Portrait: Concha Buika – Jazz singer as a shaman

Concha Buika is a unique Spanish singer with African roots. Phenomenal on stage with a personal expression that embraces both flamenco and Afro-Cuban groove.

By Torben Holleufer, Jazz Special (Foto: Bobby Anwar)

Concha Buika is a sensation.  It is outrageous that so few know the 41-year-old singer at these latitudes. At the concert she played at Viften in Rødovre last year, it was quite evident that the fans from Denmark and Sweden, who showed up, were the fanatical kind. And they – we – got to see quite a unique show.

The great news thus is, that Concha Buika is playing at this year’s Copenhagen Jazz Festival. In the wake of the Grammy nominated masterpiece LA NOCHE MAS LARGA, she has been performing around the world, last time on tour in the United States. She appeared on the cover of The New Yorker and returns to the United States and Central Park Summerstage shortly before she is playing in DR-byen Koncerthuset on July 10.

Concha Buika performs with the ultimate fragility in a mixture of Afro-Cuban, flamenco, blues and her own original style. If it is going to be the same as the last time, in Rødovre, she will be performing with her two accompanists included in the setup, where her bursts and distinct communication with the audience has their own sweet and delicate flavor.

One of the musicians is the talented Cuban pianist Ivan “Melón” González Lewis, who now lives in Spain, but back home in Havana primarily made an impact on timba scene, namely in the founder of NG La Banda, Isaac Delgado’s, most famous group. By his side appears the percussionist Ramon Suarez Escobar, and the most powerful point among the two is when the pianist lets go of the keys, grabs the Bata drum and together with his partner and Concha Buika conjures once unshakable Santeria, the Afro-Cuban trance, where Buika seems to enter another world, while the drum beats transport the listener in the most alluring way. And this is not to be mistaken for some sort of a gimmick. It is very important to remember that Santeria originated with African slaves who came from the same coast as Concha Buika. The place where people believe in and worship the same Orishas, spirits, as on the island state in the Caribbean.

Performed with the best

Buikas latest album LA NOCHE MAS LARGA was Grammy-nominated for Best Latin Album. It is a masterful piece in which she shows the entire spectrum, from Santeria-spin Siboney, to an absolutely wonderful version of Billie Holiday’s Do not Explain where the crispest flamenco player comes in and takes the classic to a very different place without the arrangement losing one iota of presence. That is also owing to Buika’s voice which sounds as a rasping sax and adds a new edge to the old standard.

She has been the whole time working with the best.
After her debut in 2000, she made three albums in her home country Spain, all of which were produced by the ubiquitous Javier Limón, who also works with Anouska Shankar and the late Paco de Lucía, among many others. And similarly two of her songs found their way to Pedro Almodovar’s thriller THE SKIN I LIVE IN.

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Tuesday, July 10, 20:00: Concha Buika (ES)
→ DR Koncerthuset, Koncertsalen