Just for the record: When Cuba rubs hips with West Africa

Lifestyle

Just for the record: When Cuba rubs hips with West Africa

A fortnightly review of music on vinyl

Andrew Donaldson

World Circuit, the British record label specialising in Cuban and West African music founded and led by producer Nick Gold, put out much memorable music in the 1990s and early 2000s. Many of those releases are being reissued on vinyl.

The label’s big breakthrough release was was 1997’s Buena Vista Social Club. Initially a CD-only release, it was finally released on 180g vinyl as a double album in 2015. Often cited as the one Cuban album that should be in everyone’s collection, these recordings arose from the musical documentary that guitarist Ry Cooder wanted to make about this legendary members-only club that had opened in Havana in pre-Castro times. What he found was that many of the musicians who’d played there were still at it, having been performing among themselves for the love of music (and very little else) for more than half a century.

Cooder, a kind of musical archaeologist-cum-anthropologist when he’s not turning out his own albums, was no stranger to fans of World Circuit’s music. In 1994, he’d travelled to Mali to record Talking Timbuktu with Ali Farka Touré, an album that explored the purported links between the “desert blues” of West Africa and the blues of the American South. It was reissued as a double LP on 180g vinyl in 2015...

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