Click here to read this review at the Georgia Strait web site

By ken eisner
georgia straight Ė vancouver
aug 17, 2006


featuring Los Zafiros in English w/ Spanish subtitles

plays Friday through Tuesday, August 18-22


Is there anything more ephemeral Ė or more substantial- than popular culture? While youíre caught up in a momentary frenzy for, say, Jane Powell or Tone Loc, you think the object of your fascination just might be one for the ages. In reality, well, feel free to consult Wikipedia on the names above.

The fickleness of fans is often well-founded. I mean, isnít Colin Farrellís appeal already wearing then? But really good music tends to resonate far past its sell-by date, and some becomes emblematic of a particular place and time. Thatís particularly true when a countryís cultural history has been hermetically sealed, as was Cuba ís by Fidel Castroís 1959 revolution and subsequent blockades by the United States .

Beautifully representative of the period was the sound of Los Zafiros (The Sapphires), a vocal ensemble that blended the harmonies and sartorial presentation of American groups like the Platters with Cuban rhythms and island sensuality.

The groupís collective star managed to shine through the 1960s. But politics and changing musical fashions saw it struggling as the decade wore on. B.C.-based filmmaker Lorenzo DeStefano was fortunate, then, to catch up with two of the key members, still alive and talking, around which he based the bandís alternately tragic and inspiring story.

Founder Miguel Cancio moved to Miami a dozen years ago and guitarist Manuel Galban, who joined the band in 1963 and modernized the groupís sound, is still recording music in Havana with Ry Cooder and members of the Buena Vista Social Club. Their recollections are neatly intercut with those of ordinary Cubans who describe the impact of the groupís virtuosic yet emotion-laden sound, and placed alongside newsreel footage and TV clips to ass historical context.

The particulars are important, of course, but as this delightful feature (smartly paired with BALLETS RUSSES) well conveys, the Zafiros music stakes out a territory too universal to be owned by anyone, and too potent to be lost to mere fashion.