Like Shards of Broken Crystal

I’ve been listening again to Concha Buika, the flamenco singer whose origins are in an old African colony of Spain, Equatorial Guinea. It’s been a while since I last listened to her. Once again, I am struck by  her voice, clear and strong, yet immensely vulnerable and pained, like shards of broken crystal.

Buika is a tremendous woman, who brings out in a very tangible way the innate propensity of flamenco to create new forms and to reinvent itself in new contexts. She says she grew up in the Balearic islands, near a gitano community from whom she acquired flamenco. The eclectic nature of her life and interests reflects in her flamenco, which she transports to the realms of soul and jazz, creating both a hybrid song that resonates with the long histories of disempowerment, poverty and suffering that shadow all three kinds of music and, at the same time, bringing out in flamenco the cry of pain that makes the song so deep. Buika is notable for her many talents and for her boldness. Openly bisexual, she also challenges the patriarchal parameters of flamenco and the tendency amongst purists to emphasise some sort of racial affinity that privileges the gitano/andalúz as rightful custodians of the art. By her mere presence, Buika dismisses all of that.

She also does more: though no mention, to my knowledge, has been made of it, Buika brings to mind the figure of Lorca, who went to Harlem and found an affinity there with the gitanos of his Granada, an affinity that resulted in his Poeta en Nueva York… In Buika’s case, it is the coming of Africa, of colonial history, of discriminated gender, of disempowered race to claim a voice, yes, an unmissable and unforgettable voice, in the heartland of flamenco. So, if Lorca’ s silhouette can somehow be discerned in so much of contemporary flamenco… and I’m thinking here of the work of Camarón, of course, and of Morente, to name but a few… then Buika makes music that brings his memory and his love for those who have been otherized spontaneously alive.

April 19, 2010 Post Under General - Read More

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