Buika is such a versatile artist that it is quite a mystery how she manages to get everything done. Not only is she a polyglot, singing in Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, French and English. She is also manoeuvring elegantly through genres, collaborating with musicians as different as Chick Corea and Nelly Furtado. As if that wasn’t enough, she is a published author and poet, as well as her own producer. Her live personality does not suggest that she is a well-organised multitasker, so it must rather her determination that makes her so productive. Where does this great and omnipotent voice come from?
Born Maria Concepión Balboa Buika, she has a background that is both complex and colourful. Her parents lived in Equatorial Guinea until the early 1970s, when they fled from Macias Nguema’s dictatorship. They ended up in a Gypsy neighbourhood on the Spanish island of Majorca, where Buika was born. As the only African kid on the block, she had to create her own identity. In her journey, she discovered Tina Turner, who became her great idol. The Gypsies taught Buika the traditions of flamenco, and she developed an interest for singing. In church, she was told that she sang like a dog. But those who were really listening noticed a soul in her voice that is not found among many singers. According to herself, it is the soul of freedom. “If I were born [in Africa], I think that my voice would sound like a prisoner’s voice”, she says.
Her musical career began in 2000 with Mestizüo, an album made in collaboration with Spanish pianist Jacob Sureda. The following years have seen seven more Buika records covering jazz, Cuban Flamenco, Andalusian Copla, soul, blues and electronica. She has written music for the score of Pedro Almodóvar’s film La piel que habito, and covered artists like Abbey Lincoln, Billie Holiday and Jaques Brel.
Buika’s Norwegian début performance was at the Oslo World Music Festival in 2008. And we can’t wait to hear her sing her freedom again.
Text: Kristian Krogh-Sørensen