CULTURE

Flamenco and jazz via soul

Music runs in her veins and singing is her life. Born in Spain to Guinean immigrant parents in 1972, Concha Buika grew up surrounded by music, singing and dancing. Buika’s appearance at the Scholeion venue tomorrow evening promises to explore her versatility: from flamenco to soul via funk, a little bit of hip-hop and jazz. Her ability in the so-called crossover field was also evident in her recent collaboration with Greek vocalist Eleftheria Arvanitaki. «My music influences come from Africa,» the singer told Kathimerini in an interview. «There are a number of Cuban musicians in my band – my grandfather briefly lived in Cuba, but that has nothing to do with my music. There were other references, from the kind of music we listened to at home and around the neighborhood. We listened to absolutely everything.» Early on it was obvious that Buika was musically gifted. Her life changed, however, after Pat Metheny spotted her in London and invited her to one of his concerts. «Jazz has always been part of my life, long before I started appearing at jazz clubs,» said Buika. Not content with performing at smaller or even bigger jazz clubs, Buika found herself in Las Vegas. «It was a very tough experience,» she said. «I had no idea where I was heading. Colleagues of mine from the casinos in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, told me that there were many casinos [in Vegas] and that meant plenty of work. My arrival there was a traumatic experience. The ‘city’ was a collection of casinos in the middle of nowhere. I was under the impression that as a Spanish citizen I was legal all around the world, but when I got there, I realized that was not the case. Since I didn’t have any papers, I had to work three jobs to survive. I was living with my young son and I had to make sure I had money for food and rent. It wasn’t really an artistic journey, but one of survival.» Having survived Las Vegas, Buika arrived in New York and the celebrated Blue Note Jazz Club, as a guest of New York City jazz diva Rachelle Ferrell. «I don’t like labels. I prefer things to be fluid. Music can take me very far. I’m one of those people who lets themselves go. More than anything, I consider myself a singer. My hope is that when I turn 50 I will be considered ‘a promising jazz singer,’» said Buika. With five albums under her belt so far, Buika is best known for her voice, as well as writing some of her songs. «My songs have to do with personal experiences, with my feelings. I can’t write about things I’m not familiar with. I write music to bring out my sorrows, so that they don’t remain inside; it’s a kind of cathartic exercise.» What was it like working with Arvanitaki? »To begin with, we suited each other on the musical level; I was really impressed. I was in my own environment: singing in my language, at Javier Limon’s studio, a familiar – to me – copla. She had never sung a copla before and I’m sure she doesn’t speak Spanish. It didn’t take long for her to record the song – which came out beautifully. After the recording session, we sat and talked for a long time. Eleftheria has been in music longer than I have and I heard some wonderful things.» To Scholeion, 52 Pireos. For tickets, contact the Greek Festival at 39 Panepistimiou (within the arcade), tel 210.327.2000.