Long before Susana Baca became one of international music’s essential stars, she ranked as one of the most important figures in the Afro-Peruvian revival. Overcoming the cultural stigma surrounding women performers, not to mention the lowly status of black music in Peru, Baca forged an extraordinary career. In 1995, David Byrne included her heartrending rendition of “María Lando” on his compilation Soul of Black Peru, bringing her music to a global audience; she has since released six albums on Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. The founder of a museum and cultural center celebrating Afro-Peruvian traditions, Baca made history in 2011 when she was appointed Peru’s first black female minister of culture.
When Baca was a student in Chorrillos, in Lima, she began a lifelong journey as an ethnomusicologist, collecting and performing a vast repertoire of songs at the cultural crossroads of Africa, the Andes, and Spain. She takes “unique musical forms like the halting lando and lively festejo into the twenty-first century without diluting their essence,” declares the BBC. As she approaches the fifth decade of her career, Baca is renowned as much for her songs as for her graceful and commanding stage presence: surrounded by a band playing traditional Peruvian instruments, Baca dances barefoot as she sings.
“Soft but firm, wise yet playful, forthright in diction while suggestively leaning in pitch, Ms. Baca's voice moves to rhythms conjured with the simplest of instruments.” — The Wall Street Journal
“Baca's bracing, fresh-sounding voice is filled with a joyous, unfettered enthusiasm.” — Los Angeles Times
“… a voice that has a halo of breathiness around a core of gentle determination.” — The New York Times
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