Voice Of The People: Concha Buika comes to town

With one of the most incredible voices around today, excitement was evident from the off as the bustling wealth of rich, slightly less rich and eccentric impatiently awaited jazz flamenco songstress and newest muse to Pedro Almodovar, Concha Buika, to arrive at Santiago’s Teatro Oriente.

Photo by Thomas Rimbot
Photo by Thomas Rimbot

After ruffled theatre-goers had resorted to inoffensively clapping in unison to urge them out of the dressing room, both Buika, barefoot and dressed in a flowing red dress, and her pianist entered the stage.

Photo by Thomas Rimbot
Photo by Thomas Rimbot

With soft blue lights grazing the steel of the instruments, the duo looked more like they were trapped between an 80s disco and a 50s American diner. Ms. Buika brought herself to centre-stage and thanked everyone for coming as the quiet piano started up.

After smooth, jazz-infused beginnings, the double-bassist and percussionist took the stage. Wearing a cool, white fedora hat with golden light stretching across his bongos, the percussionist seemed to have come straight out of an old 30s club, dragging the bassist with him. They jumped into another ditty and promptly moved onto something that sounded awfully Cuban.

It doesn’t take much to see why Almodovar has decided to take inspiration from Ms. Buika. The tap-drum and chugging bass make for fabulous accompaniment to the yelping piano, but it’s Ms. Buika’s formidable voice that makes this outfit so utterly compelling.

As the spotlight flicked from one musician to the next, the percussionist ran a brush over the drums as if he were rustling paper.

Photo by Thomas Rimbot
Photo by Thomas Rimbot

Over the delightful harmony of the three gents, Ms. Buika screamed like a banshee as the piano built higher and higher until it all but exploded in a mass of crescendo.

At this point, you would have been forgiven if you had momentarily lapsed, thinking you were a tiger tucked deep in the jungle on the cusp of slyly catching your prey. Ms. Buika’s voice really is that powerful.

Yet, with all this power, Ms. Buika never loses her allure. On the final song, she thanked everyone from the bottom of her heart for coming and seems genuinely gracious. She then received a huge standing ovation that probably hasn’t been seen or heard in the theatre for quite some time. The crowd, far removed from their conservative beginnings, begin to hoot, holler, stomp and shout, yelling “Otra! Otra!” (Encore! Encore!), to which she charmingly obliged. Twice.

Finishing on a high note, Ms. Buika shrieked wildly with all her might as everything crashed into one. Such a mighty shriek though, instead of sounding like some old hag, made her seem definitively angelic. An incredible voice from one of the most likeable singers around today. If there ever was a true voice of the people, Concha Buika might just be it.

Concha Buika
December 2009
Teatro Oriente
Santiago, Chile

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