1001 Songs Challenge,  1990s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #853: Chan Chan (1997)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


Buena Vista Social Club feat. Compay Segundo – Chan Chan (1997)

Chan Chan (song) – Wikipedia

“Chan Chan” is a 1984 composition by Cuban Compay Segundo. It was first recorded in 1985 by Compay Segundo’s own group. In 1987, he approached Eliades Ochoa, who agreed to record a version with the Cuarteto Patria. However, EGREM did not release these recordings until the second half of the 1990s.


Lyrics (via Genius)

We’re leaving the US today, dear reader, but not heading too far as we take a flight to Cuba. We have been here before if memory serves me correctly. Our focus today is on the Buena Vista Social Club, an ensemble of Cuban musicians who came together in 1996 to revive Cuban music that had thrived prior to the Cuban Revolution that dominated a large part of the 1950s and led to the leadership of Fidel Castro. We join the ensemble in 1997 with their self-titled album’s release and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track – Chan Chan. 


Chan Chan was written by Compay Segundo in 1984 and originally recorded the following year in 1985. For Buena Vista SocialClub, Segundo re-recorded the song with the inclusion of various other veteran Cuban musicians. The song itself is said to concern a couple – Chan Chan and Juanita. They are building a house but decide to go to the beach for a break. Chan Chan gathers some sand with the intention of filtering it through a sieve. Juanita does the deed instead, giving the sieve a good shake, and, in turn, giving herself a good shake as well! Chan Chan does not know how to respond to this. 

Chan Chan is a catchy example of traditional Cuban music and having delved into the history I was somewhat surprised to find what it is about. Like Chan Chan, I too don’t know how to respond to Juanita’s actions. Released as a single, Chan Chan and its accompanying album would prove hugely popular and Buena Vista Social Club would find themselves touring overseas. The group continues but many of the original members are sadly no longer with us but their twilight years were spent on the crest of a successful wave, their music once subdued, now embraced across the globe. Not a bad way to end your life.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

The Doors – The End (1967)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Ultravox – Vienna (1980)

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)

U2 – One (1991)

Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (1994)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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