When veteran Cuban musicians, some of whom were pulled out of retirement, were summoned in 1996 to record the iconic Buena Vista Social Club album in Havana’s Egrem studio — in less than a week — few could have imagined that a Cuban musical revolution was brewing.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s nostalgic musical journey through Cuba’s golden era created a global phenomenon that sparked worldwide interest in the island’s music. More than a decade after the album’s 1997 release, and after earning numerous top albums and Grammy awards, the ensemble is bidding their fans farewell on their final tour, “Adios,” which stops at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday.
Lead vocalist Omara Portuondo, one of the original members of the band, says what she’ll miss the most about performing with the group is seeing the sea of smiling faces in the audience.
Before Portuondo joined the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, she was no stranger to stardom. As a teenager, she danced at the famed Tropicana cabaret in Cuba and later joined the all-female singing group Quarteto Las d’Aida with her sister, Haydee. Portuondo launched her solo career in 1967, and the living legend still lights audiences on fire.
Ahead of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s Austin appearance, we chatted with Portuondo about her career and life with the iconic group. Here’s an excerpt of the interview.
What are some of your fondest memories of performing and touring over the years?
Portuondo: Being able to do what you love the most every day is a gift, and I’m thankful for that. I’ve had the chance to share the stage with great artists and friends, and to bring the best Cuban music to all over the world.
How do you feel about this being the group’s last tour?
I prefer to focus on the idea that this tour is a way to thank people for so many years of great support and energy. What a better way of doing it than with a great party. We are all good friends in Cuba, and for sure we’ll meet back home to play and enjoy the music.
Is there a particular song that you enjoy performing?
Well, each one has a special meaning to me. I love all of them, but maybe “Silencio” is a special one.
How do you want Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club to be remembered?
By listening to our songs or dancing with us during a live concert, each person creates or has their own memories. Above all, the sound of our culture and the timeless songs have brought a smile at least once to each one of us.
When: 7 p.m. Sundaythelongcenter.org]]>