non-speakers are at something of a disadvantage with Susana Baca’s new EP,
which interprets the songs of Peru’s
Chabuca Granda and (on one track) adapts the verse of Spain’s
Federico Garcia Lorca. The lyrics of all six songs are translated on the CD’s
inside cover, but it’s easier to appreciate the poetry of Baca’s voice when not
following along with the cheat sheet.
who died in 1983, was one of the first Peruvian poet-songwriters to integrate
the various strains of her country’s culture, African and Andean as well as
European. Baca is Afro-Peruvian, and her music often suggests Brazil, the
continent’s best-known exporter of musical styles. For Seis Poemas, the singer has chosen spare arrangements, without the
chattering polyrhythms of her previous work. Yet these hushed songs have plenty
of drive, even when Baca is accompanied by only flute and drum on “Los
Lagartes” (which sets a Lorca poem about anthropomorphic lizards).
is still an open path/And a star,” announces the opening number, Granda’s
“El Bosque Armado (“La Canoa),” and the EP does have the sense
of a journey. That’s especially true during “Resbalosas,” a
seven-minute version of a folk song about a woman whose “heart hurts so
deeply that I can’t go on.” This is no power ballad, but the tune’s
emotion steadily intensifies, an increase expressed primarily by Baca’s voice.
With all due respect to Granda and Lorca, on Seis Poemas the crucial thing is the singer, not the poem.
Standout Tracks: “Resbalosas,” “Venadito de los montes” MARK JENKINS