Susana Baca – Travesias

Susana Baca came to international prominence doing her own thing and in so doing became synonymous with the Afro-Peruvian sound that is now recognised the world over. Travesias sees her gently exploring other directions in music and indulging herself with some inspired collaborations


With songs chosen from Italy, Spain, Brazil, Chile and Haiti to name a few, Susana Baca has nevertheless insisted on a personal connection with each and every song. It is a clich?© to say that lesser musicians ‘borrow’ songs but great ones ‘steal’ them, and that is what happens here.
‘Merci bon dieu’ illustrates this perfectly. The song is in fact originally from Haiti but sung by Susana Baca with her full tone, nimble pacing and taste for simple accompaniment, this could easily be from the Afro-Peruvian cannon she weaves around her.
Susana Baca is a self-confessed lefty and so it is to be expected that she is drawn ineluctably to the poetry of Pablo Neruda, from whose verse she creates the anthemic ‘Guillermina’. The subject matter being the passing of time for a woman seems to have particular resonance for the singer.
And from the same country, Chile, Anti-fascist activist Violeta Parra’s ‘Una copla me ha cantado’ is chosen. It’s a delicate song from a woman of great stength.
She makes something beautiful with the world’s favourite politician Gilberto Gil on the gently funky ‘Estrela’ — a duet of exquisite longing and delicacy.
Landing back in Peru for the traditional Christmas tune ‘Palomita ingrata’. An ancient song forever linked to the practice of slave owners showing off their human possessions, given a fresh poignancy by Baca’s attentions.
Lastly, in case English speakers were feeling left out by this uncharacteristically internationalist mode from Susana Baca, there is a surprise cover of Damien Rice’s ‘Volcano’. Baca is drawn to the painful love described in the song and she has the perfect voice to amplify that. As a footnote, she heard the song on a compilation of songs a friend made for her, proving once again that home-taping and its modern versions are not killing music after all.
Susana Baca — Travesias is released on 17 April ’06 on Luaka Bop
Catch Susana Baca at La Linea on 2 April (Royal Festival Hall)

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