"AfroCubism" revisits original Buena Vista plan
LONDON (Billboard) - "Prequels" are usually the preserve of filmmakers. But the Grammy Award-winning "Buena Vista Social Club" album has spawned a rare instance of the phenomenon in the music industry.
In 1996, London-based World Circuit Records owner Nick Gold and his co-producer Ry Cooder traveled to Havana intending to fly in a group of musicians from Mali and team them with Cuban singer-songwriter Eliades Ochoa's hand-picked local artists to make a record exploring the musical links between the two cultures.
But after the Cuban embassy lost the Africans' passports, the project was canceled at the 11th hour. With studio time booked, Cooder and Gold decided that their best option was to simply record the Cubans. The result was "Buena Vista Social Club" (1997), which Gold says has sold 8 million units worldwide.
Now, he's finally recorded the album he intended to make -- "AfroCubism," released October 18 across Europe on World Circuit. A U.S. release is scheduled for Tuesday (November 2) on Nonesuch, which released "Buena Vista" stateside.
Participants include Ochoa and musicians from his band Grupo Patria, original Malian invitees Djelimady Tounkara (guitar) and Bassekou Kouyate (stringed instrument ngoni), plus three additional African stars: Grammy winner Toumani Diabate, who plays the lute-like kora, griot singer Kasse Mady Diabate and Lassana Diabate (no relation to Toumani), who plays the balafon, a percussion instrument related to the xylophone. The collective launches a world tour November 9 in Montreal.
"In the end it came together incredibly easily," says Gold, who produced the album. "We found a window when most of the musicians were on tour in Europe and booked studios in Madrid. We recorded 17 songs in five days in the same spirit of spontaneity that characterized the 'Buena Vista' sessions."
The project finds Ochoa's group adding a Cuban/Latin flavor to traditional African tunes, while the Malians contribute rippling rhythms to Cuban classics like "Guantanamera" and Ochoa's compositions.
"My dream since I was young was to open a new door for African music," Toumani Diabate says. "I wanted to bring this music out of Mali and meet other cultures with it. On 'AfroCubism,' I'm not playing Cuban music and the Cubans aren't playing African music. We've put the two together and made a new music."
(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)
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