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Flamenco Sensation Buika Embraces Her 'Animal' Voice

Buika blends flamenco with African rhythms, jazz, blues and soul.
Javi Rojo
Buika blends flamenco with African rhythms, jazz, blues and soul.

Spanish flamenco singer Concha Buika says the key to her music is singing with a "beautiful idea" and "really big desire." Born on the Spanish island of Majorca to parents who fled their home in Equatorial Guinea, Buika performs music that transcends boundaries of language and race.

Flamenco may be the root of everything she does, but she blends it with African rhythms, jazz, blues and soul. She's been compared to Nina Simone, Chavela Vargas and Cesaria Evora. Her latest and most diverse album, La Noche Más Larga (The Longest Night), features her own compositions, as well as covers of songs by jazz greats like Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln.

Buika recently spoke with Tell Me More host Michel Martin about her heritage, strength and latest album.


On her roots

"My friend used to tell me, 'No you're not from here.' And my aunties and uncles and my cousins, when they used to come around from Africa, they used to tell me, 'No, you're not African.' So at the end, I never knew, you know, where I was from."

On being criticized for her voice

"My teacher in the church, we were singing one afternoon, and she was like, 'Someone is singing like a dog.' And everybody was looking at me. So I realized it was myself. And she was like, 'Come, little girl, come, little girl. Sit down next to me.' And she gives me a Coca-Cola and she says, 'Don't worry, you're not going to sing today.' And the day after, she calls my mother and she was like, 'Tell your little girl don't come by here again.'

On women being strong and not vulnerable

"I'm African. I'm a black girl. To me it means a lot. ... I feel a strong animal. Even my friends, I feel all my friends are strong animals. ... I don't believe that when a woman says that she cannot go on, that everything is over; that she wants to kill herself because that man left, or whatever. I don't believe those things."

On impersonating Tina Turner in Las Vegas

"Tina helped me a lot. Every time I think [about] her, I feel strong. Because sometimes to be on stage, you know, your body hurts. Because some notes are really difficult. Because they go through a room that you don't want to open."

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