x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Ibrahim Ferrer Junior plays Izel at the Conrad Dubai

He will be performing tonight in Izel, a Latin American supper club in the newly opened Conrad Dubai hotel, which will feature flavours from the region, live entertainment and a cigar lounge.

Ibrahim Ferrer Junior, the son of the legendary founder of Buena Vista Social Club, performs in Izel at the Conrad Dubai tomorrow night. Antonie Robertson / The National
Ibrahim Ferrer Junior, the son of the legendary founder of Buena Vista Social Club, performs in Izel at the Conrad Dubai tomorrow night. Antonie Robertson / The National

Ibrahim Ferrer Junior is carrying the mantle from his late father Ibrahim Ferrer, one of the founding members of Cuba’s legendary Buena Vista Social Club. The 56-year-old singer performs traditional Cuban music encapsulating the Caribbean country’s golden age of live music clubs in the 1940s and 1950s.

He will be performing tomrrow in Izel, a Latin American supper club in the newly opened Conrad Dubai hotel, which will feature flavours from the region, live entertainment and a cigar lounge. We caught up with him ahead of his performance.

What brings you to Dubai?

This is my first visit. I get a very warm feeling from this city. I had to come here, knowing this is going to be a pan-Latin platform for music. I felt I had to plant the grain of Cuban music in here.

How would you define Cuban music?

It is about being honest and transmitting feelings and singing from the heart. My father always told me: ‘Don’t take it for granted that just because you jump on a stage, you are a king on top of the world.’ The main feature of Cuban music is humility and music that comes from the heart. Cuban music has built the biggest bridge in the world.

What part did your father play in creating that legacy?

My father was not the principal creator of that bridge but, like many others, he put his stone in that bridge.

He was a grain of sand of Cuban musicians that will make a beach one day. I feel it is almost an obligation to carry on playing traditional sounds that were played in the fields and farms and mountains, a tradition of music that was brought to the masses by Buena Vista Social Club.

What was it like growing up in the Ferrer household?

I grew up in a very happy and musical household. I lost my mother at the age of 13 and my father became my father, my mother, my friend – he was everything.

Everyone in the family plays music and that is what we do when we get together. Music was always present.

When did you first start singing?

As soon as I started talking. I remember singing properly for the first time at the age of 8.

But you did not start singing professionally until you were 42. What took you so long?

I had another career as a sailing engineer. My father had no choice but to start working at 12 because he had to take care of his family. It was a hardship for him so he did not want his children to go into music. I was a sailing engineer on merchant ships for 25 years but when my ship Blue West was blocked in Iran for a full year in 1996, I said: ‘That’s it.’

What was the greatest lesson you learnt from your father?

Whenever I go up on stage, I remember what my father’s generation taught me about being humble and respecting your craft, your music and your roots, but also about transmitting them humbly and with love.

Does the camaraderie still exist between the surviving members of the Buena Vista Social Club?

For those who are still alive, yes. It is still like a family with different characters with different attitudes – one is grumpy, another is a joker. I last played with them in Argentina in 2011. Because of their age, they are not really active and cannot travel much.

Will traditional Cuban music survive?

The people with Buena Vista now are part of the new generation but they are still in their 60s and 70s. The feeling will never be the same as with the founding fathers, but it will exist.

Ibrahim Ferrer Junior will perform two sets from 9.30pm tomorrow in Izel in the Conrad Dubai

artslife@thenational.ae