Μιας και αυτές τις μέρες ακούω το καταπληκτικό Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall που κυκλοφόρησε το 2008 (ενώ είχε ηχογραφηθεί τον Ιούλιο του 1998), αναδημοσιεύω το κείμενο που έγραψε ο Jan Fairley για τον Guardian με αφορμή τον θάνατο του μπασίστα της μπάντας, Orlando Cachaito Lopez την 9η του μήνα που διανύουμε.
Κρίμα που όταν τους είχα δει στον Λυκαβηττό δεν είχα ασχοληθεί αρκετά με αυτούς τους ήχους ώστε να εκτιμήσω σε τι συναυλία είχα την τιμή να παρίσταμαι.
People marvelled at why Orlando Cachaito Lopez, the legendary bassist of Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, who died yesterday, carried on touring when his body had obviously become frail. But to me it was obvious. While he needed to be led on stage, as soon as his hands were clasped round his bass his musical memory would shift straight into gear, his hands moving fluently. The fact was he had spent more time performing than doing anything else in his life, maybe even sleeping. And as he told me in 2000 when I was helping him prepare his biography for his first solo album: "Your fingers stiffen if you stop."
He loved life, a life that for him was, "siempre con swing" (always with swing). For his 2001 eponymous release, Parisian DJ Dee Nasty rapped about Cachaito's dynastic heritage: "Orlando Cachaito Lopez, son of Orestes, nephew of Israel." Orestes and Israel were brothers who, in the early 1930s, changed the face of Cuban dance music by syncopating bass rhythms in a different way; their 1938 hit Mambo inspired big-band mambo, the basis of modern salsa. The song Buena Vista was written by Cachaito's mighty uncle.
Cachaito learned everything he knew about music from his family. When he was just 13, his aunt Coralia's invitation to play with her group at the all-black Isora Society Club spurred his first composition, the danzon Isora Infant'l (Infant Isora). He founded his own charanga orchestra, Armon'a, when he was 14. He'd go straight from rehearsals to play the nightly country music show on TV, changing into his white pleated guayabera shirt in the back of a taxi. He was a night owl playing a legion of Havana jazz clubs between 4 and 7am before heading home.
After a number of desultory years, and through a set of major coincidences, Cachaito became one of the world's most famous bassists as he entered his mid 60s. His instrument provided the heartbeat of each of the multimillion-selling Buena Vista Social Club albums, propelling him from side to centre stage in just five years. He loved being what he called the "colchon" or mattress for musicians to bounce off, feeding them the famous "anticipated" bass lines that make Cuban music so potent.
He was heartbroken when his wife died a few years ago but never stopped playing with Buena Vista. He was also proud that his daughter and granddaughter were continuing the family tradition by also playing bass: "Seventeen of us have been bassists!"
When I saw him last year on a UK tour (playing one gig every night for a month, naturally) he hugged me and said: "I'm still having the time of my life."