All his life he had dreamed about an escape from hardship and poverty. By day he shined shoes for a living and by night he sang.
He sang the old songs from his country and the new songs of the revolution.
Singing was his first love and his only escape.
But still, every day when the sun came up he found himself in his tiny, mouldy apartment that he shared with his wife and other relatives.
One day, he heard a knock at the door. He didn’t know then that this knock belonged to an Angel, a very special Angel who had heard his voice singing in the evenings, and the Angel said to him, “Please come and make this record for me”?
“Well”, said the man, “I am old and not much good to anyone.”
“Once I dreamed of a having my voice heard all around the world and I worked very hard to make my dream come true but it never did. I am afraid it may be too late for me.”
The Angel replied, “How will you know if you never try?”
“Yes, that’s true.” said the old man. “I don’t suppose I have anything to lose.”
And so, off they went together and made a record. It was the man’s first record ever and he was just happy about that.
But our story doesn’t end there.
The Angel had taken the man to make the “Afro-Cuban All Stars” CD, “A Toda Cuba Le Gusta” and it wasn’t long before the he was world famous.
He didn’t have to shine shoes any more and was very, very happy.
Instead, he toured the world with the Buena Vista Social Club and won a Latin Grammy for “Best New Artist” in 2000.
His name was Ibrahim Ferrer and he was 72 years old when he won this award.
He died six years later while on his world tour.
Yes, this does sound like a fairy tale but it is a true story.
So much of the time, the music world focuses on young talent.
The younger the better. If you are young AND a ‘musical genius’, we just lap it up, feeling there is nothing higher than this accolade.
However, many of the musicians I love are ‘old’ people.
Because there is nothing better than hearing what only age an experience can offer musicianship. (Yes, just like a fine wine).
Ibrahim Ferrer developed his voice over decades. In that time his instrument would have changed, would have mellowed. He would have explored many different types of music. He would have loved, he would have suffered, he would have a lot to say about living and dying. What more can a singer offer a song than this.
Young people live and suffer and love and lose but they do not have the benefit of experience and growth that adds depth of character and a deeper understanding of life which can then be transferred into musical expression.
I want all the adult learners to realise that even if you start music at 40 or older, you have something to offer the artform.
If you practice and learn with positivity, you will succeed and who knows what will be waiting for you around the corner?
You may still have a good 40 years to hone your art.
I think this story also points out the importance of:
- Just playing music for the love of it, not for the fame or fortune it will bring. Otherwise Ibrahim would have given up long before his “time” came.
- Being open to opportunities, even if you feel the opportunities you wanted have passed you by.
- Never stop being surprised at what life can bring you. I always say life is much more imaginative that we could possibly be.
If you would like to know more about Ibrahim Ferrer you can visit these websites:
And if you’d like to hear more of his music or purchase albums, please click on the links below: