A beautiful voice, extinguished.
August 7, 2005 12:44 AM   Subscribe

Ibrahim Ferrer has passed. The 78 year old vaulted from relative obscurity - outside of Cuba, at least - to the forefront of the badly and over-generally named "International" or "World Music" scenes when he came out of retirement to perform with a number of past colleagues (including Compay Segundo and Ruben Gonzales) as Buena Vista Social Club. A film, directed by Wim Wenders, and an album made with the help of guitarist Ry Cooder cemented his position as one of the sweetest voices in Cuba's rich musical history in the west and elsewhere. He was generally considered one of the greatest masters of the traditional son and bolero styles.
posted by luriete (36 comments total)
I apologize, but in my rush to share the news of this great musician's passing, I made the great mistake of misspelling his name, something I should certainly know better as I've listened to every recording of his available on CD many dozens of times. It is, of course, Ibrahim, not Ibraham.
posted by luriete at 12:46 AM on August 7, 2005

His music has been my dancing-around-the-house-naked-after-work music for years, and now I'm going to be a little sad every time I hear it. Goodbye Ibrahim! We loved you!
posted by luriete at 12:53 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by mattr at 3:01 AM on August 7, 2005

I was just thinking about him last night when a Latin band at a charity gig covered Dos Gardenias.

posted by LondonYank at 3:21 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by Jimbob at 4:00 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by zouhair at 4:49 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by carmina at 5:18 AM on August 7, 2005

The Buena Vista Social Club project has been criticised for being backward looking and not encouraging the newer forms of Cuban music, it is people like Ibrahim that make it all worthwhile:

“I pinch myself all the time,” Ibrahim says. “It is a dream come true. When I was younger I thought I was going to travel the world with my music. The only chance I got was when I came to Europe in 1962. Then there was the missile crisis. I played in Paris and Eastern Europe with Pacho Alonso’s orchestra and then I was stuck in Europe. I had to stay until everything settled down again before I could go home. Then nothing happened for thirty-five years. This has given me the will to live. I’m living the dream of my youth in the body of an old man.”

The oportunity to record and perform for audiences all over the world would be mana to any musician, in the case of Ibrahim, Compay, Ruben and the rest of the Buena Vista grupo it has also been a pleasure for the rest of the world. The fact that it took 35 years for Ibrahim to get a chance to perform is testament to the idiocy of the embargo. I had the pleasure of seeing a Buena Vista Social Club show a few years ago, for which I am very grateful.

Cuba is full of fantastic musicians, it should not have to take the interest, hard work and determination of an outsider to surmount the obstacles to their wider appreciation.
posted by asok at 6:45 AM on August 7, 2005

What an incredible voice.

Vaya con dios, Ibrahim.
posted by jonmc at 7:55 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by ktoad at 9:02 AM on August 7, 2005

In the movie they find him shining shoes in the streets of Havana, a skinny and pious old man, and convince him to come back to the recording studio where he just lights it up after all those years. It's the fantasy of redemption. I still get chills when I hear the music.
posted by mert at 9:05 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by eustacescrubb at 9:15 AM on August 7, 2005

One of the best concerts I ever saw. Thank you, Ibrahim Ferrer.

That said, it's strange that the AP obit at CNN mentions last year's Grammy win but fails to mention that Ferer was refused entry to the U.S. to receive the award because it was "detrimental to the interest of the United States" (that is, detrimental for the president to be seen doing something nice for Cuba in an election year). What a shame that was. Still, at least he got to tour; I'm so grateful I got the chance to see him.
posted by mediareport at 9:26 AM on August 7, 2005


Truly a loss to all who love music.
posted by fenriq at 9:32 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by edgeways at 10:00 AM on August 7, 2005


(and a thanks to Cooder, without whom i would have never owned Ferrer's CD.)
posted by RedEmma at 10:12 AM on August 7, 2005

posted by kamylyon at 10:21 AM on August 7, 2005


He will be missed. Such a great voice and such soulful music. It was a real shame when he was denied entry to the US to attend the Grammy awards ceremony.

I am jealous, mediareport - I wish I had gotten the chance to see him perform.
posted by kaseijin at 12:01 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:18 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by ab3 at 12:25 PM on August 7, 2005

This, and the passing of Tito Puente, will be days I will always remember.
posted by markovitch at 12:43 PM on August 7, 2005

i will never forget his smile.
posted by Hat Maui at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2005

I just loved his showing off his Lazarus... in BVSC.

Mucho gracias Senor Ferrer, such a sweet voice you had.
posted by RubberHen at 1:02 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by AwkwardPause at 1:36 PM on August 7, 2005

RIP. He was a cool cat.

He sang on a song (Latin Simone) on the Gorillaz debut album. Damon Albarn said he called him up all nervous, never expecting Mr Ferrer to accept the invite. But Ibrahim Ferrer was very gracious and readily accepted the offer. His only demand was a bottle of good scotch.
posted by Devils Slide at 1:39 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by Edible Energy at 2:07 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:03 PM on August 7, 2005

I discovered the beauty of his voice just this year, in the Buena Vista Social Club movie. I think it's to the movie's and Ry Cooder's credit that this music wasn't lost to the political rift between our countries.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:13 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by trip and a half at 4:19 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by bjgeiger at 4:55 PM on August 7, 2005

A great talent. I really love Buena Vista Social Club. Ibrahim also did one song on Orchestra Baobab's recent CD (which is their first in 20 years).
posted by mike3k at 5:04 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by shoepal at 6:53 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by dial-tone at 8:04 PM on August 7, 2005

There's a scene at the end of BVSC, where Ferrer is looking out at the Carnegie Hall audience, that thrills me and breaks my heart at the same time. The look on his face, the happiness and disbelief, mixed with (what I see as) regret for the lost years, is just amazing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:45 AM on August 8, 2005

Ah, man. I remember seeing that movie and being amazed at how alive Ferrer was. And he was even better in concert; I saw him play at Cerritos, courtesy of Number One, and it was a great time, Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez and other people from Buena Vista playing. Gracias, Ibrahim.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:48 AM on August 8, 2005

posted by Necker at 10:49 AM on August 8, 2005

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