Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal is an original member of the largely successful Cuban Latin jazz group the Buena Vista Social Club. You can see him perform along with three other original members of the group October 3 in Dell Hall.
Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal has been playing the trumpet for almost 70 years. His nickname Guajiro may translate as “country bumpkin”, but throughout his long career he has had the pleasure of performing at countless venues around the world.
Mirabal has been surrounded by music his entire life. His father was the director of a band in Melena del Sur, Cuba and encouraged his son’s interest in music. At 20, he was playing in the jazz band Swing Casino and then the Orquesta Casino Parisien in the Hotel Nacional. At 23 he founded his own band, the Conjunto Rumbavana. The group became successful in Cuba where it played at many casinos, night clubs, and carnivals.
About four years later, in 1960, Mirabal began playing in the Riverside Orchestra. This is when he received the nickname ‘Guajiro’. It was given to him by the popular Puerto Rican salsa singer Tito Gómez.
“…He said, ‘Are you from around here, in Havana?’” explains Mirabal. “I said, ‘No, from a village in the province of Havana.’ ‘Ah, so you’re a guajiro!’ And ever since then I’ve been Guajiro.”
For about the next 30 years Mirabal played in the Riverside Orchestra at the Tropicana Club.
Now, Mirabal is enjoying his time in the Buena Vista Social Club.
“It’s great. We’ve been playing together for years, and this Buena Vista project has brought us—Omara, Cachaíto, Ibrahim, and myself—some great moments of truth. Our relationship is very, very good,” said Mirabal.
The Buena Vista Social Club has played everywhere from Amsterdam to Carnegie Hall. Buena Vista Social Club, the documentary released on the group, received critical acclaim that included an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. The Buena Vista Social Club has been said to have generated a “revival of interest in traditional Cuban music.” Mirabal loves what the group does and is grateful for the success they have received.
“Music for me has always been Cuban music, not the music of today, but the old styles, and I’ve always dedicated myself to that, playing what I have to play,” said Mirabal. “I love Cuban music and it feels really good making it these days with the Buena Vista.”
You can see Mirabal perform with the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club at the Long Center Oct. 3 in Dell Hall.