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Invincible Omara Portuondo - Adios to Buena Vista & on tour again!

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Thursday May 19, 2016

From The New York Times
By Lawrence Downes

A Havana Farewell to the Buena Vista Social Club

HAVANA — “The revolution is invincible,” say the painted walls along the streets of Havana, as if they could banish doubt through the act of insisting, in red block letters.

But what really is invincible in Cuba is Omara Portuondo, the 85-year-old diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, in a red dress, vamping and shimmying on a stage, showing a roaring audience that fading and dying are of no interest to her.

She is the same singer whose face stares out in torchy glamour on the tattered, Batista-era LPs sold to tourists on the Plaza de Armas in Havana. She is still here, still able to get an entire theater to leap to its feet and sing with her, to “Besame Mucho” and “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” with a simple wave of her arms.

Ms. Portuondo, a legend to Cubans, was an original member of the recording phenomenon known as the Buena Vista Social Club. For the last two years she and her surviving bandmates Barbarito Torres, Eliades Ochoa and Guajiro Mirabal have been touring with a new version of the old group, called Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. They called it the “Adiós Tour,” and it ended on Saturday and Sunday night at the Teatro Karl Marx in Havana.

The band members were already old two decades ago, when the outside world first discovered them, which is part of what made the project so amazing. Time and memory seemed to have eclipsed the musicians when Ry Cooder and a British music producer, Nick Gold, brought them together in 1996 to make a record. That collection of antique Cuban dance music of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, made by a makeshift group of musicians from across the island, was so popular it led to a world tour, some Grammys, a Carnegie Hall concert, a film, then spinoff records and spinoff tours: a phenomenon far easier to savor than to explain.

At the Karl Marx concerts, scrapbook images of the departed Club members were shown on a screen behind the musicians, lending a spirit of sweet sadness to the evening. But the living headliners, with accompanists young enough to be their grandchildren, showed how death can be made irrelevant where music is concerned.

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