Could There Be A More Fitting Ministra de Cultura?
Susana Baca, her grace, appears in New York
By Carolina Amoruso*
How do you breathe a pristine freshness and a love for living into every note you
sing, every smile you garland those around you with, every twirl of your skirt and
every ground-embracing fall of your bare feet?
Ask Susana Baca. She’ll tell you. Or maybe she won’t; her elegance, her
mastery of song and stage and living are inbred; Susana Baca is one of the
very few artistes who exude a genuine, innate, and ultimately inexplicable
We, her admirers at the casually fashionable City Winery in Soho last Sunday
evening, basked in her graces for a too short, hour-plus set, spanning her
repertoire of Afro-Peruvian standards, her own poetic ballads, and gentle, but
not smooth, jazz, as she and her set—percussion, baby bass, guitar and violin—
came into our living room. Or did we come into theirs?
I’d missed the arrival of her latest release in April, “Afrodiaspora,” and was
delighted by two of the three selections she offered from it: Bendiceme had
a fetching way of moving from slow ballad to the immediacy of Afro-Peru’s
overpowering rhythms, and Detrás de la Puerta was catchy and coquettish.
(They, I must confess, sent me to Amazon next morning.) The third, Hey Pocky
Way, a cover of the Meters’ New Orleans funk tune, was the only one that didn’t
work for me all evening. I kept hoping for that Eureka! moment when the band
would find a groove and settle into it, but it seemed not to be able to bridge the
continental divide. And the violin, which, for the rest of the evening, set down a
subtle and satisfying tension between Ms Baca’s bittersweet suavity and its own
bittersweet stridency, seemed discordant now.
On firmer ground, the band, with Ms Baca’s cooing yet commanding vocals,
always adding a change here or there to her recognized phrasing, gave a new
poignancy to Molino Molero and came closest to getting the supper club crowd
roused onto its feet, making a drum fest of Toro Mata.
There was only one other detraction, typically one that turned a deficit into
triumph: infrequently, she had to search for a correct tone, usually in the opening
lines of a song. But once she gave a touch to her ear monitor and found her
way, her smile would broaden, eyes closing more tightly shut, and her long, thin
fingers on dancer’s arms would make an even more embracing gesture to us,
confirming, lest we forget, that we were in her thrall.
* Hawansuyo comparte la opinion de Carolina Amorouso por la cual un simple mortal no pudo descubrir tremendo astro