Whether or not Buena Vista Social Club represents the meaning of life, as
Terry Eagleton (2007, 172) implies, it has been hugely influential both in
Cuba and around the globe. The 1997 album, a collaboration between the
American guitarist-producer Ry Cooder and a number of (mainly elderly)
luminaries of Cuban popular music, went on to become the most success-
ful world-music album of all time, and, along with Wim Wenders’s 1999
follow-up documentary of the same name, it changed the way the world
saw Cuban music and the way Cuban musicians saw themselves. The rap-
per Telmary spoke for many young musicians when she ended a concert at
La Floridita in London in 2007 with the words ‘‘we are here representing
the new generation of Cuban music—so that you know that it’s not all the
Buena Vista Social Club!’’∞ Yet Telmary had starred in the 2004 Buena
Vista Social Club (bvsc) docudrama ‘‘sequel,’’ Música Cubana, rapping over
one of the original film’s hits, ‘‘Chan chan.’’ In 2006, her former band, Free
Hole Negro—like her, from the Havana barrio of Buena Vista—had re-
leased the song ‘‘Caballeros para el monte,’’ based on the bvsc track ‘‘El
carretero,’’ on their rap-fusion album Superfinos Negros. These artists were
taking their cue from Havana’s most famous rappers, Orishas, who in-
cluded ‘‘537 c.u.b.a.,’’ a rap version of ‘‘Chan chan,’’ on A lo Cubano
(1999), thus translating the Buena Vista experience for club-goers around
the world within two years of the original album’s release. bvsc also
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