“In the name of the Mambo, the Rumba, and the Cha cha cha.” – Cesar Castillo (The Mambo Kings, 1992)
Americans may not realize the impact Cuban music has had on our popular culture until they are reminded Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy was Cuban. Cuban music stars of the past still influence present day artists like Grupo Fantasma. The Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s appearance at Austin’s Moody Theater at ACL Live Friday represents the best of both Cuban music’s past and present. The performance was a nod to the golden era of Cuban music and the influnce they still have on music.
The unquestioned star of the show was legendary chanteuse, Omara Portuondo who appeared on stage late in the set and stayed around, thrilling the audience with her vocal talents and lively personality. The woman who once sang with Ibrahim Ferrer in the encapsulating scene from Wim Wenders’ film, The Buena Vista Social CLub knows how to work a crowd. At 80 years of age, the diminuative Portuando took the opportunity to plop down on the nearby piano seat with Rolando Luna between songs.
The musicianship of the players was stunning to behold. There was a virtuoso on the piano, a masterful conga player, the Cuban version of a horn section from Heaven and a guitar player who played backwards just as well as Hendrix. See the players listed below:
Luis Barzaga (backing vocals)
Joachim Cooder (drums)
Juan de Marcos González (guitar, vocals, percussion)
Carlos González (bongos)
Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal (trumpet)
Eliades Ochoa (vocals, guitar)
Julienne Oviedo Sanchez (timbales)
Omara Portuondo (vocals)
Barbarito Torres (laúd)
Amadito Valdés (percussion)
Alberto “Virgilio” Valdés (percussion)
Lázaro Villa (vocals, percussion)
Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos (trombone)
Papi Oviedo (tres)
Rolando Luna (piano)
The MoodyTheater floor had seating aranged, presumably for the mature crowd expected. Latin music fans had other ideas, eventually abandoning their seats for the aisle and space between the stage and front row. Soon, the entire audience on the floor was standing, then writhing to the infectious music. It was a joyous two hours of aural delight.
We posted a slide show of photographs from the performance for you (click the image on the left side bar). We like the shot of Omara playing to the crowd, front and center. Which one is your favorite?
Special thanks to Sharilyn Mayhugh and Keitha Spears.
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