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World Music Features

Buika

By Carol Amoruso
Published May 9, 2008

Buika was born in Palma De Mallorca to African parents who had been exiled as political dissidents from their native Equatorial Guinea. In collaboration with noted producer Javier Limón, she recently released Mi Niña Lola—a stunning statement of flamenco-fueled power that has garnered awestruck praise the world over.

The crowd was hushed as Concha Buika took the stage at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music for the second of three exclusive appearances in the U.S. Barefoot and clad in a black velvet floor-dusting skirt, black mesh top and a brilliant mandarin orange shawl, she immediately captivated the audience with her husky, emery cloth voice, abrading and caressing at the same time. Her music clearly came from a safe and inviting place, moving many in the small concert hall to tears.

 

Diminutive, lithe and radiant, Concha Buika is like a small skyrocket, exploding into a shower of music, color and light, as she did on this recent tour, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Her first widely distributed CD, Mi Niña Lola, has dazzled music lovers and critics alike, with the Spanish newspaper El Pais calling it “a revolution” in music.

 

Based in Madrid and now known simply as Buika, the seasoned chanteuse has taken a roundabout path to where she is today. She schooled herself in rock and soul with a two-year stint in Las Vegas, knocking off a convincing Tina Turner impersonation with wig hat, shimmering thighs, platform shoes and all. She’s refined it by bringing in influences both from her formative years in Spain, and from her African blood. Her repertoire is mature, compelling and complex, and perfectly complements the multilayered dimensions of her extraordinary three packs a day-sounding voice. “I’m feeling really comfortable in myself,” Buika says, linking her personal growth to her artistic arrival.

 

But it hasn’t always been easy. Maria Concepción (“Concha”) Balboa Buika grew up amongst “putas and yonquis” (prostitutes and junkies) in the barrio chino—the seamy side of the tracks—in Palma De Mallorca, off the coast of Spain. Her parents had been political activists in Equatorial Guinea, Spain’s only colony in Africa, and were exiled to the island. Buika was born there in 1972. Her father eventually fled the family too, closing the door behind him one day and leaving her mother and seven children abandoned. “No problem,” Buika maintains. According to her, he’d been a rat to her mother and the kids.

 

African and an exile, Buika grew up as an outsider. She recalls that the only other black person in town was a man she’d often see fixed outside a gift shop to entice passersby like a cigar store Indian. The neighborhood kids would run<