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August 12, 2005

God Bless Ibrahim Ferrer

Written by
cindy mcleod

C B C . C A A r t s – F u l l S t o r y :

Singer Ibrahim Ferrer dies
Last Updated Sun, 07 Aug 2005 01:03:00 EDT
CBC Arts

Ibrahim Ferrer, a Cuban singer who vaulted from obscurity to international fame when he came out of retirement to perform in the Buena Vista Social Club, has died.

Ferrer, who was 78, fell ill after returning from a month-long European tour that took him to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Britain, Holland, Austria, France and Spain.

Ibrahim Ferrer, who died at 78, was a master of the traditional Cuban ‘son’ and ‘bolero’ styles. (AP Photo)

He was admitted to a Havana hospital with gastroenteritis and died Saturday of a heart attack, his wife, Caridad Diaz, told the AFP news agency.

Ferrer, a wiry man in a trademark cap, was a master of the traditional Cuban son and bolero styles.

By the early 1990s, however, he had been all but forgotten and was augmenting his state pension by shining shoes when the U.S. musician Ry Cooder recruited him.

Along with singer Compay Segundo, pianist Ruben Gonzalez and other vintage Cuban musicians, Ferrer performed on Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club album.

The album, which won a Grammy in 1997, became hugely popular and vaulted the aging musicians into the international limelight.

Their fame grew when they appeared in the 1999 film of the same name by German director Wim Wenders.

Ferrer released solo records in 1999 and 2003, racking up another Grammy award and two Latin Grammies.

Ferrer was born during a social club dance in the eastern Cuban city of Santiago on Feb. 20, 1927, after his mother unexpectedly went into labour.

He started singing professionally at age 14 and by the 1950s, had won his place with well-known Cuban bands.

In 1959, he joined the group of the legendary bandleader Pacho Alonso, where he stayed for more than two decades while making guest appearances with other stars such as vocalist Benny More.

In the early 1980s, Ferrer set aside his musical career, not taking it up again until Cooder persuaded him out of retirement more than a decade later.

Copyright �2005 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – All Rights Reserved

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