Arts, Culture & Media

Global Hit

We take a look back at a concert held ten years ago this month.

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Most one-off concerts are quickly forgotten.

But not this one, as The World's William Troop explains.

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The date was July 1, 1998.

The scene: Carnegie Hall.

That concert became the center-piece for the Wim Wenders film that made the Buena Vista Social Club a global phenomenon.

Millions have seen the movie, but only a select few were able to get seats to that historic live show.

The concert at Carnegie Hall was held a year after the release of the original Buena Vista Social Club CD.

The project brought together long-forgotten Cuban musicians who had never played together, but who all played a role in Havana's musical heyday.

That was in the pre-Castro era, between the 1930s and 50s.

Ry Cooder helped gather the musicians for the recording sessions.

He says in the film that one place was mentioned over and over during the recording project.

Cooder: "Cubans kept asking when are we going to NY? When are we going to Carnegie Hall? I actually never thought it would happen. But a lot of people worked hard and tried really hard. And on July 1st we where there."

The individual members of the Buena Vista Social Club were not famous yet the night they played Carnegie Hall.

But many would soon know names like Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, and Ruben Gonzalez.

Many of the musicians made the trip to New York in the twilight of their lives.

Ibrahim Ferrer, for example, was 71 at the time.

Ferrer: "I'd like you to know this is the first time that I find myself in NY. In the United States. I've always longed to discover this city. I'm not an American nor can I speak English, but I think that soon I'll learn so I can hold my own."

In the film, Ferrer says it was his first time in New York, and talks about wanting to discover the city and learn English.

Like other members of the cast, Ferrer went on to record other CD's and received some long-overdue recognition.

He died in 2005.

In fact, several members of the original Buena Vista line-up have since passed on.

But the night at Carnegie Hall lives on.

The entire performance was recorded.

And this fall, a two-CD set of the concert will be released.

For the World, I'm William Troop.

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