November 4, 2010


AfroCubism: the new Buena Vista Social Club (Tim Cumming, Nov 3, 2010, The National)

Some albums or musical collaborations have a long gestation - Guns 'N Roses' Chinese Democracy album comes to mind - but few can match the epic 14 years between conception and execution that lies behind the story of AfroCubism. Produced by the team behind the Buena Vista Social Club sessions and album, the project became known as the great "lost" event of world music - getting some of the finest musicians from Cuba and Mali to play together and record the results. Now the album dubbed "the Buena Vista as it was originally meant to be" has finally been realised, and the results are quite astounding.

For the producer Nick Gold of World Circuit records, AfroCubism is the fruits of a project that should have been committed to tape in 1996, when Gold flew to Cuba to meet up with Ry Cooder at Havana's EGRAM studios. The plan was to make an album with the Malian musicians Djelimady Tounkara and Bassékou Kouyaté and a group of Cuban musicians including Orlando "Caichito" Lopez and the guitarist Eliades Ochoa (both of whom appear on the Buena Vista album).

But his plans to record a musical conversation between Cuba and West Africa, whose strong musical links went back to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, were scuppered at the last minute. Visa problems meant that the Malians didn't make it.

"It was all very disappointing," remembers Djelimady, whose electric guitar work on AfroCubism is just one of the album's numerous musical wonders. "Bassékou Kouyaté and I both adored Cuban music and when [the Cuban charanga band] Orqesta Aragon came to Mali, I played guitar with them all the time they were here. So we knew this trip and the recordings were important and would have helped us to play like Cubans."

While Gold, Cooder and the team stayed on to record with just the Cubans, the results of which became the Buena Vista Social Club sessions, Djelimady and Bassékou, the master of the ngoni (the mighty ancestor of the banjo), forged their own careers in Mali. Bassékou playing in Ali Farke Touré's band, and later with his own, award-winning Ngoni Ba group. But neither of them forgot the lost opportunity.

AfroCubism (Marco Werman, November 3, 2010, PRI: The World)
AUDIO : of story

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2010 6:13 AM
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