Label: WORLD CIRCUIT
In 1996, Nick Gold, head of World Circuit Records, invited Ry Cooder to record a collaboration between musicians from Cuba and Mali in Havana. Cooder arrived in Cuba, but the Malians never did (something to do with their visas), and the project morphed into the Buena Vista Social Club: a film, tour, and, most importantly, a record. The album sold five million copies, won a Grammy award, and became the prototype for any record company with ambitions of selling world music. The Malians have no doubt been kicking themselves ever since. Now, 14 years later, the musicians from West Africa finally get their chance. While it’s never going to equal the success of Buena Vista (the circumstances behind that record’s fruition are too impossible to match), it offers the opportunity to hear what may seem, on paper, a very strange idea. In fact, the link between Mali and Cuba is extremely strong. Following independence from France in 1960, Mali’s President Modibo Keita introduced One-Party Socialism, becoming friends with Fidel Castro in the process. During Keita’s reign, Cuban music was actively promoted throughout the country. As a result, many Malian musicians are now as comfortable at playing son and rumba rhythms as their own.