Blesok no. 32, May-June, 2003
Sound Reviews


Ry Cooder, The Music Missionary

Ljupčo Jolevski


With MAMBO SINUENDO, the joint-effort album with the guitarist Manuel Gablan and with the production for the new project of the legendary Ibrahim Ferer – BUENOS HERMANOS, Cooder wraps the story of the heroic resurrection of the Cuban popular music.

Some people are bound to – constantly and persistently – to be in a quest for all of the beautiful things of the world, in this time of twisted values and the dominance of the cheap commercialization. Ry Cooder, one of the world’s most famous guitarists in the last few decades, the author of a great opus of noticeable film music… is one of those people. With the oriole of a man with a rich career in the world of global popular music and with “hard & difficult” life experiences of every kind, he’s also one of those people whose restless spirit constantly drives them around the world in the quest for their equals in mentality and quality in their profession – all throughout the globe.
An American by birth, a cosmopolite by self-conviction, Cooder have never closed his eyes in front of the spectrum of various influences of different cultures’ music sounds, and these influences are always a significant segment of his own music sound. So, his (conditional) missionary quest doesn’t begins or ends with the petty reaching for the ambient or the rhythms of his own microcosms, but it goes far beyond that (as in the case of his adventure with the Indian… or as in his adventure with the great guitarist from Mali – the nomad Ali Farka Ture, in their joint quest for the real roots of blues as a music form – exactly at the African continent), at the bottom of things, always preferring the principle of honesty in their approach to the music material they work with.
Considering that fact, it isn’t odd at all – when about seven years ago, he stood up behind the Buena Vista Social Club project, showing to the world the high vitality of the Cuban traditional music (still), and he refreshed the world’s memory of the great music stars from the Cuban pre-revolutionary period – the musicians which were almost completely forgot. Cooder, together with Nick Gold from the World Circuit music label, the famous German film director Wim Wenders who made the documentary film with the same title, made the dreams of these great music-masters’ (Compay Segundo, Ruben Gonzales, Eliades Ochoa, Ibrahim Ferer, Omara Portuondo, Afro Cuban All Stars…) come true. From the streets of the financially devastated Havana, where with their music mastership those musicians hardly survive, Ry Cooder and his colleagues take them to the New York’s Carnegie Hall
At the same time, the album became one of the world music’s bestsellers, and the careers of the above-mentioned legends took the uprising flows. This album, actually became one of the initiators of the “Cuban music explosion”, excellently got imprinted onto the global “Latin-American music explosion”, successfully attracting a huge mass of music lovers all throughout the world.
And, when all things did seem to fit exactly where they belong, Ry Cooder enters every new Cuban music project with the caution of a great music professional. As a professional with the clear knowledge that any rearranging of the actual successful formula can only decline his previous, so highly ranked, achievements.
Exactly this fact contributed for the quality of the both of his latest projects – Mambo Sinuendo with Manuel Gablan, and the one with his old friend Ibrahim Ferer – Buenos Hermanos, where Cooder is also the producer; and, that is why both of those projects speak only in favor of the stand that, actually, those two projects are nothing else, but – wrapping of the Cuban pop-music “resurrection” story & history.

Translated by: Petar Volnarovski

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