More than a decade ago, Susana Baca was one of the standout voices on The Soul of Black Peru, a compilation on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label that found its way into the collections of many budding lovers of global music. Her version of the classic song “Maria Lando” was hauntingly memorable, and it launched her successful career at the forefront of an Afro-Peruvian music revival.
Baca has remained artistically ambitious ever since, and her new album, Afrodiaspora, is no exception: On it she traces the influence of African music across a wide swath of Latin America, adopting styles from cumbia to tango and incorporating elements from Venezuelan rhythms to indigenous Peruvian melodies. “I feel the music of Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Puerto Rico as if it were mine,” Baca has written, and she inhabits these songs accordingly, applying her elegant alto to them with a sense of gracefully restrained drama.
Baca has also noted that she “left out” a lot of music that might have made it onto this album, which leaves listeners in the fortunate position of anticipating more from this world-class singer.
Have something to say? Send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the July-August 2011 issue of Utne Reader.