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Revered Afro-Peruvian Vocalist Celebrates African Influence on Latin America with Ambitious New Album
"Ms. Baca, with her cool, distinct voice, as beautiful as any working in pop, has the strength to create her own tradition." -NY Times
"Baca captures history, even as she transcends it." -Rolling Stone
"The focus, as it should be, is on the Afro-Peruvian singer's stunning voice: She sings with an extraordinarily smooth tone, touched with an almost subliminal rasp, and phrases with such grace and precision you immediately know you're listening to a master." -Salon.com
"Baca's smoky, ethereal voice has an ageless dignity, a rare authority." -Chicago Tribune
On May 10, Susana Baca adds a compelling new chapter to her lifelong musical journey with her new Luaka Bop release, Afrodiaspora. The singular project finds the Grammy Award-winning Afro-Peruvian vocalist exploring the pervasive African influence upon Latin American music and culture. Afrodiaspora is a milestone effort in Baca's distinguished body of work, which already encompasses more than a dozen beloved albums. Interviews and photos are available upon request.
Baca has long been a crucial force in raising awareness and appreciation of Afro-Peruvian music and culture, both within Peru and internationally. Baca's deeply evocative lyrics and emotion-charged singing first gained widespread attention in America in 1995, when she was featured on the Luaka Bop compilation CD, The Soul of Black Peru. In the years since, she has remained an influential exponent of her home country's musical traditions, performing concerts around the world and releasing a series of acclaimed recordings. The music of Afrodiaspora reflects Susana Baca's adventurous poetic spirit, offering a deeply expressive mix of African and Latin American influences, framed by the artist's distinct Afro-Peruvian perspective. "This record is our celebration of the African presence in the Americas and the way it has become a part of Latin America," Baca says of Afrodiaspora. "The culture, the music and our whole selves are all about the mixture of Spanish, Indian and African cultures. Afrodiaspora celebrates the experience of people that have underwent an incredible journey, where only the strong survived." Baca continues, "I feel the music of Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela and Puerto Rico as if it were mine. I have traveled to many places where Afro descendents live in Latin America. Many of them are poor and forgotten places, neglected and excluded by governments, but at the same time they have a spiritual strength that expresses the African presence. So I try to sing songs from these places, and I try to honor the shared blood and the way that the African presence has influenced Latin America."
The 11 tracks featured on Afrodiaspora draw upon the talents of such notable songwriters as Javier Ruibal, Ivn Benavides and Javier Lazo, and span a wide range of traditional and contemporary styles, from the Colombian cumbia of "Detras de la Puerta" to the Puerto Rican rhythms of "Plena y Bomba" to the Cuban beat of "Baho Kende/Palo Mayimbe" (a tribute to salsa queen Celia Cruz) to the powerful Venezuelan drumming of "Taki Ti Taki" to the elegant Mexican waltz of "Que Lindo tu Vestido" (an homage to noted singer and folklorist Amparo Ochoa). Elsewhere on the album, Baca offers an audacious reworking of "Hey Pocky Way," a New Orleans funk classic originally popularized by The Meters. That number was inspired by Baca's temporary residence in New Orleans, which was interrupted in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. "Canta Susana," meanwhile, is Peruvian songwriter Victor Merino's tribute to Baca's iconic status, sung here by the famous Peruvian salsa singer Carlos Mosquera. Afrodiaspora features Baca's regular group of musicians, who keep the tracks rooted in Peru while adapting their performances to the rhythmic and harmonic demands of the varied material, along with an eclectic assortment of guest performers. Santana drummer Michael Shrieve lends his percussive skills on "Yana Runa," Rene "Residente" Perez of Puerto Rican hip-hop stars Calle 13 adds a rap to "Plena y Bomba," and Martha Gonzalez and Quetzal Flores perform on "Que Bonito Tu Vestido." Chicago blues great Billy Branch also lends his distinctive harmonica playing to "Hey Pocky Way," as does ace jazz trombonist Wayne Wallace.
The album (recorded in Lima, San Francisco, Chicago and Mexico) was produced by Baca's husband Ricardo Pereira along with Greg Landau, the team that produced her first Luaka Bop CD, Susana Baca. Susana and Ricardo founded the Instituto Negrocontinuo (Black Continuum Institute). That organization - based in Caete, the heart of the Afro-Peruvian community - fosters the collection, preservation and creation of Afro-Peruvian culture, music and dance. Afrodiaspora marks a landmark cultural narrative set within an upbeat and inspired musical landscape. An international star, Susana Baca preserves all that is close to her heart and offers an intimate look into the remarkable impact of African music on the world.