The unexpected commercial and critical success of the Buena Vista Social Club release in 1997 helped for better affirmation of Cuban music worldwide. The album was sold in several millions of copies, won a Grammy, a movie was shot, while the participants got recognition and success which were never really given previously. Ibrahim Ferrer was a surprise to whom this project allowed a whole new career. Today his albums are sold in millions of copies and his concerts are always crowded.
With the success of Buena Vista album the participants on that album including you became international celebrities and Cuban music is now more popular than ever. How do you fell about what you’ve done to Cuban music?
I am very proud of it. It was very important for me to be able to represent our culture all over the world. Cuban music has so much to give and I try to make it arrive to everyone.
After the worldwide success and recognition, has anything changed for these musicians in Cuba? Are they more respected now?
Musicians always are respected in Cuba, but now, the music that we do is playing at the radios again, and now young people are listening to our music again. This is great, you know, to recover these songs, witch are the roots of everything.
What was the reaction of the people in Cuba towards this unexpected discovery of Cuba’s lost treasures?
They were never lost… as I say, young people were more use to modern music, like rap, rock and so one. And now they are paying more attention to our traditional music.
What are your fondest memories of the Buena Vista recording sessions? How do you see the success of Buena Vista as a whole after all these years?
I have many nice memories, especially my meeting with Omara Portuondo, witch was so touching…, with Ruben Gonzalez and all this fantastic musicians.
#2 The success of Buena Vista allowed us to develop our solo carriers: Omara Portuondo with her band and her first album, now her second album witch is almost finished; also Cachaito Lopez and his band and of course me, with my two solo albums. For all this, the success of Buena Vista was really very important.
Ry Cooder was the key figure during those sessions. He also produced 2 of your solo albums. What’s your relationship of friendship and work with Ry Cooder been like? What was it that he contributed to these sessions?
It was great to work with him and with Nick Gold, from our record label.
We also are good friends and we always talk about our families and our things when we talk on the phone. It is a very unaffected person.
To our studio sessions he contributed by supporting what we were doing, and this was very good.
How was it that you were invited to record your first album as a soloist, at 72 years of age?
This is like to be born again! That`s why I always say I am a young man…
It is like starting again, a dream come true, and I still have to pinch myself to find out if I am dreaming or not.
Some of the most popular tracks from “BVSC presents Ibrahim Ferrer” are the bolero tunes Silencio (that you’re singing with Omara Portuondo) and Dos Gardenias from “BVSC”. What styles do you most like to compose and sing in?
You said it, I enjoy at most to sing boleros, I always did, and now I can finally sing it!
I did not compose very much, I would not call myself a composer, but it’s true that in my las t album “Buenos Hermanos” I have included tree songs that I wrote when I was young: HAY QUE ENTRARLE A PALOS A ESE”, “BOQUINENE” and “MUSICA CUBANA” , this one was composed at the studio while we were recording together with Demetrio Muniz, (my director), Chucho Valdez and me.
Parts of the sessions from “BVSC presents Ibrahim Ferrer” were recorded by Wim Wenders for his documentary. Do you have a favorite moment or image in the film? Something which you felt encapsulated the spirit of the music or the musicians in a single frame or sequence?
I like all the scenes of the movie. Normally the director of a movie, in this case a documentary, gives his own point of view and I respect this. I think that the studio recording session’s sequences reflects our musicality.
Two years ago Compay Segundo passed away and last year so did Ruben Gonzales. Many people regret that they won’t be able to see these men playing. What are your feelings towards these two artists?
I feel great respect and admiration, I didn’t have a close friendship with Compay Segundo, but I can tell you he was a great musician and he did a lot for the Cuban culture.
I had a great friendship with Ruben, as we did many tours together for a long time. I lost a great friend, and the world has lost one of the best pianist’s ever.
This year you will be touring Europe. What does it feel like to be touring at age of 77?
I must tell you… I like it! We have a great time and we try to make the most of it. I always tour with my wife and my grandson, and all the musicians, technicians and my people are like my album says: “Buenos Hermanos” (good brothers).