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Cuba's Ibrahim Ferrer opens the Buena Vista Social Club to all

Wednesday, Mar 26 2003
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Of all the Cuban music celebrities to emerge out of Wim Wenders' landmark documentary Buena Vista Social Club, vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer may have made the deepest impression, especially on audiences unfamiliar with his long history at the heart of Cuban popular song. The soft-spoken, diminutive singer of guarachas and sones started his career in the 1950s, performing with the Orchestra Chepin Choven, Beny More, and other giants of the pre-Castro scene. Like many Cuban artists', his career has been dampened by the decades-old U.S. embargo, and he was a virtual unknown here when the film came out. Now Ferrer is an international star, his reputation buoyed by his phenomenal emotional range and diverse repertoire. In his youth, Ferrer specialized in explosive, uptempo dance numbers, which he still belts out with surprising vigor for a man now in his mid-70s. More recently, his tastes have shifted toward the slower romantic ballads known as boleros, as in the duet "Silencio," which he performed with Omara Portuondo in the movie. Expect Ferrer's full range to be on display when he performs this month in San Francisco, fronting a seasoned band that has accompanied him around the world.

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Lawrence Kay

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