Concha Buika (pronounced BWEE-kah) was born María Concepción Balboa Buika on the island of Mallorca, to parents who came to Spain as political exiles from Equatorial Guinea. They lived in a poor neighborhood in the island’s capital city, Palma de Mallorca, where Buika remembers that the only black resident other than her family members was a man hired to stand in the doorway of a gift shop, like just another novelty on display. She was a skinny girl with an Afro that curious neighbors would reach out to touch – hair which she later learned to style from photos of her early musical idols Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.
“You have to want to sing about the many parts of who you are, not just the pretty things, or the things you think are cute,” says Spanish singer Buika. “Because the art of a person is sometimes in their pain. It’s everywhere and I think one must live openly, bravely, and tell it like it is at every moment, as if you were breathing.”
Buika is back, bearing body and soul in the most poignant album of her career. From the risqué cover art to the intimacy and rawness of her themes and vocal delivery, Buika has proven yet again that she’s completely surrendered herself to her art – no matter where it may take her. On Niña de Fuego (Girl of Fire) she plunges even deeper into her emotions and emerges in voice to reveal her inner anguish. Traditional coplas (female-centric Spanish torch songs) and fusions of flamenco, jazz, gypsy rumba, and Afro-Cuban rhythms become heart-wrenching songs of despair and love lost. For the first time Buika includes beautifully rendered rancheras in her repertoire, one of which is testament to her own lyrical prowess as a songwriter.
Last year Buika’s U.S. debut Mi Niña Lola (released by Warner Music Latina) was met with critical acclaim. Spanish newspaper El País called the album “a revolution” and it went on to win a Premio de la Música, Spain’s answer to the Grammys, for Best Produced Album. The New York Times’ music critic Jon Pareles classified Buika’s live New York City debut at BAM as nothing short of “magnificent.” In Miami and Washington D.C. audiences were enthralled by the way in which Buika effortlessly straddled the musical sources of multiple continents without becoming entangled in any one particular idiom. In Mexico her concerts made a fan and musical godmother out of the legendary octogenarian songstress Chavela Vargas. In a relatively short time span Buika has gone from struggling artist to a trailblazing force in contemporary Spanish music. She is at the crossroads of many genres -- a place where jazz, funk, flamenco, copla and neo-soul come together in a sublime, musical pact.
On Niña de Fuego the singer reunites with producer Javier Limón, renowned for the sophisticated flamenco jazz cross-pollinations that he previously brought to highly praised albums by Bebo Valdés and Diego “El Cigala” (Lagrimas Negras) and Paco de Lucía (Cositas Buenas). On Niña de Fuego, Javier Limón is also a musician, unleashing masterful flamenco guitar flourishes accompanied by an A-list lineup that includes Cuban musicians Iván “Melon” Lewis on piano, Horacio “El Negro” Hernández on drums, and Carlitos Sarduy on trumpet. The sound is anchored by Dany Noel on bass with Ramón Porrina and Piraña on percussion.
The eleven-track disc is a collection of classics, songs composed by Limón and David Trueba, and two -- the tender “Miénteme Bien” (Lie To Me Well) and the saucy “Mentirosa” (Liar) -- penned by Buika herself. Both of these touch on similar themes surrounding the false illusions of love. On “Volverás” (You Will Return) Buika is volatile, at first her voice is hazy, almost diaphanous and then it soars in desperate, untamed vocal flights for the return of her lover. Other album highlights include the elegantly soulful opener “La Falsa Moneda” (The Fake Coin) and “Culpa Mía” (My Fault), featuring a voice and palmas intro that climaxes into a swinging Afro-Cuban descarga.
Voted one of world’s “50 Great Voices” by NPR