Buena Vista All Stars to Continue Legacy of Buena Vista Social Club: Exclusive

Lorne Thomson/Redferns
Manuel Guajiro Mirabal of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club performs at The O2 Arena on April 6, 2016 in London.

When Buena Vista Social Club played its Adiós tour in 2015, there was no reason to believe this wasn’t really goodbye. The core musicians were old, many in their 80s, and it would seem that there was a finite amount of times the audience could sit down and enjoy old Cuban standards. It had already been almost 20 years since the loosely-formed group of veteran musicians got a second life after getting together in a Havana recording studio. With relations between the U.S. and Cuba on route toward true normalization, it seemed as good a time as any to finally call it a day.

Turns out the retirement plans were very short lived, at least for some of the members of Buena Vista Social Club. 

Spurred by a fan and music lover turned-impresario, Buena Vista will hit the road and the recording studio in 2016 under new management and with a new name, the Buena Vista All Stars.

The new 15-person group, which includes six original members -- Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal, Manuel “Guajirito” Mirabal Plasencia, Ignacio “Mazacote” Carrillo, Pedro Pablo Gutierrez, Alberto “La Noche” Hernández and bass player and band director Pedro Pablo Gutierrez -- will come to the U.S. in the coming weeks to record new material and will later embark on their The Legacy Continues tour.

Buena Vista Social Club to Perform at White House

While Buena Vista Social Club was long managed by Montuno out of Barcelona and recorded on British label World Circuit, an entirely different team will head the new Buena Vista All Stars.

The group will be managed by Jorge Fernandez, CEO of the newly created Son de Cuba JF Management, and will record under Music Access, Inc. Bravo! Latino will book the band worldwide.

The notion of regrouping and repackaging Buena Vista was Fernández’s, who came onboard serendipitously.

The 42-year-old was a diehard fan who was born in Matanzas, Cuba, and grew up next door to fabled singer Rolando Laserie, his godfather, before coming to the U.S.

Fernandez made a fortune as an “entrepreneur in mattresses,” and, along with everybody else, heard the first Buena Vista Social Club album in 1997. 

That record would go on to sell nearly 2 million copies in the U.S. alone, according to Nielsen, and become a global hit. For Fernandez, it was an instant and authentic connection to his childhood. 

“For years I watched their performances online and dreamed of one day seeing them perform live,” says Fernandez, who lives in Dallas and finally saw the band in a show in Fort Worth, Texas. “The dream became a reality and from that point on I was their number one fan.”

Fernandez was such a fan, that in 2015 he went to see the group play as part of their Adiós tour in San Antonio and afterwards, met them for dinner.

“Pedro, the bass player, said they really weren’t going to retire,” Fernandez told Billboard. “They were going to restructure the band with the main members and continue to perform. And as luck would have it, he looked at me and said, ‘Have you ever thought about getting into this business?’”

Fernandez had not. But he needed little prodding.

Several days later, while the group was playing in Brazil, they called him and asked if he would be their manager.  

“And I said, hey, if you want me, I want you.”

One of the first things Fernandez did was research the original Buena Vista Social Club name, which actually comes from a real club in Havana. The original band was registered under the trademarked Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.

But, says Fernandez,  “We’re not interested in using Buena Vista Social Club in any way shape or form. They’re Buena Vista All Stars.”

And the members are embracing their new persona. 

“The Legacy Continues is a way for me to continue performing our Cuban music," says Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal. "Before at Buena Vista Social Club and now with the Buena Vista All Stars, recreating it and respecting above all its originality while expressing our Cuban heritage through our musical notes.”