Sunday, May 21, 2006

Susana Baca, Joe's Pub, 5.19.06

(photos: Ana de Orbegoso)

by Charlotte Deaver

Last Thursday night Peruvian singer Susana Baca performed at Joe's Pub. I went with a large group of people, several of whom are also Peruvian and had been supporting and loving her music for years. Clearly, Susana had many admirers in the audience, as many an "Eso!" indicated. Although some songs are so heartbreaking and deeply moving that it seemed no one breathed at all, other times everyone in the club was on their feet, reveling in the raucous festivities.

When Susana dances, always barefoot, of course, she's so physically riveting you can't take your eyes off of her. And that sensuality translates directly through her voice, which was not as "on," though, in this live performance, as her body and her band were. Her pitch and texture are not as accurate or full as on recordings, but her smoking-hot, power quartet know exactly how to highlight the best of her musicianship, which includes the way she moves on stage.

I didn't know much about Peruvian music, so I kept hearing some flamenco influences. Afterwards I learned that the influence was in fact Peruvian, when that crucial instrument, the cajon, a kind of box drum that the musician both sits and plays upon, was introduced to Spain via Peru.

As wonderful as Susana was, I really fell in love with the band, the cajon-player (Juan "Cotito" Medrano) and guitarist (Rafael Munoz, I believe) in particular. And the arrangements were amazing, which I later learned are to be credited to bassist David Pinto.

The new CD, Travesias, is out on the Luakabop label, and it's magic. Mark Ribot is the guitarist on the CD, but I think I'd rather see the not-so-famous guitarist she tours with that I mentioned above. This band is a real unit, not simply accompanists or soloists, and they are the reason Susana Baca achieves such a dreamy, participatory, shared experience when she performs. Like a true community, there is no music without all the separate parts, integrated into one experience.

Listen to "Guillermina," from Susana Baca's new CD, Travesias: Guillermina (mp3)


Blogger euskir said...

I don't know why the Susana Baca post isn't at my rss reader...
Anyway, here, in Argentina, there's a native instrument, specially in the north (I'm talking about the indigenous people) called "caja", usually you've got to sit on it to play, just with your hands. Some modern folk music it's also using the "caja" in Argentina, it's a really interesting percussion instrument.

12:16 PM  
Blogger euskir said...

There's and old tradition of a style in Perú, called "música negra" ("black music"), with some heavy african background, coming from the black slaves from the colonial times.
I've got a special selection of that music, but, not a digital copy...
Susana Baca roots are deep into that heritage, with some "under links" to the Latin America folk.

12:21 PM  

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