Ibrahim Ferrer

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Ibrahim Ferrer
In concert at the Oosterpoort, Groningen, in 2004
In concert at the Oosterpoort, Groningen, in 2004
Background information
Born(1927-02-20)February 20, 1927
San Luis, Cuba
DiedAugust 6, 2005(2005-08-06) (aged 78)
Havana, Cuba
GenresSon, guaracha, bolero
Years active1939–2005
Associated acts

Ibrahim Ferrer (February 20, 1927 – August 6, 2005) was a Cuban singer who played with Los Bocucos for nearly forty years. He also performed with Conjunto Sorpresa, Chepín y su Orquesta Oriental and Mario Patterson. After his retirement in 1991, he was brought back in the studio to record with the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Buena Vista Social Club in March 1996.[1] He then toured internationally with these revival groups and recorded several solo albums for World Circuit before his death in 2005.

Early life[edit]

Ferrer was born at a dance club in San Luis, near the city of Santiago de Cuba.[2] His mother died when he was 12, leaving him orphaned and forcing him to sing on the streets (busk) to earn money.[3]

The following year, Ferrer joined his first ever musical group—a duet with his cousin—called Jovenes del Son (Spanish: Youths of Rhythm). They performed at private functions and the two youths managed to scrape together enough money to live.


Over the next few years, Ferrer would perform with many musical groups, including Conjunto Sorpresa and Chepín y su Orquesta Oriental. As lead singer of the latter, Ferrer recorded in 1956 his biggest hit: "El platanal de Bartolo". In 1961, he also sang lead for Mario Patterson y su Orquesta Oriental on "Cariño falso", a standard of the guaracha repertoire.

Los Bocucos[edit]

In 1953, Ferrer began performing with Pacho Alonso's group in Santiago, Cuba. In 1959, the group moved permanently to Havana, renaming themselves Los Bocucos, after a type of drum widely used in Santiago, the bocú. With Alonso, Ferrer primarily performed sones, guarachas and other up-tempo songs. However, he yearned to sing boleros.

Ferrer remained a member of Los Bocucos until his retirement in 1991. Starting in 1967, Los Bocucos became an independent group, since Pacho Alonso started a new band, Los Pachucos. Since then, Ferrer began to sing lead more often, instead of performing as a backing singer. The group released several LPs in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1998, Cuban label EGREM released on CD Tierra caliente, a compilation of tracks recorded by Los Bocucos between 1970 and 1988, featuring Ferrer as lead singer. The songs were directed and arranged by Roberto Correra, the group's lead trumpeter.

Career revival[edit]

In 1996, Ferrer took part in Nick Gold's World Circuit sessions, when it was announced that an old-style bolero singer would be required. He first participated in the recording of the album A Toda Cuba le Gusta with the Afro-Cuban All Stars, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. This project was immediately followed by the recording of Ry Cooder's Grammy Award winning Buena Vista Social Club album, which showcased Ferrer's talent as a bolero singer and made him widely known outside Cuba.

In 1999, Ry Cooder recorded Ferrer's first solo album. In 2000, Ferrer, at the age of 72, received a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist.

In 2001, he appeared on the track "Latin Simone (¿Qué Pasa Contigo?)" on the self-titled debut album of virtual band Gorillaz. Following Ferrer's death, Gorillaz played the song live as a tribute to him at concerts in 2005 and 2006, and again in 2018.

In 2004, Ferrer won a Grammy, but was denied permission by the U.S. government to enter the U.S. to receive his award"[4] as a result of extremely restrictive visa laws enacted in the wake of 9/11.[5]

Ferrer released his second solo recording, Buenos Hermanos, in 2003 and continued touring in Europe into 2005. Ferrer's contributed in 2005 to the APE Vision Artists Project Earth album Rhythms Del Mundo: Cuba, a collaboration with artists Coldplay, U2, Sting, Dido, Faithless, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5 and others. Ferrer's last recording was Mi sueño, an album devoted to the bolero. It was released posthumously in 2006.

Ferrer was posthumously featured in the Gorillaz documentary films Bananaz and Reject False Icons in 2008 and 2019, respectively.


Ibrahim Ferrer died at age 78 of multiple organ failure on August 6, 2005, at CIMEQ hospital in Havana, Cuba after returning from a European tour.[6] He was buried in the Colón Cemetery, Havana.

Personal life[edit]

Ferrer was an adherent of the Santería faith, a blending of traditional African religions and Catholicism.[7][8]




  • Mi Oriente (Tumbao Cuban Classics, 1999) - Recorded 1956-1961[12]
  • Tierra Caliente - Ibrahim Ferrer con Los Bocucos (EGREM, 2000)[13]
  • Mis tiempos con Chepín y su Orquesta Oriental (EGREM, 2002)[14]
  • La Colección Cubana (Nascente, 2002) - Recorded 1960s-1970s[15]
  • ¡Qué Bueno Está! (Blue Moon, 2004) - Recorded 1960-1961[16]
  • Ay, Candela (Escondida, 2005) - Recorded 1960-1988[17][18]
  • Rhythms Del Mundo (2006)
  • Chepin Y Su Orquesta Oriental - Con: Ibrahim Ferrer (Perlas Cubanas, 2014)[19]
  • Lost and Found (World Circuit/Nonesuch Records, 2015)


  • "Silencio" (1999)
  • "Buenos hermanos" (2003)
  • "Boliviana" (2003)
  • "El dandy" (2004)
  • "Copla guajira" (2006)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leigh, Spencer (August 8, 2005). "Ibrahim Ferrer". The Independent. Retrieved July 18, 2011.[dead link]
  2. ^ Ratliff, Ben (August 8, 2005). "Ibrahim Ferrer, 78, Cuban Singer in 'Buena Vista Social Club,' Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  3. ^ Teather, David (August 8, 2005). "Ibrahim Ferrer dies at 78". The Guardian. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  4. ^ "Cubans Are Denied Visas For Grammys". New York Times. February 6, 2004. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  5. ^ Mr. Ferrer can't be with us tonight, The Guardian, 18 February 2004 [1], accessed 28 September 2015.
  6. ^ "Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer dies". The BBC News. August 7, 2005. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  7. ^ Levine, Art (March 9, 1999). "Viva "Buena Vista Social Club"". Salon.com. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  8. ^ Turan, Kenneth (June 4, 1999). "Cuban Serendipity". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  9. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer & Conjunto Los Bocucos – Salsón". discogs.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  10. ^ "Buenos Hermanos". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  11. ^ "Mi Sueño". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  12. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer - Mi Oriente". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  13. ^ "Tierra Caliente - Ibrahim Ferrer con Los Bocucos". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  14. ^ "Mis tiempos con Chepín y su Orquesta Oriental". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  15. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer - La Colección Cubana". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  16. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer - ¡Qué Bueno Está!". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  17. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer - Ay, Candela". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  18. ^ "Reviews". fRoots. No. 340. London: Southern Rag. October 2011. p. 67.
  19. ^ "Chepin Y Su Orquesta Oriental - Con: Ibrahim Ferrer". amazon.com. Retrieved March 26, 2017.

External links[edit]