Spreading Cuban culture

Pasión de Buena Vista will perform here this month

Pasión de Buena Vista will perform here this month (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pasión de Buena Vista will perform here this month
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 E ven for the least romantically inclined, the saga of the Buena Vista Social Club is a stirring landmark in the annals of the then still rapidly evolving world music scene of a couple of decades ago.
The said Cuban troupe largely comprised a bunch of musicians who were well past their official retirement age and, after decades of primarily enforced anonymity, the likes of Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzales were finally unleashed on the unsuspecting world in 1997. That was facilitated by eclectic American musician Ry Cooder, British producer Nick Gold and German filmmaker Wim Wenders who, respectively, produced the eponymous Buena Vista Social Club debut album and made a documentary about the venerated musicians. At the time, Ferrer was in his 70s, Gonzales was nearer 80, and Segundo was already 90 years old.
Thankfully, all the above senior citizens lived long enough to enjoy long-overdue global success. The outfit is still very much alive, now entrusted to a younger generation of Cuban musicians dedicated to keeping the traditional embers glowing brightly around the world.
The Buena Vista Social Club performed on several occasions and was duly appreciated. Now we can get a taste of what the current traditional Cuban music torchbearers have to offer in the shape of the Pasión de Buena Vista ensemble.
The next working visit will take place December 20 to 26, with six concerts scheduled – four at Hangar 11 in the Tel Aviv Port (December 20, 21, 23 and 26), one at the Jerusalem Theatre (December 24) and one at the Haifa Auditorium (December 25).
Pasión de Buena Vista is spearheaded by vocalist Jose Guillermo Puebla Brizuela, who says he got an early start to his musical path.
“During my childhood, I started playing different instruments such as percussion, guiro, maracas and clave,” he says. “Nevertheless, I decided to specialize in singing when I grew up and got highly successful in this field.”
That was fueled by a robust artistic domestic scene.
“My grandfather was Carlos Puebla, who wrote the famous Cuban song ‘Commandante, Che Guevara.’ My brother, Ramon Puebla, works as a composer and songwriter, and my nephew plays trombone. So as you can see, most of the Cubans are addicted to music in some way,” he adds.
Brizuela has been with the ensemble for a while and says he has an “ulterior” dissemination motive for doing so.
“I joined Pasión de Buena Vista about four years ago. First of all, because I loved the idea of working together with my Cuban friends. Second, because the show gives me the opportunity to work worldwide in my professional field and thereby spread the rich Cuban culture all over the world. And, last but not least, because together we became a family that simply enjoys to make music and dance together!” he explains. 
Brizuela notes that he and his counterparts owe Cooder a debt of gratitude.
“I think it [the visit to Cuba] affected all of us. Without the increasing attention to Cuba, its music and dance and its culture as a whole, projects like Pasiòn de Buena Vista might not have been possible,” he says.
Naturally, Segundo et al played their part.
“In my opinion, we owe a big thank you to the Buena Vista Social Club and to Mr. Wenders for helping to spread the rich Cuban culture all over the world.
Together, they attracted worldwide attention to Cuban music and dance.”
Pasiòn de Buena Vista is not only about the sounds and rhythms of Cuba but also aims to catch the eye.
“For every show, the visual side is highly important,” Brizuela explains. “Therefore, for example, Pasión de Buena Vista has some of the best dancers Cuba has to offer in its family, and we are all dressed in tailor-made costumes.”
But, as the group’s moniker suggests, it is also about tugging at the heartstrings.
“This is probably the most important point of every show,” he says. “We want the audience to experience an unspoiled Cuban life and to feel our passion.
Altogether, we would like to give them the opportunity to enjoy the exotic Cuba on their doorstep.”
This will be Pasion’s first foray in Israel, and Brizuela says he and his singing, playing and dancing colleagues will be going all out to get their musical and cultural message across.
“It is our first time in Israel, and we are all very excited about it – because we want to present ourselves and our musical culture in the best possible way,” he asserts.
The show repertoire will combine time-honored nuggets with more contemporary fare.
“We play about 20 different numbers of authentic Cuban music combined with exotic and artistic choreographies,” says the singer. “You will hear classics such as ‘Guantanamera’ and ‘Commandante, Che Guevara’ and some new songs.”
Looks like an aural and visual extravaganza is well and truly in the cards.
For tickets and more information: *9080 and www.buenavista.co.il