I was drawn to the Ry Cooder project, Buena Vista Social Club,
where the American guitarist traveled to Cuba to create
music with some of the veterans of the Havana music scene.
Ibrahim Ferrer was a retired singer, living in poverty, when
Cooder found him, and a beautiful story began.
Ibrahim Ferrer was a shining heart, a warm soul. He has
just died after returning home from a European tour. He'd
recently been denied access to the United States resulting
from the Bush administration's tightening of restrictions.
Below are a few quotes from Ibrahim Ferrer, the first
in response to being denied entry into the U.S.
"I really don't understand these matters very well. As far as
I know, the reason was that our presence was supposed to
be detrimental to the interest of the United States. Well...
what can I say? I am a 77 years old man, I have never
done or wished anything bad to nobody. I think music has
no passport and no politics, it arrives to everyone and it
always brings you something, maybe love, maybe hope,
strength. Could you ever have imagined that a legendary
77-year-old musician would be treated like a terrorist threat?
Well, I never really felt I was treated like a terrorist, and I
hope never to be treated like one. I don't mind to be treated
like an old man... but I must say that I feel more like a little
boy rather than an old man. Bear in mind I was born again
just seven years ago, so I am around 7-8 years old now."
On meeting Ry Cooder, reviving his career, and travelling
the world as one of the celebrated masters of Cuban music...
"Music is my passion, my life, it is what I like to do best. I feel
lucky to receive this gift from life at my age, and I want to enjoy
it as much as I can. You must remember I fought all my life for
music, and I didn't get much. I finally gave up, I retired, and
then it turns out to be that the best was still about to come into
my life. When you do things with love, everything turns out well."
When asked to give some perspective on his recent successes...
"Life is to be lived... I prefer not to reflect, the past is the past.
The important thing is to enjoy life just as if each day was the
last day of your life."
Even with his "being born again," meaning in his music career,
Ibrahim never accepted celebrity in any way to distance himself
from those he shared his music with. When he was asked once
if, with some notice and fame, he now liked to go and have his
shoes shined, he answered, simply, "I shine my own shoes."
Rest in peace, old man, young boy. Thanks for the music.