Ibrahim Ferrer

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Ibrahim Ferrer
Ferrer performing in 2004
Ferrer performing in 2004
Background information
Born(1927-02-20)20 February 1927
San Luis, Cuba
Died6 August 2005(2005-08-06) (aged 78)
Havana, Cuba
Years active1939–2005
Formerly of

Ibrahim Ferrer (20 February 1927 – 6 August 2005) was a Cuban singer who played with the group 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 twelve, leaving him orphaned and forcing him to sing on the streets to earn money.[3]

The following year, Ferrer joined his first 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.[citation needed]


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 albums in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1998, Cuban label EGREM released 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, 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 US government to enter the country 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. He contributed in 2005 to the APE Vision Artists Project Earth album Rhythms Del Mundo: Cuba, a collaboration with 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.

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

Personal life[edit]

Ferrer was an adherent of the Santería faith, a blending of traditional African religions and Catholicism.[6][7]


Ibrahim Ferrer died at age 78 of multiple organ failure on 6 August 2005, at CIMEQ hospital in Havana, after returning from a European tour.[8] He was buried at the Colón Cemetery.




  • Mi Oriente (1999) – Recorded 1956–1961[12]
  • Tierra Caliente – Ibrahim Ferrer con Los Bocucos (2000)[13]
  • Mis tiempos con Chepín y su Orquesta Oriental (2002)[14]
  • La Colección Cubana (2002) – Recorded 1960s–1970s[15]
  • ¡Qué Bueno Está! (2004) – Recorded 1960–1961[16]
  • Ay, Candela (2005) – Recorded 1960–1988[17][18]
  • Rhythms Del Mundo (2006)
  • Chepin Y Su Orquesta Oriental – Con: Ibrahim Ferrer (2014)[19]
  • Lost and Found (2015)


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leigh, Spencer (8 August 2005). "Ibrahim Ferrer". The Independent. Retrieved 18 July 2011.[dead link]
  2. ^ Ratliff, Ben (8 August 2005). "Ibrahim Ferrer, 78, Cuban Singer in 'Buena Vista Social Club,' Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  3. ^ Teather, David (8 August 2005). "Ibrahim Ferrer dies at 78". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  4. ^ "Cubans Are Denied Visas for Grammys". New York Times. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  5. ^ Mr. Ferrer can't be with us tonight, The Guardian, 18 February 2004 [1], accessed 28 September 2015.
  6. ^ Levine, Art (9 March 1999). "Viva "Buena Vista Social Club"". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 8 February 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  7. ^ Turan, Kenneth (4 June 1999). "Cuban Serendipity". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer dies". The BBC News. 7 August 2005. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  9. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer & Conjunto Los Bocucos – Salsón". discogs.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Buenos Hermanos". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Mi Sueño". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer – Mi Oriente". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Tierra Caliente – Ibrahim Ferrer con Los Bocucos". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Mis tiempos con Chepín y su Orquesta Oriental". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer – La Colección Cubana". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer – ¡Qué Bueno Está!". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Ibrahim Ferrer – Ay, Candela". allmusic.com. Retrieved 20 March 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 26 March 2017.