“Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Version 2)” from the latest deep dive into the Bob Dylan archives comes with a video capturing him in the studio. Credit…Vevo

“Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Version 2)” is from the latest deep dive into the Bob Dylan archives, the five-CD “Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 1980-1985.” The track is similar in feel — though full of Dylan’s improvisatory variations — to the take that appeared on “Infidels” in 1983, with a new mix that dials back the unfortunate 1980s drum sound. Dylan had a superb studio band, with the Jamaican team of Sly (Dunbar) and Robbie (Skakespeare) on drums and bass, and a conversational interplay between Mick Taylor (formerly of the Rolling Stones) on slide guitar and Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) on electric guitar. It’s not the most radical discovery in the set — which also includes rarities like “Enough Is Enough” and “Yes Sir, No Sir” — but it arrives with live footage of the sessions, a rare glimpse of Dylan in motion in the studio.


Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His MindJune 12, 2020


Fish are food, not friends

Killing trout is easy. The actual act, at least. I use a four-inch Mora knife for all my trout work, and even its light birch handle has plenty of heft for the job. For a hand-span length trout, one or two sharp raps above the eyes triggers that electric death-shudder, the final sparks of current, and the trout is perfectly limp in hand for the rest of the cleaning process. No twitches, no gill movement, nothing. If I’m lucky there’s some wild mint along the streambank to wrap the fish in before sliding it into my creel. 

But then the killing of trout is not easy. It’s a troubling contradiction. To admire the dark gold flanks of a brown trout just moments from its undercut home, with flashes of blue and pearl on its gills and the starscape of black and red spots, unique to that fish alone, never before so arranged and never again to appear — it’s hard to take all that in and then whack it with the handle of a knife. Especially after a few decades in the fly fishing world.

As a kid, I was taught that fishing is a search for “keepers.” But upon buying my first fly rod at the smartass age of sixteen, I sought out other ideas. I traded traditional hook and bullet rags for fly fishing magazines, which included no photos of dead fish and no trout recipes. Through the transition from tackle box to fly vest, I omitted the old J. Marttiini Rapala filet knife as finally as a mayfly leaves behind its nymphal shuck. I had evolved beyond it. Keep ‘em wet, I cried, pinching down all my barbs, pretending I didn’t notice the arterial blood or torn mandibles of badly-hooked fish that I insisted upon releasing.

There is perhaps no more delusional angler on the water than the one who catches and releases a hundred trout in a weekend, admonishes a worm-dunker for keeping five, and then pats himself on the back for being a good conservationist. I’ve been that guy. 

I’m a hunter. I grew up on venison and have killed my own since I was old enough to do so. It’s a lifestyle that’s questioned a lot these days, and the most thoughtful dialogue on the topic is led by modern conservationist-hunter-thinkers like Steven Rinella, Hank Shaw, and others. Their work focuses on the basic why of hunting: the ethical acquisition of high-quality meat. 

The concept is not new, and those guys will tell you that. It is older than humankind. So old, and so deep, in fact, that my hunting elders never really spoke of it. They grew up during the depression on the edge of the great boreal forest, and talking about meat being the reason for hunting would be like talking about oxygen being reason for breathing. 

But today the world is a different place entirely and we must now talk about why we personally choose to kill animals. And think about it on our own. Challenge ourselves. And when we do, we find that it dovetails well with ongoing narratives about sustainable agriculture, landscape ecology, human health, and food ethics. Or it should.

And it’s within this discussion that catch-and-release fishing begins to lose its self-righteous shine. Conservation writer Todd Tanner says in his tense Seeking Absolution that the whole idea of catch and release “looks awfully tenuous, as if we are a legion of cats playing with a similar number of unhappy mice.” Even if catch and release was always harmless to the fish — which it is definitely not — it’s still questionable. 

“At the same time, though,” Tanner adds, “I think it’s important to point out that we are cats.” We are meat-eaters, and fish are made of meat. By definition, catch and release is us playing with our food. 

And fish are good food. No, not the grocery store’s dry-skinned bug-eyed farm-plumped rainbow trout, or the translucent, tasteless tilapia fillets, or the ethically-risky origin-unknown salmon. Instead consider these eight-to-ten-inch wild brown trout, lean and cold, delicious and nutritious, legally and ecologically sustainable. More than sustainable. On some streams, taking a few home is arguably ecologically beneficial. 

On some streams, of course. It’s probably too obvious to mention, but not all fisheries can sustain catch-and-keep and not every angler can keep every fish they catch. Moderation in all things. 

Because while food is the point, it’s not necessary to fill the freezer. To me, the act of converting fish to food strengthens my connection to the streams that I love, to my own past, to my reasons for fishing in the first place. It takes the experience beyond the technical challenge, the artistry of the cast and the flies. The blood on my hands reminds me of what’s really at stake out there. It’s never a game for the fish, even if I let them go. 

So I take my little Mora knife with me on most Driftless trips these days. Bigger fish would probably require a harder hit and a bigger knife, but I don’t kill the bigger fish. I release them. I draw the line at one hand-span, one and a half years of growth. Bigger and smaller I release. I still release many more fish than I kill. 

The line is arbitrary, gray. I know it. For now, I’m just trying to own the contradiction. 

beyond failure or success | Fukuda Kodojin



His landscapes are always unusual, mostly eccentric, and sometimes psychedelic. Nevertheless, he originally was «noted more for his poetry than his painting, Kodojin set the tone for his landscapes through his inscriptions. Self-taught in painting, the eccentric poet-painter created landscapes in a variety of unusual styles.» (Paul Berry, Literati Modern, p. 152).

The poem which sets the tone for this landscape was first published in 1912 as one of a set of four poems in Kodojin’s verse collection, Seisho’s Mountain Studio Collection:
“beyond failure or success”

Only white clouds moving,
My spirit returns to a point of ease.
Transcendent – beyond failure or success,
Sitting alone viewing the empty mountains.

Fukuda Kodojin (1865-1944)


The hallowed tradition of kora playing in Sona Jobarteh’s family passed down the male line. One of her teachers dismissed it as “an ethnic thing.” But it has brought her international acclaim.

Sona Jobarteh with a kora in Manchester, England, this summer. In addition to her musical career, she has founded a school in Gambia.
Sona Jobarteh with a kora in Manchester, England, this summer. In addition to her musical career, she has founded a school in Gambia.Credit…Adama Jalloh for The New York Times

By Aina J. KhanSept. 17, 2021

MANCHESTER, England — The ethereal sound of the kora, a centuries-old West African instrument, reverberated as Sona Jobarteh, a virtuoso from one of Gambia’s most celebrated musical families, plucked its strings with her forefingers and thumbs.

Under purple stage lights at the Manchester International Festivalin July — her first performance since the pandemic began — Ms. Jobarteh added her velvet voice to the crisp sound of the kora, a 21-string instrument that combines the qualities of a lute and a harp. She sings in Mandinka, a language spoken by one of Gambia’s many ethnic groups, and the words descended like rainfall on the audience in northern England.

Like her father and relatives stretching back generations, Ms. Jobarteh is a griot — a musician or poet whose tradition is preserved through the family bloodline. And in West Africa the griot fills a far broader role: not just as a kora master, but also as a historian, genealogist, mediator, teacher and guardian of cultural history.

“The griot is someone who is a pillar of society, who people go to for guidance, for advice, for wisdom,” said Ms. Jobarteh, who is 37.

Until Ms. Jobarteh, kora masters had one other notable characteristic: They were always male. By tradition, the playing of the kora is passed from father to son, but for many years Ms. Jobarteh was her father’s only child. “Whatever I do, it’s always in the awkward box,” she said, laughing.

She initially shunned the label of first female kora master, preferring to be appreciated for her abilities rather than her gender. “I hated it with a passion,” she said. “I felt like no one would listen to what I was playing, that all they would do is observe what I am.”

But she has come to embrace that status, in part because her achievements have inspired young female students. “It’s much bigger than just being about me,” she said. “It’s about instilling that seed of inspiration in girls.”

The kora was also what brought her parents together.

The kora, a 21-string instrument, combines the qualities of a lute and a harp.
The kora, a 21-string instrument, combines the qualities of a lute and a harp.Credit…Adama Jalloh for The New York Times

In 1982, a year before Ms. Jobarteh was born, her mother, Galina Chester, who is English and who had never left Britain, flew to Senegal. She was traveling with Ms. Jobarteh’s half brother, Tunde Jegede, a British-Nigerian who is now a multi-instrumentalist and composer, to connect him with his African heritage.

Toting a piece of paper scrawled with the name of a kora master, Ms. Chester drove across the desert to Gambia, where there was no airport at the time, to the house of Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, whose influence was so broad that he served as an adviser to Gambia’s first president.

There, she met the kora master’s son and primary student, Sanjally — who would go on to become Ms. Jobarteh’s father. “That’s how she met my father, and how my story began,” Ms. Jobarteh said.

Ms. Jobarteh’s childhood straddled two worlds: Britain, where she was born, and Kembujeh, her grandfather’s village in Gambia, where, enveloped by the warmth of her extended family, she found her “cultural grounding.”

Griot women are typically taught to sing, but her grandmother Kumunaa encouraged her to sit with her grandfather and listen to the kora.

A few years ago, Ms. Jobarteh’s mother shared letters with her daughter in which Kumunaa had predicted that the girl would become a griot and pleaded that her lineage be nurtured.

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“I just wish she was alive for me to ask her what was in her mind,” Ms. Jobarteh said. “She knew I was a girl. She knew it was not acceptable.”

Ms. Jobarteh’s first kora teacher was Mr. Jegede, her half brother, whom she began playing the instrument with at age 3. (Although Mr. Jegede is a virtuoso in his own right, he is not a griot, coming from outside the Jobarteh bloodline.)

She later became determined to carve out a path in classical music. At 14, she took composition lessons at the Purcell School for Young Musicians, outside London. Yet her initial instrument remained in her periphery: The school library displayed a kora that Tunde had donated as a student there. Drawn to it, she tuned and played it, and the school eventually gave it to her.

A year later, she enrolled in the Royal College of Music, where she learned the cello, harpsichord and piano. But her personal musical legacy wasn’t welcome. One instructor dismissed the kora as an “ethnic thing,” she said, and another said of the instrument, “If you want to succeed, this is not a part of it.”

Three years into her education there, Ms. Jobarteh deliberately failed her annual assessment in piano and cello. “I was shaking,” she said. “It felt so wrong, but I just knew, ‘I can’t do this to myself anymore.’”

The college declined to comment for this article.

Ms. Jobarteh instead asked her father to officially teach her to play the kora, and went on to train with him for several years. He told her, “I have a duty to give you what is mine,” she recalled.

Ms. Jobarteh’s 14-year-old son, Sidiki Jobarteh-Codjoe, playing onstage with his mother in Manchester.
Ms. Jobarteh’s 14-year-old son, Sidiki Jobarteh-Codjoe, playing onstage with his mother in Manchester.Credit…Adama Jalloh for The New York Times

Some families say the instrument dates to the establishment of the griot tradition in the 13th-century Mandinka empire. The first written account of the kora, by the Scottish explorer Mungo Park, appeared in 1797, according to Lucy Durán, a professor of music at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Its popular origin story, Ms. Jobarteh said, is that it was stolen from a jinn, a supernatural being mentioned in Islam.

The Mandinkas and griots attracted widespread interest after the writer Alex Haley traced his ancestry to a Gambian village in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Roots.” But their ancient melodieshad made their way across the Atlantic centuries earlier, aboard ships carrying enslaved Africans, and morphed into the early American blues.

The kora, with its improvised, oral tradition, can take decades to master. “You learn with your ears, not with your hands,” Ms. Jobarteh said.

For years, she was reluctant to perform in Gambia, where a professional female kora virtuoso had never been seen onstage. But her stage debut with her family, in 2011, was met with adulation.

The release of her debut album that year was also a leap of faith, as Ms. Jobarteh sang in Mandinka rather than in English, which could garner more commercial success. “I thought, ‘This is it. I’ve just put my life down the plug hole,’” she recalled.

The album propelled Ms. Jobarteh’s music around the world, from the United States to New Zealand. And that brought her something far more meaningful than royalties.

Ms. Jobarteh performing in Manchester.
Ms. Jobarteh performing in Manchester.Credit…Adama Jalloh for The New York Times

“It makes Africans feel something, to see that someone is being respected to sing in their own language, dress in their own clothes, play their own music,” she said. “That is a message not just for Gambians — it’s for the whole African continent.”

Although preserving her heritage is Ms. Jobarteh’s passion, she says her real purpose is educational reform in Gambia — a broader mission that aligns with her role of griot.

In 2015, she opened The Gambia Academy in Kartong, a coastal town, in part to prevent a brain-drain of young people seeking better prospects abroad. “I don’t want the next generation to have to do that,” she said, “where you have to have the privilege of having European connections or titles to be able to succeed in your own society.”

With a curriculum that centers on West African traditions, the school now has 32 students, including her 14-year-old son, Sidiki, and 9-year-old daughter, Saadio. That has helped her pass down her family tradition, too, and onstage in Manchester Sidiki played the xylophone-like balafon and Saadio percussion.

They are learning the griot repertoire — not from their father, but from their mother, a guardian of seven centuries of tradition.


A group of older Cuban musicians recorded some of their favorite songs in 1996, and the album became an unlikely blockbuster. How do we hear it a quarter-century later?

The singer Ibrahim Ferrer, left, and the guitarist and singer Compay Segundo, two of the musicians featured in the “Buena Vista Social Club” album and documentary. 
The singer Ibrahim Ferrer, left, and the guitarist and singer Compay Segundo, two of the musicians featured in the “Buena Vista Social Club” album and documentary. Credit…Susan Titelman

By Isabelia HerreraJon Pareles and Giovanni Russonello

Sept. 16, 2021

“Buena Vista Social Club,” which was recorded 25 years ago and released in 1997, was the unlikeliest of blockbusters: a collection of decades-old Cuban songs, featuring musicians in their 60s, 70s and 80s, that has now sold in the millions worldwide.

The album was named after a long-defunct club in Havana where Black musicians had once gathered. With its release, Buena Vista Social Club also served as the name of the collective of musicians who performed on the album and, later, became an imprimatur for all sorts of projects connected to them.

Recorded in one week in Havana, “Buena Vista Social Club” led to concerts, tours, a 1999 Wim Wenders documentary centered on a triumphant Carnegie Hall show, and extensive solo and group projects over the next decades, bringing international recognition to the musicians. On the 25th anniversary of its recording, the album is being reissued in a deluxe package that includes an additional disc of tracks from the original sessions.

The album itself grew out of a setback. Its executive producer, Nick Gold of World Circuit Records, and the guitarist and producer Ry Cooder went to Cuba with a musicological concept: uniting an older generation of Cuban musicians with some of the West African musicians, from Mali, who had been influenced by Afro-Cuban music. The Malians didn’t get visas, so the Cubans and Cooder had the studio to themselves, and they turned to playing some favorite songs — some they had written themselves, some that had become Cuban standards, nearly all of them dating back before the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

Somehow, the album found an audience far beyond niche so-called “world music” listeners and devoted revivalists. As both a music and commercial phenomenon, “Buena Vista Social Club” has turned out to be a complexly layered symbol and expression of rediscovery, vindication, historical memory, translation, nostalgia and Cold War politics. Now, 25 years later, we can add more layers: nostalgia for the moment of “Buena Vista Social Club” itself. This is an album that’s far more than its voices and instruments.

Here, critics from The New York Times discuss how the album comes across a generation later.

JON PARELES Indulge me with an anecdote. In 2000, I visited Cuba for an utterly amazing festival of rumba. It was three years after the release of “Buena Vista Social Club,” well into the album’s commercial explosion. A typical Havana tourist, I wandered through the old city center, where it seemed like there was a bar with live music on every corner. What I remember vividly was a host outside one club, who knew an American when he saw one. “We have old guys!” he announced.

ISABELIA HERRERA I like your anecdote, Jon, because it captures how the concept of nostalgia is key to understanding the legacy of “Buena Vista Social Club.” The aura around the project (as well as the images in the reissue’s packaging) evokes these “old guys” smoking cigars in black-and-white photos, or playing instruments on the street near colorful vintage cars — a particular, antiquated image of pre-revolutionary Cuba in the American public consciousness.

It’s a notion that almost fetishizes the idea of isolation: one that suggests that Cuban musicians and listeners are totally separated from contemporary popular culture, frozen in time during the so-called “golden era” of the 1940s and ’50s. Notably, the liner notes of this anniversary edition open with a quote from Cooder: “The players and singers of the ‘son de Cuba’ have nurtured this very refined and deeply funky music in an atmosphere sealed off from the fall out of a hyper-organised and noisy world.”

Framing “Buena Vista” within the context of isolation diminishes its achievements and those of Cuban music before and after it. As the scholar Alexandra Vazquez has written, the uptick in compilations of and guides to Cuban music that followed “Buena Vista” helped generate plenty of myths about the island. They contributed to the fantasy that Cuban musicians ceased to innovate after the 1940s and ’50s, and proliferated the idea that you have to visit the island and immerse yourself in its vintage culture “before it changes forever” — as though Cuba is some kind of hidden paradise to be discovered, rather than a place that people call home.

I say this as someone who grew up in a household that adored “Buena Vista Social Club.” I have fond memories of my father singing “Dos Gardenias” in the evenings after dinner and a glass of wine, and returning to the album brings me back to a special part of my childhood. But I do think it’s worth pushing against that nostalgia, because the mythology of Buena Vista Social Club has tended to eclipse the actual music and its history. This is especially true in the way that it presents its musicians as being “rediscovered” or “saved” from erasure, when singers like Omara Portuondo enjoyed plenty of international success before this project (for one, she toured the United States with the group Cuarteto D’Aida and performed with Nat King Cole in the 1950s).

Segundo, left, with Ry Cooder, the American guitarist who produced “Buena Vista Social Club.”
Segundo, left, with Ry Cooder, the American guitarist who produced “Buena Vista Social Club.”Credit…Nick Gold
Omara Portuondo, a vocalist who appeared on the album and in the documentary, but was known to international audiences well before the project began.
Omara Portuondo, a vocalist who appeared on the album and in the documentary, but was known to international audiences well before the project began.Credit…Karl Haimel
Rubén González, a pianist who was a big presence on the Cuban music scene but did not record as a leader until 1996.
Rubén González, a pianist who was a big presence on the Cuban music scene but did not record as a leader until 1996.Credit…Christien Jaspars

PARELES You’re so right, Isabelia: The illusion that Cuba was somehow frozen in time, like the 1950s cars in old Havana, was definitely part of the aura of “Buena Vista Social Club.” It’s one of the many agendas that I doubt the album’s makers fully anticipated. For one thing, the old repertoire turned out to align, aesthetically and for some people politically, with nostalgia for pre-revolutionary Cuba, a complicated thing.

There was also something about the sonics of “Buena Vista Social Club.” It was recorded in Havana’s venerable Egrem studio in real time, on analog tape on a rickety recorder (which needed repairs on the first day of sessions), and without fancy post-processing, all of which also gave the music an extra patina. In 1996, you’d never get that piano sound in a studio in Los Angeles.

So in some ways, there was a sense that the album was a time capsule. But it wasn’t, exactly; if you wanted a time capsule, you could easily listen to actual vintage recordings. “Buena Vista Social Club” was also self-consciously retro. As elegant as the musicianship was, the singers’ voices were weathered with age, and they were crooning about romances from decades past. No one was pretending that the years hadn’t gone by; part of the appeal was that the performers and songs had mellowed with age. The reissue includes some alternate takes of songs, and to me, it sounds like the original choices were the more relaxed, cozier ones.

GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO Jon, I have a different memory that feels like a nice counterpoint to yours. I was in South Africa at the Cape Town Jazz Festival, a good 15 years after your visit to Cuba. One of the featured performers, on the largest of five stages, was the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. It had some “old guys,” of course, but also younger musicians who had come into the band well after its founding in 1996, as it continued to tour — a sign of the strength of the Buena Vista Social Club brand of nostalgia, but also of Cuban music. They commanded the audience. But a lot of what they played didn’t sound like what was on the original album; it felt like a decidedly broader, and more decidedly danceable, sampling of traditional Cuban music.

On “Buena Vista Social Club,” the tempos are slower and the horns far scarcer; it’s guitars and voices mostly, the sound of musicians throwing something together in a Havana courtyard or around a kitchen table. So to your point, Jon, about this record not exactly being a perfect time capsule, it sounds a bit like these musicians remembering these songs (a number of which are decades-old originals by the group’s members). That’s why it’s so rewarding to watch the documentary: You can see these musicians, as they perform, bask in what these songs represent to them.

Isabelia, to your point, I do think American audiences can often be guilty of thinking about listening to “world music” as an attempt to pin down or understand the music of a foreign place, which leads to an impulse to freeze things, and ends up in the kind of nostalgia you alluded to. I can never help thinking of “Buena Vista Social Club” in a lineage that runs through Alan Lomax and David Attenborough — of recordings that propose, dubiously, to provide a keyhole view into an entire musical culture — as much as I think of it as a “Cuban” record.

Clockwise, from bottom left: the recording engineer Jerry Boys; Nick Gold of World Circuit Records; the guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa; and Ferrer.
Clockwise, from bottom left: the recording engineer Jerry Boys; Nick Gold of World Circuit Records; the guitarist and singer Eliades Ochoa; and Ferrer.Credit…Christien Jaspars

PARELES Gio, you brought up what to me is the album’s defining element: memory. The Cuban elders — along with younger admirers like Juan de Marcos González, who tracked down the musicians, led the backup group and maintained it as the Afro-Cuban All Stars; and Portuondo, who as Isabelia said had her own career in motion, but happened to drop in to the “Buena Vista Social Club” sessions — were playing songs they remembered, fondly but without forgetting all that had happened in between. Listeners outside Cuba could bring their own memories — or romanticized fantasies — of pre-revolutionary Cuba. And now, with the reissue, we have memories of memories.

We’re also looking back on what became a turning point in how the outside world perceived Cuban music — and, also, how other cultures decided to treat the music of their own elder generations.

Buena Vista Social Club became a useful, widely extended brand. And the “Buena Vista Social Club” template — gather the survivors of previous eras into a collective — got applied in other regions. Tex-Mex border music got Los Super Seven, with Freddy Fender and Flaco Jiménez. Southwest Louisiana swamp-pop got Lil’ Band O’ Gold, with Warren Storm. There were latter-day reunions of great African groups like Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Benin’s Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

Buena Vista Social Club wasn’t the only impetus for projects like those; they were also encouraged by rare-groove crate-diggers (like Cooder, who had collected old Cuban music). But the astonishing commercial run of “Buena Vista Social Club” certainly encouraged gatekeepers to look back on music that spoke of an idealized past.

But did it point a way forward as well?

HERRERA Revisiting this album as an adult, I am immediately drawn to the warmth and intimacy of these recordings. On the alternate take of “Pueblo Nuevo,” you can feel a sense of conviviality. In this version, the atmosphere of the studio itself is audible: the spoken conversation in the background, or the playful, whistled melody that follows Rubén’s González’s sprightly piano keys as he transitions from a danzón to a mambo style.

All of those details are in conversation with the actual music, and they remind us of the humanity of this recording: the fact that it is communal and collectively shared. It puts me in the studio, but it also puts me in my family’s basement, with all of my father’s CDs and records, immersed in the theater of emotion, anguish and joy this music renders.

It speaks to what you were saying Jon, about this anniversary as a memory of a memory. And listening as a young adult, I feel it demands immediate reverence and respect — for these elders, who were masters of improvisation and innovation, and whose music deserves to be celebrated.

From left: Juan de Marcos González, Barbarito Torres and Ochoa.
From left: Juan de Marcos González, Barbarito Torres and Ochoa.Credit…Susan Titelman

RUSSONELLO What’s funny is that in actuality, this music doesn’t really stand in for Cuban music, writ large, as Isabelia pointed out, it’s often asked to do. Much of it is rooted in son and trova, African-derived folk musics dating back to the 19th century that form the backbone of a lot of Cuban dance music. But it’s really something adjacent to the up-tempo dance styles that are so central to Cuba’s musical identity, and were huge just before the revolution.

The other albums that some of the Buena Vista Social Club’s members put out separately (many after 1997) gets you closer to the sound of Cuban dance music. One great example: “Mi Oriente,” a lively, easily streamable collection of dance sides that Ibrahim Ferrer, a Buena Vista vocalist, recorded in the 1950s and ’60s with Chepín Y Su Orquesta Oriental.

Listening to the new collection, I appreciated the opportunity to listen to a new set of music from these mythic sessions — without the ring of familiarity but, in many cases, the same level of catchiness. Also, there are a few tunes that are simply so infectious, they easily could’ve made it onto the original album, like “Vicenta” and the equal parts tender and full-blooded “A Tus Pies.”

PARELES Gio, you’ve picked the two most finished songs among the outtakes, and you’re right — they could easily have joined the original album. One thing that strikes me about the other tracks is how casual the sessions sound. They clearly weren’t thinking “mythic” at the time.

On three tracks featuring Rubén González on piano — “Mandinga,” “El Diablo Suelto” and “Siboney” — he’s playing with his usual puckish elegance, and the tape was running, but people are chatting nearby. (González, who according to the liner notes hadn’t played piano in years before Buena Vista Social Club was assembled, was the most enterprising of the “old guys”; he also got a superb album of his own, “Introducing…,” out of these sessions.)

Buena Vista Social Club outside Carnegie Hall, where the all-stars played a concert in 1998 that was captured for a Wim Wenders documentary.
Buena Vista Social Club outside Carnegie Hall, where the all-stars played a concert in 1998 that was captured for a Wim Wenders documentary.Credit…Ebet Roberts

Most of the other outtakes are clearly rehearsals, not that I mind; 25 years later, it’s a fascinating glimpse at how the music came together. Listening to the album now, I also have a stronger sense of Ry Cooder’s presence than I had noticed on its release. For Cooder, Buena Vista Social Club was one among many projects — like “The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band Featuring Ry Cooder,” “Talking Timbuktu” with Ali Farka Toure from Mali and “A Meeting by the River” with V.M. Bhatt from India — that gave him a chance to collaborate with far-flung musicians: listening respectfully but definitely joining in. He’s tucked into the original album’s arrangements, most recognizably on slide guitar. And the last track on the expanded “Buena Vista Social Club” is a trio version of “Orgullecida” — Cooder and Compay Segundo on guitars and Manuel Mirabal on trumpet — that moves the song into ragtime, one of Cooder’s home territories.

HERRERA Jon, you asked earlier if “Buena Vista Social Club” pointed a way forward. It is hard to avoid the reality that the project follows in a long line of musical projects that ended up “reintroducing” or “summarizing” musical cultures for foreign ears — even if the recording initially emerged as a happy accident. Ultimately, I am so glad these musicians achieved the success they did, and that new markets were opened to them, because they were well-deserving of compensation.

Today, there is such a vibrant community of Cuban hip-hop, and dozens of other Cuban musicians that I hope get a similar level of recognition on an international scale. At the very least, “Buena Vista Social Club” offered more curious, thoughtful listeners an entire new musical world. But a more ideal way forward would undo the colonial logic that underpins the legacy of “Buena Vista Social Club” — the requirement for Western support in order for “foreign” music to be valued — so these artists could be appreciated on their own terms.

Isabelia Herrera is an arts critic fellow. She covers popular culture, with a special focus on Latin American and U.S. Latino music. She was previously a contributing editor at Pitchfork and has written for Rolling Stone, Billboard, GQ, NPR and more. @jabladoraaa

Jon Pareles has been The Times’s chief pop music critic since 1988. A musician, he has played in rock bands, jazz groups and classical ensembles. He majored in music at Yale University. @JonPareles


NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to music journalist Judy Cantor-Navas about Cuban music’s impact on the Buena Vista Social Club. The group’s popular album came out 25 years ago this month.

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Images From A Four Corners Road-Trip ~ LAND DESK

A dwindling Lake Powell, LaVoy Finicum Road, and more

Jonathan P. ThompsonSep 10

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I spent a good portion of August driving around the Four Corners in my trusty Silver Bullet looking out at the landscape, visiting folks, and attending events for my new book, Sagebrush Empire. Below are a few of the images I captured, along with a bit of the story behind each, in no particular order. For higher resolution images, visit

Mexican Hat rock against the backdrop of the Raplee Anticline–which resembles a giant, Kodachrome serpent and was formed by the Laramide Orogeny–in San Juan County, Utah. The rock and a portion of the anticline north of the San Juan River were included in the Inter-Tribal Coalition’s original proposal for a Bears Ears National Monument. When President Barack Obama designated the monument in 2016, he just left both formations just outside of the boundaries. And, of course, they are not within the Trump-shrunken boundaries, either. 
A trip to St. George, Utah, took me into the country surrounding Zion National Park and among the massive sandstone formations from the Jurassic. It also took me through the epicenter of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, which sit below the pictured cliffs. I didn’t stop for a beer or coffee in either town, though the joint-community offers a brewery, espresso shop, and even a liquor store that I’m told peddles Polygamy Porter. I did venture a little ways down LaVoy Finicum Road, however, named after one of the leading figures of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Finicum was shot fatally by federal agents after he and others ran a roadblock and then he jumped out of the car with a loaded firearm in his pocket and told the agents to shoot him. 
A barbwire fence in Butler Wash, Utah, with the Abajo Mountains in the background. The fence marks the beginning of the use-fee area of Butler Wash, meaning that a hiker or sightseer must pay $5 per day to access the public lands behind the fence. Meanwhile, a livestock operator would pay just $1.35 to put a cow/calf pair on the same land for an entire month. 
Two sections of an especially spectacular rock art panel within the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. Note the artistry and the technical skill–and time–required to peck these figures out of the rock. And then note the bullet holes put there by some, pardon my french, dumb-ass. This is one of the reasons people want elevated levels of protection in the form of a national monument. Although a monument designation can’t stop this sort of desecration, it is a starting point and provides the framework for better enforcement of existing laws and a channel for educating the public about visiting places with respect. 
Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell. Lake levels were once high enough to cover all of the land in the mid-ground of the photo as well as the bases of the formations behind it. But warming temperatures, rising demand, and aridification are shrinking the entire Colorado River system, Lake Powell included. Before this year, the lake’s level was at its lowest-since-filled in 2005, when it dropped to the canyon-revealing 3,555 feet. It hit that level again this July, then continued dropping another seven feet so that now it sits at 3,548 feet. When I visited, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees and water was evaporating at an alarming rate. The decreasing levels have diminished hydropower output from Glen Canyon Dam, further straining heat-stressed electrical grids across the Southwest. Meanwhile, all of the regular boat ramps on the lake are closed to motorized vehicles. Only one auxiliary ramp, at Wahweap, remains open to smaller boats. 
An old truck in Fredonia, Arizona, just over the state line from Kanab, Utah. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released data for the climatological summer, showing that Utah, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho all experienced their hottest summers on record this year. 
Farmer’s Ditch near Hotchkiss, Colorado. The heavily agricultural North Fork Valley started out the summer in a drought and a bit of a panic, as water managers warned ditch shareholders that they could lose irrigation water as early as July, long before the main harvest. But a cool spring kept snow around longer than expected and summer rains filled Paonia Reservoir enough to keep almost all the ditches running all summer.One exception was the Fire Mountain ditch, with water right dates tied to the construction of Paonia Reservoir. It was shut off in August. 
Out with the coal, in with the sun. The Black Mesa coal loading silo on the left is now obsolete, since the Navajo Generating Station and its feeder Kayenta Mine are both closed. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority’s Kayenta Solar Project is shown on the right. 
Smoke from wildfires burning in northern California, as well as in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, enhances an August sunset in Hovenweep National Monument. The Dixie Fire–now nearing 1 million acres in size–and Caldor Fire continue to burn in California. Fire season in the southern part of the state is just getting going. After experiencing one of its most devastating fire seasons on record in 2020, Colorado has mostly escaped serious fires this summer. 
A good portion of the Four Corners Country finally received much-needed rainfall in July and August, sometimes to deleterious effect. For the first time in months potholes in the sandstone filled up with water. The drought, however, is not over.
Sunrise over the Great Sage Plain.