Charles visit inspires guitarist to form new version of Buena Vista Social Club

A star of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club has told the Prince of Wales his visit to Havana has inspired him to form a new version of the group.

Guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa found worldwide fame with other revered Cuban musicians when their 1997 album produced by Ry Cooder became a surprise hit.

Charles and Camilla visited the renowned Egrem state recording studio and met Ochoa, who said: “Now with your visit we are given the strength to form another Buena Vista Social Club. We are grateful that you are here.”

Many of the band have died or launched their own musical projects since British music executive Nick Gold organised the project.

The prince and his wife stood in the atmospheric studio, opened in 1944, where greats of Cuban music and international stars have recorded, and Nat King Cole made his first Spanish-language album.

Ochoa told them the original line-up of the Buena Vista Social Club was meant to include a number of African musicians: “They told us that the Africans were going to come tomorrow, and then the next day, and then later,” he said through an interpreter.

Finally, he said laughing, they never came, and the band recruited Cuban musicians – including Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez – who would go on to become world famous for recreating the music of pre-communist revolution Cuba.

Ibrahim Ferrer
Ibrahim Ferrer (Yui Mok/PA)

Cuba’s sound was brought up to date when a jazz quartet played for the royal guests and afterwards their leader, saxophonist Michel Herrera, greeted the duchess with a kiss.

Adriana Pazos Tacoronte, director of the studio archives, told the royal couple the facility has 82,800 recordings dating back to the 1940s, which the British Council is helping them to digitise.

“It is a treasure trove,” said the prince.

“Is it still in reasonable condition? It is very dusty in there!”

They were also shown a recording studio, where sound engineer Daelsis Pena told them how the recordings were restored, remastered and preserved.

In another part of the archives Vincente Prieto told the couple the unit also has recordings of political speeches from the time of the revolution, including one of Fidel Castro reading a letter from Che Guevara.

Charles’s attention, however, was caught by a poster of John Downland, the English Renaissance composer who died in 1626.

The prince said Downland wrote “the most wonderful madrigals that I used to sing”.

Charles and Camilla see the dancing at Egrem recording studios
Charles and Camilla see the dancing at Egrem recording studios (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

In the studio’s cafe Charles and Camilla listened to a performance by a musical heritage band, Septeto Habanero, which has been around for 90 years.

The couple watched transfixed as the band – led by four stylish old men in suits and hats – sang a song from the 1920s, A La Loma De Belen, and a pair of dancers moved around the dance floor.

“The dancing was fantastic,” said Charles.

“I am going to learn the salsa this afternoon,” Camilla said with a smile.

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