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Hailed as the “Flamenco Queen,” Buika is the daughter of political refugees from the African nation of Equatorial Guinea and grew up in a gypsy neighborhood on the Spanish island of Mallorca. The New York Times calls her unique blend of flamenco, jazz, soul and blues, “luminous…magnificent…superb!”

Voted one of world’s “50 Great Voices” by NPR, Buika—born on the island of MaJorca to African immigrant parents—has emerged as a true innovator, a must-see artist among jazz aficionados. Her evident African roots and her cosmopolitanism, developed in clubs in Spain and Americanized during a surreal stint in Las Vegas, explain Buika’s rare self-possession. But nothing can quite explain her ability to connect, in spite of the fact that she sings nearly exclusively in Spanish—Buika is simply one of those rare and wonderful “one listen” artists. It’s a quality that struck the renowned filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, who cast her in The Skin I Live In, and jazz legend Chick Corea, who featured Buika as a special guest during his epic run at the Blue Note in late 2011.

Buika is an artist whose time has arrived. With a 2012 summer European tour (including a pre-Olympics date with fado star Mariza in London) and more American dates set for the fall (including her own four-night run at the Blue Note in November), Buika  is rapidly being recognized as one of the most dynamic, individualistic performers in contemporary vocal jazz. Her 2009 collaboration with Chucho Valdés, El Ultimo Trago (The Last Drink), a homage to the Mexican singing legend Chavela Vargas, won Buika her first Latin Grammy award for “Best Traditional Tropical Album.” The following year she recorded a duet with Seal, “You Get Me” for his CD Seal 6: Commitment, and more recently, Buika appeared as a guest vocalist on sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar’s Traveller CD (on the track “Casi Uno”).

Her latest release is En Mi Piel (In My Skin), an exhaustive two-disc compilation on Warner Music Latina that showcased Buika’s breathtaking diversity and range—and her development as a total artist. The collection begins with the two songs she performed in the Almodóvar film: “Por el amor de amar” (For the Love of Love) and a scintillating version of “Se me hizo facil” (It Was Easy), the original of which appeared on the Trago CD. En Mi Piel also features signature songs from her earlier releases and as well as tracks culled from Buika’s guest appearances on projects by producer/guitarist Javier Limón, singer Armando Manzanero, Cuban pianists Bebo and Chucho Valdés, and special editions of her CDs not available in the U.S.

Buika (“BWEE-kah”) was born María Concepción Balboa Buika to parents who came to Spain from Equatorial Guinea as political exiles, They were the only black residents in one of Palma de Mallorca’s poor neighborhoods, and such local curiosities that Buika—also known as Concha Buika—remembers how neighbors used to reach out to touch her hair, an Afro styled from pictures of her early musical idols, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. She found a second home among the community of Gypsy families, finding in flamenco’s individualistic spirit a path to self-acceptance. Flamenco was an open door, remembers Buika: “It’s not just about music, it’s a way of life. It’s about not running away from yourself. Some people sing about what they would like to happen or how they would like to be, but in the copla and cante, we confront who we are, with all our fears and all our defects.”

After a few false starts in Euro R&B, Buika released her U.S. debut Mi Niña Lola (My Little Girl Lola) in 2007, which by that time had already won “Best Album” and “Best Production” honors at the Spanish Music Awards. She also spent time in Las Vegas working as a Tina Turner impersonator! Her next recording project, Niña de Fuego (Child of Fire), released in 2008, helped to catapult her internationally into the ranks of the most exciting voices in modern Latin music.

With buzz built on just a handful of concerts in Miami, L.A. and New York, the CD scored two Latin Grammy nominations in 2008, “Album of the Year” and “Best Production,” and the singer was soon invited to appear on the televised awards, performing her searing rendition of the Mexican classic, “Volver, Volver.” In 2009 she released the Latin Grammy-winning El Ultimo Trago (The Last Drink).

With her career on the rise, Buika relocated to the States in 2011, settling in Miami, in part to meet the demand from American concert presenters and jazz clubs and partly because, as an African, she was still treated as an outsider in Spain. With each new endeavor, Buika’s fan base continues to expand and become more fervent in its praises. And her concert audiences now include such luminaries as Alicia Keys, Gloria Estefan, Antony Hegarty, and Alejandro Sanz.

This year Buika moves beyond her Spanish language borders to begin recording her next CD release, a multi-lingual collection of torch songs from around the world, her first CD to be recorded in the U.S.


“Much like Chavela, Buika is able to make her audience feel completely exposed. Her songs transport us to a place where we are left face to face with our own romantic history, one in which our failures stand out the most.  And, what’s more, after listening to her sing, one is determined to keep making the same mistakes because there are no rules, no common sense, no caution and no regret in passion. In El Último Trago, Buika celebrates all the incarnations of passion, from the most glowing to the darkest. She does so in a thrilling and original way.”

Buika (voice), Santiago Cañada (trombon), Ramón Porrina (cajon), Josue Ronkio (bass)