Susana Baca

Lamento Negro

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1986's Lamento Negro was recorded not in Susana Baca's native Peru, but in Cuba with a group of musicians left uncredited on the sleeve. (Before getting your hopes up, no, it doesn't sound like any members of the Buena Vista Social Club are involved.) Although elements of the more familiar Afro Peruvian style first introduced to U.S. audiences on 1997's Susana Baca are present and accounted for (note the glorious "Maria Lando"), Lamento Negro incorporates elements of Afro-Cuban jazz, Brazilian pop, and even classical art song. Most of the tracks, rather than being traditional songs, are musical settings of poems by the likes of Pablo Neruda, Mario Benedetti, and Cesar Vellejo. The resulting tracks are often bracing, but they tend to be hemmed in by the meter of the poetry itself; the recasting of Neruda's "Los Marineros," a funeral dirge set to a haunting, lovely string melody, is fascinating, but one does occasionally wish for the more subtle rhythmic looseness of Baca's more traditional records. The album was originally a Cuban-only release; it was issued in the U.K. and U.S. in 2001, apparently against Baca's wishes.

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