Sunday, August 07, 2005

OBT: Ibrahim Ferrer

Note, at some point below, the sadness of the consequences of another of this sick administration's dicta . . .

Buena Vista Social Club singer Ferrer dies
Crooner who shared Cuba’s ‘son’ music with a new generation was 78
The Associated Press, Updated: 10:39 p.m. ET Aug. 6, 2005

HAVANA - Ibrahim Ferrer, a leading voice with the hugely popular Buena Vista Social Club of vintage Cuban performers, died Saturday, his representative in Cuba said. He was 78.

The Montuno production company did not give a cause of death, but Ferrer’s colleagues said he suffered from emphysema and was feeling ill earlier in the week.

Known for his trademark cap and graying mustache, Ferrer was a wiry, animated figure who clearly enjoyed performing Cuba’s traditional “son” music of the 1940s and 1950s for new generations of fans.

Among a group of older Cuban performers recruited by U.S. musician Ry Cooder, Ferrer performed on the “Buena Vista Social Club album” that won a Grammy in 1999, and was among those appearing in the film of the same name.

“I felt like he was my brother,” said fellow Buena Vista performer, the guitarist Manuel Galban. “He was a great musician and a great companion.”

Also in 1999, Ferrer was featured in one of a string of albums that followed, “Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer,” and won a Latin Grammy for best new artist in 2000.

Two other well-known members of the original Buena Vista group, singer Compay Segundo and pianist Ruben Gonzalez, died in 2003.

Originally from Cuba’s eastern city of Santiago, Ferrer was born on Feb. 20, 1927, during a dance at a social club after his mother unexpectedly went into labor.

Ferrer was still a boy when he began singing professional with Santiago groups in 1941. By the late 1950s, he was a well-known singer performing regularly with the late, great bandleader Pacho Alonso.

He also made guest appearances with other legendary names, including Benny More and Orquesta de Chepin.

Alonso’s group moved to Havana in 1959, and Ferrer came along, remaining with the group for more than two decades. By the early 1980s, Ferrer had left the musical scene, but came out of retirement to perform with the Buena Vista group.

Ibrahim Ferrer, 78, Cuban Singer in 'Buena Vista Social Club,' Dies
By BEN RATLIFF, August 8, 2005, The New York Times

Ibrahim Ferrer, the Cuban singer whose life included one of popular music's most triumphant second acts, died on Saturday in Havana. He was 78.

The cause was multiple organ failure, his manager, Carmen Romero, announced.

Mr. Ferrer was at the center of the Buena Vista Social Club, a phenomenon that brought long-delayed international fame to a group of older Cuban musicians thanks to a Grammy-winning 1997 album produced by Ry Cooder and a subsequent film by Wim Wenders, both by that name. Besides offering American audiences a musician's-eye view of Cuba, the film set up Mr. Ferrer as a particularly sympathetic figure - tall, distinguished and lively, an excellent bolero singer who used space and silence in his relaxed elegant delivery to increase the drama, a man who had been rolled over by history and was now simply trying to enjoy an absurdly lucky situation.

At the time that he was enticed out of retirement to make the album, Mr. Ferrer was living on a small state pension and shining shoes in Havana for extra money.

He was not interested in recording anymore; he had retired from singing in 1991.

"An angel came and picked me up and said, 'Chico, come and do this record,' " he said in 1998. "I didn't want to do it, because I had given up on music."

Born in 1927 at a social club dance in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba - his mother went into labor on a night out - Mr. Ferrer's first professional involvement with music came at age 13, a year after he became an orphan, when he joined a band, Los Jóvenes del Son.

Later he sang with groups that included Conjunto Sorpresa, the Orquesta Chepín Chovén (with which he had a local hit, "El Platanal de Bartolo," in 1955) and the Beny Moré orchestra, with which he was a background vocalist; in 1953 he began working with Pacho Alonso's band, Maravilla de Beltrán, in Santiago. The band later moved from Santiago to Havana and called itself Los Bocucos.

For most of his career Mr. Ferrer generally sang uptempo numbers, guarachas and sones, not the slow romantic boleros, even though he loved them. But his chance finally came on "The Buena Vista Social Club," when Mr. Cooder and Juan de Marcos González, the album's musical director, persuaded him to sing songs like "Dos Gardenias," which he had learned decades before when singing with Moré.

In 1998, the Cuban Egrem label released "Tierra Caliente," an album of older songs he had made with Los Bocucos. In 1999 the British World Circuit label (with Nonesuch in the United States) released Mr. Ferrer's first solo album, and in 2003 his second, "Buenos Hermanos"; both were produced by Mr. Cooder. In "Buenos Hermanos" Mr. Cooder took more artistic liberties, stirring the very un-Cuban accordion and the gospel singing group the Blind Boys of Alabama into the mix.

Though by this time he was in his 70's, Mr. Ferrer won a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist in 2000. "Buenos Hermanos" won a Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album of 2003, but Mr. Ferrer was denied a visa to enter the United States for the awards ceremony last year.

His last performance in New York was in April 2003. He was on a European tour in the week leading up to his death.

Mr. Ferrer is survived by his wife, Caridad Díaz, 6 children, 14 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, Ms. Romero said.