When Spanish singer Concha Buika sings, songs uncoil from her like smoke. Whether she sings jazz classics, Jacquel Brel, Chavella Vargas songs or her own songs, there is a warm intimacy in her husky and seductive voice that easily envelops listeners. 15 years after her debut, Mestizuo, a record with jazz classics she continues her musical journey of exploring beyond the ordinary with records that are imbued with diversity from flamenco, soul, jazz and pop music to Afro-beat, Cuban music, and tango.
At heart, she is a flamenco singer, temperamental and tender at the same time. At an early age she started as a flamenco singer but very soon she branched out to welcome all the music that excited her. As a result, the music she has made since on her records honor all of these musics. Her albums such as Mi Niña Lola, (DROAtlantic 2006) Niña de Fuego (Casa Limon, 2008), La Noche Las Varga (Warner Music Spain, 2013), are a wonderful and diverse mixtures of covers and originals She is a libertine and her free-spirited attitude only adds to her appeal.
Last year she released Vivir Sin Miedo or "Living Without Fear," a response to the fear imbued world and which sends a powerful message with these songs. Buika is a one of a kind artist that never fits into any categorizations as she constantly searches ways to expand and enrich her music.
All About Jazz: What inspired you to be a singer? Were you a performer from an early age?
Concha Buika: My first time on stage was when I was around 16, 17 years old. Definitely, it was something that highlighted my life. I was something of a terrible person. I was enfant terrible. I was a disaster of a person before music came to my life. Actually, the first instrument that I wanted to play was drums. I wanted to be a drummer, but circumstances in my life have brought me to sing. It was so because music is the only world where we are not separated by ideas. Here we are completely equal. When I was a little girl there was a lot of segregation in my little village. Music was something that united everybody. That is why I feel the warmer side of life when I sing.
AAJ: As someone who was born in Palma de Majorca to parents from Equatorial Guinea, what music influences did your family have on you at an early age?
CB: My mama didn't make any difference between styles because she didn't understand and she didn't know the music from the world because she was from a very, very little town in Equatorial Guinea. She did not make a difference between heavy metal music from world music or classical music. She was dancing to everything and she loved all music of the world. When she discovered Iron Maiden or these heavy metal bands from the North she fell in love with their sounds because these were crazy sounds. Can you imagine what was it like for an African girl from a village that didn't even have electricity for the first time to listen to rock music? That was like an explosion of emotions for her. Then, the classical music, hip hop, funky music, because, if you remember, the '80s, were crazy years when it comes to music. So, in my house, my mama had a lot of albums from all kinds of genres -classical, flamenco, rock, funk, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson. Everybody was there. We didn't have TV. We didn't even have windows sometimes because the glasses were broken. We were seven kids, we had no money, but in my house music was playing 24/7, and that was something that I love. I appreciate that from my mama.
AAJ: Was she the one who instilled that love for a diversity in music?
CB: Yes, definitely. My mama taught me that music is the food for the soul. She taught me that there isn't any difference between styles. All those styles talk about the same feelings. All the music in the world talks about the same feelings -our feelings. One can find the same information in a song in China that is about love and will discover that it's the same in a song in the US that speaks about love. That's the same information. People that need love and people that love someone.
AAJ: How did you fall in love with flamenco music? This music is so much part of your DNA.
CB: That was the music that I was listening when I was growing up. I was growing up very close to a flamenco neighborhood and I would spend all my afternoons there. All my neighbors were Gypsy people and that was the music I was listening to when I was a little girl. So, to me, flamenco music is the music that I growing up with. To me, it is something that sounds very familiar.
AAJ: Who were some of the first flamenco musicians that have impressed you most?
CB: There were a lot of people everywhere. Flamenco is not a style no matter where you listen to it, in a bar, in your neighborhood, and it always sounds amazing. At the time, I remember there were a lot of Gypsy and flamenco singers that have made an impression on all of us like Porrina De Badajoz who was an amazingly talented singer. I'm playing with his grandson who is my percussionist and I'm a longtime fan of his grandfather. And those were the singers that impressed us when we were little kids. But, I will tell you again. We were surrounded by people who were amazingly talented people.
I love jazz because it makes you reach inside and outside.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student of Pat Martino.
I met Michael Urbaniak at the Bottom Line in NYC.
The best show I ever attended was Pat Martino at the Village Vanguard.
The first jazz record I bought was STRINGS by Pat Martino
My advice to new listeners stay loose.