Niña de Fuego By Concha Buika
Reviewed by Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl
Much of the world music that received attention from the media and in music awards this past year is not rooted in one musical tradition, but is the result of a fusion of several musical styles spanning across the globe. This new trend in world music often results in a strange hodgepodge of styles and rhythms, but it also leads to successful blends of music from different parts of the globe. During my recent research of new world music, I came across such a successful fusion of styles. It is an album by Afro-Spanish singer Concha Buika. Buika, whose family is originally from Equatorial Guinea, was born and raised on the Spanish island of Mallorca, and her music reflects her multi-cultural background.
Buika’s third and latest album “Nina de Fuego,” which was released in June 2008, is especially noteworthy, since it fuses Spanish flamenco music with elements of jazz and soul—an unlikely meeting of musical styles—which she pulls off quite successfully. Her vocal talent is quite impressive. Her smoky and mournful voice is as much at home in flamenco as it is in soul or jazz. Her vocals are backed up by flamenco guitar (played by producer/composer Javier Limón), piano (Ivan Lewis), congas, and upright bass, which gives the slow and sorrowful Spanish, Flamenco and Latin tunes a jazzy feel. The CD’s title song "Niña de Fuego" (a Spanish popular song known as a "copla") even has a solo by a muted trumpet, more reminiscent of Miles Davis than of Spanish music. It is exactly this skillful blending of different musical elements that makes this CD so remarkable. The blending of musical genre is never overdone and never appears contrived. To the contrary, on this CD, flamenco, latin music, jazz and soul blend so seamlessly that they evoke the sense of having evolved together to create this new form of musical expression.
The CD not only shows Buika’s vocal talent, but is also a great showcase for her songwriting talent and that of her producer Javier Limón, who composed most of the songs. But there are also a few classics, which Buika presents in new arrangements, such as the Mexican ranchera "Volver Volver" by Fernando Z. Maldonado Rivera, and the Gypsy milonga "La Falsa Moneda" by Juan Mostazo. We also hear several rumbas and bulerías (a fast-paced flamengo) which round up the diverse repertoire of songs. The mood and tempo of the songs are wide ranging, from the fast-paced bulería "Culpa mía" to the gentle "Volverás" and the plaintive "Miénteme Bien," accompanied only by piano. But Buika’s voice and the skillful arrangements by Javier Limón make the different song styles flow together harmoniously to form one coherent artistic statement.
For anyone interested in world music fusion without the all-too-popular incursions into house and chill-out music, "Niña de Fuego" is a real treat. The CD demonstrates that experimental world music has much greater potential than being limited to a mere club genre. Lovers of jazz, soul, and flamenco will find this album a worthwhile purchase.
To learn more about Concha Buika and her music, visit her website at www.buika.net.