Ibrahim Ferrer, R.I.P.

Sad news – the great Cuban sonero, Ibrahim Ferrer, a man whose voice was as distinctive and stirring as Celia Cruz’s, has died in Havana. He was 78.

He was my favorite singer.

His lashing voice, striking son and bolero songs, and individualistic humor came to life in Ry Cooder’s 1999 Buena Vista Social Club film, which while avoiding direct politics, was unintentionally the most damning large-scale film against castro ever made.

Ferrer was a real Cuban who lived and suffered through the castro regime, same as everyone, and for many years was driven from pre-castro-era stardom to obscurity by castro’s state planners, the blotting-paper-faced communist bureaucrats who wouldn’t know a great singer if he was right in front of them. castro’s gray mediocrities consigned the great talent of Ibrahim Ferrer to shining shoes. That’s right, castro forced him to give up his golden singing and instead made him a shoe-shine boy. It tells you just about all you need to know about the nature of the castro regime.

In Cooder’s movie, Ferrer was extremely humble, questioning, open, and exuberant. He was passionate about Cuban music – and dancing, too. He played checkers on the patio. He loved Cuban traditional religion, and in his shabby apartment, he showed his statues of Santa Barbara and other santos to the filmmakers. Of course he was a threat. But after Cooder’s movie, even they could no longer ignore him.

I have his albums and every single off other musicians’ records I can get my hands on, and I notice his work improves in succession. It’s vibrant, spirited, and highly disciplined. You can tell that this is a great talent even if you do not know much about Cuban music. His talent is that obvious.

He was incredibly good in so many ways.

I love the sexy rhythms and lilting low undertow of Guaguanco Callejero from his Buenos Hermanos album, exuberantly extolling the beauty of his black woman. We all love that black woman he’s hailing like a goddess – ‘iave maria, morena!’

In No Tiene Teleranya, we hear the song of scorn of a spider caught in its own web, with Ferrer’s voice sharply moving against the amazingly rhythmic slack-key guitar that really draws you in. It sounds like surfer music – something that reminds you that Cuba was a major influence on the Southern California surf music of the 1960s.

But I especially love the subtle undercurrents of cutting political putdowns in some of Ferrer’s songs, things I hear in his voice and read through his lyrics.

In his Oye el consejo from his Buenos Hermanos album, he, at age 76, manages to convincingly portray the spirit of a 16-year-old boy who’s being nagged by his oppressive mother as he longs to be free and experience Havana. She yells that he never listens to her. And he doesn’t. Sound political? Maybe it was.

The 1940s-era song, Buenos Hermanos, from his Buenos Hermanos album, is mysterious and stirring and evocative even if you cannot understand a word. But when you read those lyrics, those biting sarcastic lyrics about how ‘big brother takes care of me, giving me crumbs and bones and gristle and fat’ then you know that, even though there is the political cover of the 1940s, this is a true anthem of the real Cuba under castro. And sung with such heart.

He was taken too young. I hope to god it wasn’t the air-conditioning, the castroite power outages suffocating Cuba as I write this. I hope not that.

iQue lastima!

ferrer.jpg

Rest in peace, son of Cuba.

50 thoughts on “Ibrahim Ferrer, R.I.P.”

  1. RIP Ibrahim.
    I remember meeting you at my friend’s house in Havana across the street from Egrem Studios. I wanted to ask for an autograph but was hesitant. Yet you signed a copy of your cd for me and was very gracious. I also remember watching your performance at the Latin Grammy’s here in Los Angeles and a show with the Bueana Vista Social Club members at the Wiltern Theater and the Hollywood Bowl. You were esp. loved here in Los Angeles. It’s too bad politics had to get in the way and keep you from returning to us here in California to continue spreading the beautiful original music of Cuban son to the masses. And to those who never knew of it.
    But rest in peace, along with Celia, Ruban Gonzales, Compay Segundo, Celeste Mendoza, Beny More, and all the other great Cuban singers who have gone before you.

  2. Unlike Eliades Ochoa and Silvio Rodriguez, Ibrahim did not favor castro so well. Like Celia and Polo before him, it’s such a shame that he died without ever seeing a free cuba again.

    “El dia que yo me muero, que me llevan para el oriente, el dia que yo me muero, que me llevan para el oriente, asi como pueden decir que soy de la tierra mas caliente.”
    -Ibrahim Ferrer, “Compositor Confundido”

    RIP

  3. No disrespect for the dead but, am I missing something here? He was publicly criticizing the embargo. He made fun of the US’s anti terrorism policies when he was not granted a visa to attend Hollywood left events. Some may say he was manipulated by the government but, the dissidents in Cuba could also subtlely get by and hint at their opposition and accomplish nothing for a free Cuba. I personally viewed his making fun of the US policies. No disrespect for the dead, but I have lack of respect for what was accomplished in life
    to the advantage of castro. He was fidel’s poster boy for their “music industry”. How else could he have the right to free travel that other non-musicians do not have. Yes I loved his music too, but he is not a national hero at least not to those of us in exile. I expect the jabs to come, but this seems similar to what the US has bought into with the hollyweird left. If they have some type of talent we must adore them. Careful, thats how we got to where we are at in the US. a/k/a Danny Glover, Carlos Santana, Harry Belafonte.
    BTW I am not a fan of my countries traditional religion. Remember its just imported withcraft. Don’t confuse that with Christianity.It is not a tradition it is an infection.

  4. Pototo: Well, you show another view and I respect it. But I feel that the guy essentially was not a policy guy but an artist; he was never given any opportunity for education, and living in castro’s Cuba without news, how would he even know what was really going on? I give him the benefit of the doubt. Criticizing the embargo isn’t that anti-U.S., and many right-thinking people, like I believe our friend Paxety, think opening the US market would be the best way to topple castro on the not unreasonable grounds that it worked for China and Vietnam. I wonder if Ferrer thought that way, too? I understand their point of view and know they are not at all pro-castro, but I think castro will hog all the benefits to himself if that happens. After all, he has with everyone else he trades with.

    Sure, Ferrer was no Celia. But he lived inside the tyranny. And in that tyranny, he was true to his art, the authentic musical art of pre-castro Cuba, and made it vivid and alive for everyone today. He was never corrupted by the mediocrity of communism. He never sold out his art. All of his talent was developed and preserved in the pre-castro world and that was the only artistic face he ever presented to us outside Cuba.

    As for Santeria, I prefer to see it Pope JP II’s way, not recognizing it for anything else except a style of Catholicism. After all, everyone gets to heaven based on what they do, not what they say. Ferrer’s love for santeria was probably something castro’s block committees tried to stomp out so for that reason, it was decently subversive.

  5. pototo,
    And I suppose those who “imported” that “withcraft”, are also “infected”?

    SLAVES WERE NOT IMPORTED. They were brought here against their will, as I am sure you know. Companies import or export products, not human beings. If in the 1600’s -1800’s slaves were viewd as products, then that was the mindset of that time and age. However we are living in the 21st century, and I would like to think that we could see things as they were and are. Human beings migrate.

    While I do not practice Santeria, I am fully aware that the REGLA de Ocha is a true African religion, practiced by many of the Yoruba tribe which was combined with Catholicism, hence Santeria.

    That is not an infection, it is a mix of cultures which makes it a blessing. Your words makes you come across to me as a racist. That’s no joke.

    If you don’t understand something, you should make an effort to learn something of it. If not, then don’t put other people’s culture down. No matter if your Cuban or not.

  6. GLCuban: I would not call Pototo racist; racism does not exist in Cuba as it did in the US. Almost everyone in Cuba is descended partly from Africans because their ancestors all married each other. I am pretty sure castro is all white because he came from the landed gentry but he is a rare exception, and most Cubans, like Fulgencio Batista was, are a little of everything. But you must know that. I think Santeria is troubling for Cubans like Pototo because the Catholic faith means something, and none of us likes to see it corrupted. It’s real.

    But if santeria didn’t scare the pope, I am going to let it go. Most of Catholicism as we know it is blended in from pagan traditions anyway – e.g. Christmas customs, so perhaps it is no different with Santeria. The Church had a hell of a time converting the European pagans without letting them keep their customs – so, those customs in the end became Catholic. Those Lithuanians stayed pagan till the 1300s. Meanwhile, in Singapore, I noticed that the Catholic Church celebrated Chinese New Year right along with the Confucians and Buddhists, putting two oranges up there on the altar.

    I think it is the same with santeria – I think the Church knows what it is doing by not recognizing the pagan stuff in santeria and just counting it Catholic. But it’s not wrong to want to keep the Church on the right path. I think that, and not racism, is what Pototo is thinking of.

  7. As an Afro-Cuban, or as a person of African decent, when anyone uses the phrase ” Remember its JUST IMPORTED withcraft. Don’t confuse that with Christianity.It is not a tradition it is an INFECTION”, that to me are racist comments.

    Racism may not have exisited the same in Cuba as it did in the United States. But anytype of RACISM is still Racism. Different dog, same crap.

    But I do understand where you are comming from A.M.

    And back to the topic at hand, Ibrahim, you will be missed. Thank you for your music. May God bless you.

  8. As a US Born American CItizen, I believe in religious tolerance. And right now I’m a hell of a lot more tolerant of Santeros than I am of Muslims.

  9. To me, the big racism comes from castro and his all-encompassing, ‘I’ll take care of all of you’ oppressive state, reducing the great national treasure, Ibrahim Ferrer, to shining shoes.

    How bad can you get? You couldn’t even make something like that up. castro is the monster racist.

  10. Turning a great artist into a shoeshine boy is certainly execrable. But Castro has done much worse: he has put men who were or should have been shoeshine boys in charge of ministries, factories and the Army. As for santeria, it is a religion like any other (the U.S. Suprme Court has said so, and we know that august body is never wrong). A “cult” is just a religion you don’t happen personally to like. If you took away the African element from Cuban culture, you would take the vital spark that has made our music, our art, our poetry and our culture universal. Whatever may be our collective faults as a people, racism is not and has never been one of them. Mart? was right when he said that being Cuban trumps all else and that there are no races, or, rather, that there is only one race: the human race. In an essay entitled “La Pregunta Toreal,” which was suppressed for more than a century by his literary executors, Marti answered the question that has been tradionally used to test the sincerity of whites who profess not to be racists: “Would you allow your daughter to marry a black man?” I don’t think it is necessary to say what Mart?’s reply was.

  11. Cuba is a melting pot, but not everyone has jumped in the pot. Of course there are white Cubans. The Venezuelans have a saying that “Everyone is “caf? con leche,” just some are more leche and others more caf?. And while culturally this is undoubtedly true of Cubans as a whole, it is not, however, a demographic fact quite yet. A nation does not have to be completely “mixed” to be free of racial prejudice. Racial prejudice is a state of mind (a kind of insanity, if you will). It really has nothing to do with one’s pigmentation or the particular make-up of any country.

  12. There is no difference between BIG RACISM, and small racism. It’s all the same. castro however is in a league of his own. As an Cuban that has to wear his black skin on every day of the week, till the day I die, what am I to do? Say, oh, that comment wasn’t as bad as what fidel says or does? So I guess I’m supposed to look the other way? No. It’s really quite simple. Respect other’s religous beliefs. Muslim, Jewish, Santeria, Christian, what ever it may be. And like our mom’s have taught us in the past, If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
    If pototo does not want to be labeled or associtated as a racist, he needs to choose his words more carefully. If he was misquoted, he needs to let us know what he meant by his comments. And if he did choose his words carefully after much thought, then…. if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck..guess what..it’s a duck.

  13. PLEASE READ THIS THROUGH BEFORE COMING TO ANY CONCLUSIONS
    Please Don’t change this conversation into one of racism! Santeria is a pagan practice which cannot be related to Christianity in any way shape or form. This is not a black, white, mulato,etc, issue. By “imported” I was referring to something which is not Cuban by nature. It has infected white, black, mulato, and all Cubans alike. It was imported in the sense that it is not native (hope someone doesn’t see that as a slur to Indians) to Cuba. While I am Cuban (and I was NEVER taught any racial differences until we came to the US, and I abhor racism) and as a former catholic and now a Christian, santeria cannot be equated with Christianity. Any Bible (translation) will tell you that they (Santeros of any ethnicity) practice ungodly and unholy observances. While there may be sects within this sect, animal sacrifice and idol worship are common. See Buena Vista to see Ferrer’s oblation offerings to his saint as well as the staff he carried around with him that was given to him by one practicing that witchcraft. Cuba has a rich Christian heritage and I like to hold with those. As for Ferrer’s comments I regret that I have been unable YET to find his quote where he criticizes the US in Cuba and thus plays the puppet for Cuba criticisms of the US. GLCUBAN search the Bible and see if Santeria in any form would be tolerated by God. Deut 18 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
    11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
    12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
    Doesn’t sound like racism to me, sound like something that God hates. As for the racism don’t read into my posts as I have been a victim of racism myself. It seems ironic that you perceived (erroneously) that I was racially intolerant, so you countered it with intolerence to those who have a different view. You judged me wrongly. I just make it a point to stand for what I believe to be right. Its a shame that it was twisted.I hope that it was a misunderstanding on your part and I choose to see it as that. As a Cuban (born in Cuba) I am not a racist. In Cuba we were all Cubans, skin color never affected that. I also don’t believe in this modern day word of tolerance we all have the right and freedom to live and defend our convictions especially in religion.If you oppose intolerance then please be tolerant of me. Now back to the topic, I personally feel that Ferrer was a pawn for castro and I reject Santeria. Thats all! So lets cool it and debate if need be. No need for name calling as I hope that I made my position clear. No hard feelings 🙂

  14. “search the Bible and see if Santeria in any form would be tolerated by God.”

    Hmmm…kinda like what the other narrow-minded, intolerant, extremists who say “search the Koran and see if Christianity in any form would be tolerated by Mohammed?”

    Mi socio, si lo tuyo no es racismo, sigue siendo una combinacion de ignorancia, miopia, e intolerancia sobre las creencias de otros que le ronca los cajones…

    Mejor ponte a pensar en como dijo lo mismo (mas o menos) otro ignorante miopico e intolerante de origen cubano (uno que no se cree interprete de lo que dice Dios, sino que dicen que se cree que es Dios):

    “Adentro de mi Biblia Revolucionaria todo, afuera de mi Biblia Revolucionaria nada”

    (Y con esto en 1961-62…fuera con los curas catolicos, con~o…sus creencias no caben adentro de lo que decia esa otra “Biblia”).

    Y ahora, si quieres, pidele a los participantes, igual que les pediste que fueran tolerantes de las creencias miopicas e intolerantes tuyas, que sean tolerantes de las creencias miopicas e intolerantes de este.

    Si no mas pa’ ver el arroz con mango que se forma.

    Malanga
    Historiador de Miopia e Intolerancia Cubana

  15. I have a question…What is Cuban traditional religion?? is that something new in Cuba? Castro’s new religion??
    Cuban traditional religion has always been Roman Catholicism, I hope we are not talking about Santeria…..

  16. Carmen: Depends on which Cuban you ask, I suppose. Santeria is not recognized by the Catholic Church as separate from itself, so I don’t recognize it either. If someone says they’re devoted to Santa Barbara, I will take it at face value that they are devoted to Santa Barbara and if they think different, well, that is between them and God. Personally, I think Protestant Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists are an imported phenomenon. But I am into tolerance, given that one of the Doctors of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, has always insisted on every man’s right to follow his conscience.

  17. Arggghhhhh!

    Did anyone like Ibrahim Ferrer’s music here? That’s what I’m talking about! The man was an artist!!!!!

    And real art is always a threat to nasty dictators. Every single one of them.

    Especially castro.

  18. don’t want to turn this into a religious argument about the religion of Cuba. I have my opinion on that as well.
    I liked his music ok…

  19. Ferrer was a great musician but he allowed his art to be used by the regime. Did he have a choice? I don’t know and who really knowns for sure? But does it matter?

    Artists and Athletes have been pawns of politicians throughout history. The falacy that the Arts and Sports are above and or independent of politics is just infantile bull crap. They are colaborators even when products that by themselves take no sides are used by the regime to support itself financially or to deflect the worlds attention from their crimes.

    “Yes, castro is evil but look/listen/enjoy all these wonderful painters/musicians/athletes, aren’t Cubans great? Let’s buy their CDs/paintings or go visit them…”

    ?Ya no mas!

  20. The art itself was uncorrupted, CheoMedalla. It’s real. castro may have claimed it belonged to him, but the truth is obvious to me: castro tried to make the great Ibrahim Ferrer into a shoeshine boy. It took some wacked out cowboy named Cooder for crissakes, who was touched by the authentic music some thousands of miles away to show the whole world the utter vileness of the castro regime that would make Ibrahim Ferrer a shoeshine boy.

    castro can make any claim he wants. What Ibrahim Ferrer left behind is Buenos Hermanos slyly savaging the castro regime under its nose. And castro? He will leave nothing, nothing, behind when death comes calling.

  21. I saw the documentary and all I remember is the beautiful people, the scenery and the marvelous music. Heck, I felt like jumping on a plane to Cuba after watching it! I certainly bought the CD when it came out…. And that’s all Belafonte, Glover, et. al. remember also. The shoe shine part was lost in the translation. After all, weren’t there more shoe shines under Batista than under castro? Aren’t things better now (proof, the documentary!)?

    It was a castro-cuba infomercial as far as I can remember. How much of the CD and concert royalties went to Ferrer’s family is what I want to know…

  22. In that movie, I looked at the poverty, the crumbling buildings, the crappy clothes people wore, the beat up cars, the meager entertainments, the lousy food,m and amid all this, the talented people like Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez stuck into dead-end jobs, Ruben Gonzalez plying his national-treasure piano skills in some kid’s ballet school on a nasty folding chair, and Ibrahim Ferrer shining shoes and I said to myself: that is the most damning movie ever made about castro. They arent’ saying anything directly. But all you have to do is use your eyes and hear these peoples’ stories to realize the waste, the fraud, the theft and the ruin that castro has brought to Cuba. It was a deep undercurrent that I caught. castro wanted to hide these people from the world. He wanted them to shine shoes instead. He deprived them of all the glory and fame they deserved. But somehow Cooder got through and castro failed. F castro. Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez went to their graves owing castro absolutely nothing.

  23. Malanga,
    estamos hablando dos idiomas completamente distinctas. Me criticas la vista porque no veo como usted. No dudo tu sinceridad pero creo que estas sinceramente equivocado segun lo que yo soy.
    Que Dios te bendiga porque no estoy aqui para pelear. Conteste segun lo que fue dicho de Ferrer y su fe. Pero socio, si no me quires dar permicio a hablar entoces quiza tendremos que comenzar una CDB eso es decir el Comite por la Defensa del Blog. Asi empezo fidel, si no piensan como el no tienen derechos. Nunca dije que to tienen derecho de seguir santaria. Lo que dije es que lo que dice la Biblia bien claro es que estoy contra la santeria. Llamame lo que deseas. Mientras que mi vista sigue las Escrituras ira bien. Una pregunta, has estudiado la biblia personalmente?
    Y si la contesta es si, entonces que significa cuando Jesus dice que El es el unico camino? Sera myopia en la parte de Cristo? Claro que no.

  24. Pardon the Spanish. I should have composed it on word then pasted it. Just had to respond to Malanga in kind. Just a question? Should tolerance apply to castro? HMMM…
    Of course not. I don’t believe tolerance requires approval of things one opposes. Since Ferrer’s religion was brought up in a semi-positive light I felt that a rebuttal was in order. I’m done with this topic for now. Thanks to those of you who were tolerant indeed though. Sheesh. Never thought one would have to be politically correct to speak freely on this blog. Especially a Cuban.I actually enjoy debate and it bounces off. Hope no one takes things to personally around here. Without debate and differing convictions we would all be in trouble. “In matters of opinion blow like the wind, in matters of principle, stand like a rock”

  25. “Since Ferrer’s religion was brought up in a semi-positive light I felt that a rebuttal was in order”

    Let’s see…ah…yes….because the only religion that can be brought up in a positive light is that which is in my interpretation of the Bible, otherwise…it’s “propaganda enemiga” and a Granma article which puts it in the proper light (esos santeros son contrabiblionarios en el pago de la mafia yoruba) is in order.

    “Never thought one would have to be politically correct to speak freely on this blog.”

    Hey man, bajate de la nube and don’t try and hide under the “you have to be PC” thing…. no has anyone denied you the right to speak freely (I think that only happens round ‘here if you piss Val off, which, btw, if fine…the man owns the blog).

    All that’s being said by me, in case you didn’t get it, is what’s obvious…that you’re a narrow minded intolerant religious bigot who would likely, if he had his way, put all religious but his in the “appropriate” light…o sea, in a dark dungeon lest it get out and look…let’s see… “semi-positive”? to anyone.

    Malanga
    Historiador de la Mente Cerrada del Caudillito Que Vive Adentro de Muchos, Pero Muchos, Cubanos

    PS Oh…yeah…to the chap that alluded that Santeria may not be Cuban because was an “imported” thing. Yup..it was imported. It came with the slaves who were forcibly brought to Cuba. Just like Confucianism came with the Chinese who went to Cuba to build the railroads, and, actually all the other religions practiced in Cuba. Including, if it’s not yet obvious, those that are based on the Christian bible….unless you think the Tainos, before they got wiped out in the process of their “conversion” to the good book, got a pre-Columbian delivery of the New Testament straight from the heavens.

    PPS Oh yeah…Ibrahim…good singer and seemingly a good man…but…well…before one puts him on the pedestal of the greats…one should take a gander at the others that he competed with for airplay during the 40s and 50s. He’s in the middle of that pack, for sure.

  26. There were more shoeshine boys in Batista’s Cuba because there were more shoes to shine and more shoe polish with which to shine them. There was probably more spit as well, since the production of saliva diminishes in hungry people.

  27. Malanga, Malanga, Malanga,
    Let a sleeping dog lie. I think it humerous that you and maybe one other make comparisons of “my beliefs” and muslims as well as communists. I never said blow up a building or don’t allow others to believe what they want. What gives?
    Reality is reality and the Scriptures cause confusion only when one tries to interpret it outside of its literal interpretation and context.We are not talking of a Theocracy here we are talking about my belief which I strongly hold. Why does that personally offend you? I’ll never change your mind nor should I. That’s God’s job. Ease up and enjoy the blog. Don’t let your bitterness against Christ consume you. I mean that and its not meant as a slam.

  28. I saw the Buena Vista Social Club here in San Antonio and the group was awesome! Ferrer was terrific, and he paid homage to Beny More (el barbaro) during the concert. The venue was packed by people of all different racial and ethnic stripes. At the end, we had an opportunity to rush the stage and shake hands. I was the last one to shake Ibrahim’s hand. After thanking him for the concert, I told him “Viva Cuba libre” and he made the eye contact that only someone with Cuban ancestry would know. Just like President Bush mentioned during his second Inaugural Address, everyone yearns for freedom. Ibrahim Ferrer was no different. R.I.P. my friend. Here’s hoping I can accompany my parents to their homeland some day and I can lay flowers at your gravesite.

  29. Pototo,
    You know what. Here’s the deal why we have issues with your comment. I am Roman Catholic. I was baptised in Christ. I am a believer in the rites of Christianity. Some may see my religion as having wiped out Native Americans in the past or having done great injustice to the Jews durring World War 2, or can aruge events durring the Crusades and the Inquisitions. Fine. I as a Catholic know that my religion has not always done right by the Lord. But we deal with it as best we can. If anyone of those groups had written on a website or anywhere else, Catholic priest only molest little boys so therefore that is not a religion but an infection that was imported by the Europeans, how would that make you feel?
    You don’t have to agree with Santeria, but you should respect it as a religion, beacause it is a religion. Maybe not in the U.S., but in Africa and or Cuba. If someone was to insult my religion, I would debate back. If someone says that all Muslims are terrorist and therefore that is not a religion but a terrorist orgnization, I would argue back because thats just an easy way out of trying to discover something different and learn from it.
    So sorry that this post for Ibrahim Ferrer had to turn into something way off topic. There is no true religion in Cuba. The native’s had their own belifs, the Spanish came in and tried to convert them, and I do say tried because most were wiped out. The Slaves came in with their African beliefs, which mixed with the beliefs of the Spanish, then came in the Chinese. Come on now. When you mix all that up, you get something no one else has. You get the full CUBAN FLAVOR. Enjoy it. Don’t knock it. And if you can’t, too bad for you.
    I mean no disrespect.

  30. Thanks for a wonderful story, Ed! How gratifying that look in Ibrahim’s eyes. Today, he is playing with Celia and the saints are rejoicing.

  31. Thank YOU guys for the story on the artist!! Too bad the “religion” aspect of it took a life of it’s own!!
    I for one, did not agree with the phrase “traditional religion of Cuba”, but oh well…i mentioned my views, let others have their say,keep going, move on with the story please!!
    que sera, sera…Cuba is what it is! and right now there is hardly any religion left in that country.

  32. GlCuban: The Catholic Church saved the Indians from extinction by declaring that they had immortal souls and that their persons should be respected by the conquistadors; and during World War II, the Vatican saved more Jews than any other private entity in Europe, including the entire Jewish population of Rome, which Pius XII ransomed from the German general in charge of deporting them with 75 lbs. of gold. In regard to Cuba, however, the Catholic Church has historically been the servile mouthpiece of reaction. During the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878), Pope Pius IX personally blessed the Spanish troops that were being sent to Cuba to put down the rebellion, telling them that they were agents of God and civilization. With the exception of a few patriotic priests–one of whom was executed for saying mass for the rebels–the Cuban clergy served as spies for the Spanish, breaking the confessional seal a thousand times to denounce supporters of independence. In fact, no institution in Cuba could be said to have been more anti-Cuban than the island’s Catholic Church. In recent times, the Cuban Church, under the tutelage of the Italian Msgr. Zacchi, became apologist and defender of the Castro regime. Zacchi himself summoned Castro to his deathbed to thank him for his friendship and the many kindnesses he had extended to him. I will withhold comment on his successor, Jaime Cardinal Ortega, in the hope that Christ may have some plan for him. And just one more thing: In 500 years, the Roman Catholic Church has found no Cuban worthy of sainthood. Canonization is merely a statement by the Church that one of faithful is in heaven. Apparently, according to the Catholic Church, no Cuban has ever crossed the pearly gates. Clearly, the Church doesn’t have a very high opinion of us. The last pope canonized more saints than all the other popes put together, including hundreds of Poles, Spaniards and Japanese. Yes, in a country with practically no Catholics, Pope John Paul II found 600 Catholics to canonize. It was widely assumed that the Pope would use his visit to Cuba to raise Father Felix Varela to sainthood in a ceremony in “La Plaza de la Revoluci?n;” but I guess even Fr. Varela wasn’t good enough for the Church. John Paul II did beatify his predecessor, Pius IX, the same Pope who had blessed the Spanish soldiers.

  33. M.A.T.,
    Thanks for the info, but I wasn’t arguing those points. The point of my post was simply, respect other people’s religous beliefs as you would like others to respect yours.
    Some might believe that Santeria is an infection, or withcraft, I believe that it is a religion what should be respected, just as I would want others to respect my own.

    No more, no less.
    As they say every Sunday in every church across the world,
    Peace Be With You.
    -Chow.

  34. As I stated in a previous post, santeria has been recognized as a religion by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving animal sacrifice. Just as Catholics were allowed to drink communion wine during Prohibition, and native Americans are permitted to use peyote in their religious ceremonies, the Supreme Court held that santeros may ritually sacrifice animals as part of their religion. There is no more to be said on the subject — at least in the U.S. Santeria is a religion. What its status will be in a post-Castro Cuba I do not know. I hope that it will be accepted as the integral part of our country’s culture and history which it has always been. Those who are embarrassed by santeria and see it as some kind of survival from the dark past (no pun intended) will never be convinced that it is just another manifestation of religious fervor, no more rational or irrational than any other.

  35. What angers me about Buena Vista Social Club is that contrary to Ry Cooder’s promotion, these musicians were not “lost legends”. They may have been good musicians, but they were certainly not lost legends. At most they may have been associated with well known bands from the 40’s and 50’s. For example Benny More is a legend. If you are a musician associated with Benny More, you are no more a “lost legend” than a back up singer for Billie Holiday can be considered a legend just because Ms. Holiday herself is a legend.

    So what does Ry Cooder do, he goes to Cuba and “discovers” these lost legends and laughs all the way to the bank, while giving Fidel Castro money in the process. What’s more important, Buena Vista Social Club became sort of goodwill ambassadors for Fidel Castro’s tyranny and created a swell of interest among Eurotrash and other tourist interested in going to Cuba to enjoy the mojitos, las jineteras and the wonderful BVSC type music. When I went to France a few years ago, every time that you looked at a travel guide to Cuba, BVSC was on the cover and when you passed by a travel agency, there were posters of BVSC inviting Frenchmen to visit Cuba! It was disgusting.

    By the way, it is interesting how real lost legends of Cuban music have died in the USA and no one is interested in them. Did you all know that Rolando La Serie died forgotten and broke in an old age home in Miami? What about the musicians from Cuba’s greatest band, La Sonora Matancera? No one is making a documentary about these real legendary musicians.

    You see, the left is not interested in the real lost legends living in exile, they are only interested in a “lost legend” if he lives in Cuba.

    Whether Ibrahim Ferrer was fidelista or not, doesn’t matter, se dejo ultilizar.

  36. Okay Okay I’m a sucker for this topic. First, well said Ray, that was my point about Ferrer. Second, I know that some didn’t get what I said. And perhaps I will attempt to clarify what I obviously did not communicate properly.
    The issue isn’t legal tolerance of other’s “religions” the issue is that anyone with any true beliefs believes what they believe because they are convinced that it is “the” right belief. To those of us with religious convictions we do not look at other religions as just another flavor of ice cream and everyone has a favorite. Our beliefs are convictions. This is a spiritual issue and not political in any way shape or form.
    To tolerate(accept) personally any other religion is to invalidate the one you are committed to. One of the distinguishing remarks of Christianity is that Christ said he was “the way, the truth, the life no man cometh to the Father but by me”. The use of the definite article in the original greek text makes this a very “exclusive” statement that there may be many religions (ways), but only one is genuine. That is not arrogant, but the point of the verse. Paul addresses the same on Mars Hill in the Book of Acts when he addresses their many gods, religions, and superstitions. The issue here is relationship vs religion. A santero is a santero because he believes that santeria is the way. A catholic is a catholic because he believes that catholicism is the way. If you don’t have convictions about what you believe then you are merely following tradition. Many believe that going to a church makes you a Christian. With that belief standing in a parking lot makes you a car. If you follow the Bible then you can’t ignore Matthew 7 “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
    or better yet
    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    You see for me to accept other religions as valid is to lead others astray. I believe that everyone has the right to follow whatever god they choose in whatever manner they desire. But I also want to have the right to try to help others from going the wrong way. Its an eternity issue.
    Imagine having a cure for cancer and not wanting to tell someone that you would like to offer them the cure because telling them they have cancer would offend them. You would have many friends, but the problem would be that they are dead friends. I didn’t mean for this to take the wrong turn. But it is a responsibility of a Christian to confront error. Truth in love is a difficult balance. But the issue isn’t tolerance, because I tolerate in the legal sense of the word. But I am intolerant in the spiritual sense.
    Hope this helps.

  37. You make good points, Ray. But I never knew anything about Cuban music at all except through guys like Cooder. Without Cooder, the music would be invisible to me. I didn’t come to appreciate Cuban music through castro, I came to appreciate it through this movie. castro may have later picked up on it and claimed it was his own, but that’s not how I saw it. The movie damned castro – all you had to do was look around and see the poverty of Cuba. And Celia Cruz and Sonora Mantacera? You wanna know where I came to know and love their music? In Hanoi, Vietnam, sitting on the French balcony with a leftwing hippie sandalista friend who went to Vietnam to spread communism. Of course she loved Cuba! But it turns out that the Cuba she loved was not the lifeless communism of castro (despite what she said) but the high art and joie de vivre of Cuba. People are complex. The ways culture is transmitted is complex. Ibrahim Ferrer was a gate to me, to a music I had never known and appreciated. If he had not lived, I might have pursued very little of my interest in Cuba. But it’s not just Ferrer records I own now, it’s every Cuban musician i can get my hands on. And the fact is, he was a great. His art was never corrupted by communism. It was purely of the kind that arose in a castro-free Cuba. I share your frustration with eurotrash who go to Cuba to exploit it like sandalistas and worse. But even the U.S. Federal Reserve wrote a position paper on Cuban music like Ferrer’s, asking why it could be so vibrant in such a castroite hellhole where nothing grows. The Fed’s conclusion (and it is on the Dallas Fed’s Web site) is that castro gives Cubans so little that all their energy does into this kind of art and its development. How very damning for castro!

  38. Ray, I wholeheartedly agree with you. In a piece I wrote a couple of years back I stated that “I refuse to listen to the Buena Vista Social Club and the other sycophantic paeans to the musicians still on the island while men like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet can still be imprisoned at will in Cuba.” I will also echo what you said — and I have said it myself elsewhere — that the leftist musical press has systematically ignored the real legends of Cuban music living right here in the States, exiles from fidel’s tyranny. If it weren’t for Andy Garcia’s production of Cachao: The Master Sessions, this master of la m?sica cubana would have been all but forgotten.

  39. Hi all, perhaps a bit late to chime in here but I read something and have to respond.
    Pototo, maybe you are not a racist pero ignorante. first God does not hate, if you interpret that from the passages you quote, read it again.
    The African religion you talk about is much older than christianity.
    And Christianity is not natural to Cuba. It was established when all of the native true Cubans were killed by Catholics, in the name of God.
    Truth is humans have been praticing racism since they had a sense of self awareness. However we have evolved, most of us have evolved, and should now be able to make the correct choices.
    As far as Ibrahim, he was a great musician, you cannot judge people all the time on inperfections. Jose Marti was said to have enjoyed the company of a very young girl. He was not perfect, none of us are.

  40. Pototo,
    Your post does help me to understand you. Thanks.
    Now, before you start to quote scriptures, which way to the Christian, Catholic al-qaeda line?

    When you can not tolorate other people’s religious beliefs, esp. in the world we live in now, no wonder we have religious fanatics flying planes into buildings, killing in the name of God. No wonder the Jews and Palastinans can get along in the Middle East. No wonder you have jerks like Rev. Jerry Fawell preaching hate, becasue he believes he is a man of God, doing God’s work.
    But you know what, I will not impose my views on those who can’t see. I will believe what I believe in just like you. Does that mean I’ll burn in hell? Nope. Don’t think so. That just means I can see things for what they are. Take care.
    If anyone wishes to contiune on with this topic, let’s start another post, otherwise this was a topic on the passing of Ibrahim Ferrer. Let’s respect the dead, and return the postings back to him.

  41. WOW!!
    It’s getting hot in here!!
    First of all>>> what is this all about?? We all know that this post is about a Cuban artist that passed away, not about religion, this has taken some ugly turn and now people are calling each other names, putting down religions, speaking of racisim… we are all adults here (hopefully)it’s beginning to smell like Poo-Poo..so please don’t..
    So far, Ray has put the finger on the wound, and called it the way most Cubans in exile see the whole business of the “Buena Vista Social Club” wheather we agree or disagree, we must respect each others views and opinions, otherwise we will be no different than those we can’t “tolerate”

  42. Carmen,
    I agree. The fork is in it and its done.
    I’m with Ray. Ditto!!!
    nady nady boo boo
    (just a joke!!!)
    Everyone have a GREAT day.
    But debates are good, the ugliness is not.
    well said Carmencita

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