Days to go 'til Latitude : 21. Happy World Music Day!


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It’s World Music Day and officially three weeks to Latitude! World Music Day or ‘Fete De La Musique’ is an international celebration of all things musical taking place in more than 110 countries and 403 cities around the world with hundreds of music acts taking part in numerous free performances and bringing music to the masses.

To mark the occasion, we travelled to Havana to catch up with the legendary Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club to chat about their main influences, learn about how the group formed and get excited for their performance at Latitude 2012!

With fourteen of the most talented musicians in the globe taking to the stage, Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club, are a musical institution who have helped bring the unmistakeable sounds of Cuba to an international stage. Described as "taking the atmosphere up to a breathless level" (The Independent) on their recent UK tour, their performance on The Word Arena at Latitude is set to be a very special Sunday slot not to be missed.

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® featuring Omara Portuondo was the album that collapsed the Cold War wall between Cuba and the West and launched a thousand salsa classes - its impact could not have been more profound. The release of the 1997 recording, named Buena Vista Social Club after the Havana institution, became an international success bringing back to life the exotic flavours and colours of the 1940s Cubana era.

We caught up with the group’s MD, trombonist and vocalist Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos…

Which latitude are you on right now?

At home in Havana, Cuba.

Happy World Music Day! Are you marking the day in any particular way?

Well, I think we have a rehearsal with the rest of the band, so we will spend it playing music, that’s what we like most.

World music has continued to grow in popularity in the UK with more and more world music events appearing throughout the UK – can you see a marked difference in the scene from when you first started?

The scene has grown from when we first touring in the UK, which is great, as with these new music events, the music grows, people listen to our music, dance it and enjoy it.

How was Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club formed?

Juan de Marcos Gonzalez has discussed the idea of recording the older Cubans musicians and the traditional music with Nick Gold from World Circuit Records, they had previously worked together with the Sierra Maestra albums. Nick spoke to Ry Cooder to join as co-producer with Juan de Marcos who was the musical director. Together they worked on a set list and invited the musicians into the studio and as the session progressed, with the musicians suggesting songs and music to play. It was really magical seeing these musicians playing together.  Everyone knew that the session was magical and that the record would be very special.  

What are your main influences as a group?

We play traditional Cuban music, son, guajiras, montunos, just to name a few of the rhythms. We look to our island’s rich musical history, and that with the musicians’ own personal experiences, these are our main influences.

We are extremely excited to be welcoming you all to Latitude 2012 – what can we expect from your performance at the festival?

Well, you can expect some classic Cuban songs such as Veinte Años, Chan Chan, or El Cuarto de Tula, but also there would be some nice surprises with new songs we’ve been working recently.

If any artist could do a guest appearance with you at Latitude who would that be and why?

Well, there are many artists that we would love to play with, but maybe Mario Rivera (Mayito) could be a good one, but as I’ve said before we would love to play with so many good artists!

Tell us a surprising fact about yourselves

Sometimes a member of the audiences is surprised that even though some of the original maestros who were part of the recordings and the first tours are no longer with us, the Orquesta’s sound and authenticity continues.  This is something very special, and it is so pleasing to be part of this, especially when the younger musicians of the Orquesta are carrying our musical heritage. 

What else are you working on at the moment?

We are working really hard with some new tracks, such as Changui, and some of them are already included in the set list that you’ll be able to listen and enjoy at the Latitude Festival.

What does 2013 hold for you? 

2013, I would love to have the new album ready, and hopefully it will be very successful.

See you at Latitude!

¡Nos vemos allí!