Susana Baca

Afrodiaspora

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AllMusic Review by

Susana Baca's seventh album for David Byrne's Luaka Bop imprint is an ambitious affair with Baca bringing her instantly recognizable and elegant vocal style to the table in an attempt to show the pervasive influence of African rhythms and song forms on South American and Caribbean music. It’s not that she hasn’t been doing this all along on her releases, but the title of this one, Afrodiaspora, clearly states the case, and there is an astounding variety of styles blended together here, from tango, salsa, and flamenco to New Orleans-styled brass band blues and dance numbers, and everything comes out sounding distinctly Afro-Peruvian no matter how many regional variations are tossed into the mix. But Baca isn’t about fusion so much as she is about shining a light on how much folk traditions continually soak up new wrinkles and rhythms as part of the natural human approach to making and playing music, and if the Afro-Andean elements on display here are relatively new, they’re fully in line with what folk music always does: take what works and run with it. There are some gems here, including an Afro-Peruvian remake of the Meters' “Hey Pocky Way,” complete with a brass band, that suggests that the blues and salsa might just be cut from the same cloth. If there’s a misstep on this fine album, it’s the closing cut, which features Carlos Mosquera singing Victor Merino's song for and about Baca, “Canta Susana.” Yeah, it would have been odd to have Baca sing her own praises, but it’s only slightly less odd to have a guest singer do it. Not that it’s a bad song or a poor performance -- it isn’t -- but it just doesn’t somehow seem to fit with the rest of this impressive outing.

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