One of the most satisfying new sounds in the nebulous category of world music is the anguished rasp of a gypsy singer named Concha Buika. Her sound brings back the old days -- the really old days, when Egypt still had a pharoah and the most daring route across the Mediterranean was through the middle of the sea, hopping through Ibiza and the other Balearic Islands along the way. So it happened that, by the 1960s, this paradoxically insular crossroads became famous as a hippie party hangout, especially Ibiza. Many people today associate the Balearic Islands with the sonic no-place-specific of Ibiza's chill-by-the-pool DJ music. But Buika's family were political exiles from Equatorial Guinea -- the only black family in the neighborhood of Palma de Mallorca where she was born.
She sings a soulful, bluesy style of cosmopolitan flamenco that on her album, Mi Niña Lola (Warner Music Latina), is supported by Cuban players, bassist Alaín Pérez, drummer Horacio "El Negro" Hernández and Latin-jazz trumpet icon Jerry González. The rough beauty that bursts out of her lungs tells you -- among the other things it tells you -- that there's a lot more to Mallorca than the casual visitor will see. In her modern-day crossroads of Africa-meets-gypsies-in- Spain, pleasure is there, for sure, but even in love there is struggle: "With torment and pain / I make my own way / And let the sea breeze / Point me to my destination." The sailors of 2,500 years ago might have said the same.
LISTEN online at miwml.com/buika. There you'll find song samples of Buika's two most recent CDs -- Mi Nina Lola (2006) and Buika (2005) -- as well as video clips, an extended bio and more.