Though the original social club shut down in the early 1960s, the Buena Vista Social Club’s influence in music still lives on to this day. Its story has been made into major albums and even an award-winning film, defining the careers of many talented musicians once lost in the past. With these factors, we explore the critically acclaimed and publicly praised legacy of the Buena Vista Social club.
The Buena Vista Social Club was based in Cuba during the 1940s to early 1960s and started off as a members’ only venue. Located in the over populated Marianao neighborhood, it acted as a social hub for musicians and performers, leading a program of artistic activities such as dances and musical happenings. In its golden era, it encouraged and continued the development of traditional Afro-Cuban musical styles such as Son. The club was run along the lines of a Cabildo (African ethnic associations in colonial Cuba), as Cuban society was organized around these clubs whose membership was determined by ethnicity, at a time when slavery and racial discrimination against Afro-Cubans was institutionalized.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The Cuban revolution of 1959 stands as a major shake-up in Cuban culture. Newly elected Cuban President Manuel Urrutia Lleó, a devout Christian and liberal, began a programme to close gambling outlets, nightclubs and other establishments associated with Havana’s indulgent lifestyle. By the mid-1960s, a generation of music and musicians suffered after the Cold War restraints on the island took effect. Consequently, the cultural and social centers were abolished to make way for racially integrated societies. Private festivities were limited to weekend parties and organizers’ funds were confiscated, these measures soon resulting in the closure of the Buena Vista Social Club. Although the Cuban government continued to support traditional music after the revolution, the emergence of pop music and salsa (a style derived from Cuban music but developed in the United States), meant that son music became even less common. The occurrence of these closures and the change in traditions is the simplest explanation of why many musicians were out of work, and why their style of music had declined.
Despite this decline, The Buena Vista Social Club was reintroduced during the 1990s with the help of American guitarist Ry Cooder and British world music producer Nick Gold. They visited Havana in 1996 and started working with Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González, along with traditional Cuban musicians, some of whom were veterans who had performed at the club during its golden era. On their album’s release, entitled Buena Vista Social Club (1997) no one realized how big an impact it would make. Today the album has sold over eight million copies, making it the biggest-selling Cuban album in history. Two years after the album’s release, the production team reassembled for Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer, Cooder’s first solo album. Eliades Ochoa, Compay Segundo and Omara Portuondo have since gone on to cut their own albums as well.
During the production of the album, Ry Cooder also began working with German film director Wim Wenders. Wenders started to film the recording sessions and interviewed each member in different Havana locations. This resulted in a well-structured documentary that received great acclaim. The film shows scenes with the Cubans, some of whom had never left the island before, travelling to New York following the international success of the studio album. Both the legendary concerts in Amsterdam and at Carnegie Hall show their experiences in these contrasting societies. Some scenes show them window shopping and visiting tourist sites, catching the hearts of many. The film was awarded an Academy Award for best documentary feature in 1999.
Watch this video of Buena Vista Social Club playing ‘Chan Chan’ at Carnegie Hall:
Both the album and the film re-live the classical era of Cuban popular music, and act as a resurrection of musical forms that have had an extraordinary influence over Western music. Its impact not only includes bringing a crew of great musicians out of ignominy on the island, but also of providing a way to interpret the Latin influence on world music to European and U.S audiences over the last half-century. The Buena Vista Social Club is the story of a group of musicians who were trapped by history but who were also ultimately granted a reprieve, and as result revived a genre that was almost lost.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.