uninitiated?

Traditional Cuban music, our culture with ‘danzones’, cha cha cha, boleros, guajiras, these are our roots. Music from the best Cuban composers, and played by old and young musicians, music which arises from the heart!

• Catch the cha cha of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club at Bluesfest, being held from Thursday, April 1 to Monday April 5. Tickets are on sale now. Call 6685 8310 or visit

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