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Review: Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club wows Fort Worth audience

Posted 11:21pm on Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013

From baseball players to fine cigars to music, there was just so much America missed out on from Castro’s Cuba.

With the exception of Desi Arnaz, who co-starred with his wife on I Love Lucy, did Americans have a face for Cuban musical talents? They were there. They played. We just couldn’t hear them.

On Wednesday night before an enthusiastic audience at Bass Hall, the now internationally famous Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club continued to show enthusiastic fans what only Cubans knew for so long.

This is not a young band — a few of their members are pushing 80 — but they played like they are 20.

You didn’t need to speak a word of Spanish or be familiar with the music. It was virtually impossible not to be enchanted by the spirit of their sound. They were infectious. Their shows were obviously scripted, but Wednesday night’s felt so spontaneous, you felt that if they didn’t have to catch a plane they would still be playing.

The 13-piece band includes only four of the original members who were featured in the 1999 documentary The Buena Vista Social Club, which told the story of American musician Ry Cooder’s search for these musicians. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award and achieved international acclaim and praise for introducing them to the world.

The band’s visit to Fort Worth is part of an international tour that includes Asia, the U.S. and Europe. It’s their first tour since 2008.

On Wednesday, they played for a little more than 90 minutes. Thanks to Bass Hall’s sterling acoustics, each instrument could be distinguished, whether during a solo or as part of a large ensemble piece.

Singer Omara Portuondo and guitarist Eliades Ochoa, both of whom could be kindly described as “older,” stole the show with their traditional sounds and energy, passion and enthusiasm for music and playing to the crowd.

Because of politics, for much of their lives their sound and music was either silent or could not be heard.

As Fort Worth discovered on Wednesday night, their music never died.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @MacEngelProf

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