Live: Concha Buika Plays With Pronouns... And You

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Concha Buika
Highline Ballroom
Sunday, June 24

Better than: Dreaming of her.

A 2009 performance by Concha Buika is on YouTube showing the Spanish singer in Lincoln Center's Damroch Park backed by solo piano and performing a smoldering version of "Tu Volverás." Even then, with minimal accompaniment, star quality oozes from every pore and note. It's not just her flawless diction and phrasing; Buika's intellectual command of her material makes each song she tackles hard to forget. You see the same showmanship when Aretha Franklin performs "Respect" in the original Blues Brothers movie: Acting out the words as she sings, ReRe's personal authority makes you believe she wrote the tune on the spot.

Similarly combining passion with dignity, Buika sidesteps the kinds of cheese-bombs set off by early attempts to merge her organic tone with the digital frequencies of EDM and transforms wistful ballads and kinetic flamenco coplas from atavistic torch songs into Lady Liberty's beacon. Only when sung with this sort of fierce, wholehearted abandon can unrequited love heal, liberate, and vindicate its own pain. When you consider how easily television reduces contemporary romance to tacky dating-game parodies like The Choice or to grim post-mortems like Divorce Court, we clearly need somebody sane enough to put capital-L love back on a pedestal. Buika has the guts, the sanity, and the talent to do just that.

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More Than Words: Going Polyglot With Concha Buika And Les Nubians


In the '60s and '70s danceable jazz-pop in foreign languages made American radio more exciting: Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada" charted when recorded by Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66; it was followed by Miriam Makeba's remake of "Pata Pata" in 1967, Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" when covered by Santana in 1970, and Manu Dibango's irresistible "Soul Makossa" in 1972. Something about each single's arrangements, rhythms, and vocals allowed these crossover miracles to seduce stateside listeners who only understand English.

Don't be too surprised if it happens again with Spanish singer Concha Buika and French high-concept hip-hoppers Les Nubians; they seem uniquely positioned to win America's love, even though Buika normally sings in Spanish while Hélène and Célia Faussart record mostly in French.


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