New Internationalist

Cien Años

March 2008

As Compay Segundo, the most dashing of the debonair gents in the Buena Vista Social Club, didn’t actually reach his century – unhelpfully dying at the age of 95 in 2003 – the title of this boxed set is a bit of a misnomer. Still, with three CDs and a DVD of concert highlights, interviews and videos – all packaged with Rhino’s usual handsome attention to detail – this set is a cause for celebration in itself.

Cien Años isn’t the whole story of the singer, armónico and tres player who wrote his first song aged 15, just as the 1987 hit ‘Chan Chan’ isn’t the sum total of Segundo’s compositional powers. The 46 songs here, including some unreleased gems, were all recorded after the veteran signed to Warners in the mid-1990s following the success of Wim Wenders’ iconic film. If this means that we’re getting a throatier version of Segundo’s famously gruff baritone, it also means better sound quality and a lovely, light revisitation of such classics as Carlos Puebla’s ‘Hasta Siempre, Comandante’ – a song dedicated to Che Guevara and his contribution to Cuba’s revolution. Incidentally, on the Buena Vista soundtrack album, this song was subtly rewritten to avoid too much hymning of Fidel.

This column was published in the March 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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