A night in the presence of legends: Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club featuring Omara Portuondo at Starlite Festival in Marbella

Guest Post: Sophie Carefull
Widely considered to be one of the world’s most influential and adored Latin music acts, Buena Vista Social Club is the product of a legendary collaboration between a collective of veteran Cuban musicians and revered American guitarist and producer, Ry Cooder, who first came together in 1997.

The much-celebrated ensemble recorded its eponymous and, notably, only studio album nearly 50 years after the original namesake members’ club in Havana closed. The result was magical, to say the least. Selling over eight million copies worldwide, the critical acclaim heaped on the record could never have been anticipated by its humble and, by this point, aging members.

Last night at the open-air venue of La Cantera, Marbella, the surviving members of the original line-up, including Omara Portuondo and Eliades Ochoa - now performing as Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club - brought their mesmerising live show to the annual Starlite Festival. The festival´s organiser Sandra Garcia-Sanjuan looked radiant as she moved around the VIP area, meeting and greeting the big names that she has brought to Andalucía for the fourth year running, raising hundreds of thousands of euros for various charities.

The warm, balmy evening provided the perfect setting for a thrilling night of music and dance; by halfway through the set the majority of the audience were on their feet, unable to resist the infectious rhythm of classics such as Chan Chan and Candela. The crowd spanned many generations and featured numerous familiar figures such as Countess Gunilla von Bismarck, the glamorous German aristocrat and socialite known as the unofficial Queen of Marbella society – she is especially famous for her summer fundraising parties. Also causing a stir was TV personality Pablo Ibañez, who was presenting his series of black and white photographic portraits of celebrities at the cocktail reception, on sale in aid of children´s charity Fundación Jugarterapia.

Clearly set to be a glamorous affair from the moment the doors opened, the concert didn’t disappoint in sartorial terms. Not only were the audience looking fabulous, but the band themselves were all dressed impeccably. From the pianist’s blue suede shoes to Gilberto “Papi” Oveido´s grey checked suit, matching trilby and glittery silver brogues, the 15-piece orchestra were the epitome of ageless style. Along with their dapper dress sense came masses of effortless charm, Eliades Ochoa referring to the crowd as “familia” throughout and teasing with the possibility of an encore after their final song, a fast-paced medley sampling the iconic chorus of Candela. After a brief hiatus filled with cheers of "Uno más!", the band returned to the stage for two more songs, much to the elation of the fans.

Lasting well into the night, the event itself was no less than spectacular and, from the youthful vibrancy and electric energy coming from everyone on stage, you would never guess that many of them were well into their seventies and beyond. Just to bear witness to such a rare meeting of profound talent was an absolute privilege, and I think I speak for the whole audience when I say the evening will certainly not be forgotten.

If you´ve missed out on any of this year´s Starlite Festival, then don’t worry, as one of Spain´s month-long music festival (23 July to 24 August) has plenty more A-list performers still to come!
Tickets are available here for the following events:
9 August 2013 - Sara Baras
11 August 2013 - Alejandro Sanz
14 August 2013 - Malu
15 August 2013 - Paco de Lucia
16 August 2013 - Forever King of Pop
17 August 2013 - Enrique Iglesias
21 August 2013 - UB40
23 August 2013 - Grease en Concierto
24 August 2013 - David Bisbal
Blog published on 6 August 2013