Two iconic artists, guitarist Carlos Santana and vocalist Santana teamed up to record a superb album titled Africa Speaks .
Carlos Santana brought to the table his wide-ranging experience in mixing Afro-Cuban music with rock, jazz and other global music influences. Afro-Spanish singer Buika is deeply influenced by the African music of her parents, flamenco, jazz, soul and Afropop.
Together, Santana and Buika deliver a remarkable album, where two unique sounds meet and intertwine: Santana’s highly recognizable electric guitar and Buika’s distinctive voice and singing style.
Santana was a pioneer in world fusion, combining Cuban music and rock in his early albums. Now, rock, African, flamenco and Afro-Latin sounds come together in an explosive mix on Africa Speaks.
“This is music that I hold so dearly, and it’s not a stranger to me,” says Carlos Santana. “The rhythms, grooves and melodies from Africa have always inspired me. It’s in my DNA. If you take your inspiration from many, it’s called research. I researched this beautiful music from the African continent. They have a frequency that’s all their own. It’s funny, because when I play in Africa, people say, ‘How do you know our music?’ And I say, ‘How can I not know what I love?’”
Personnel: Carlos Santana on lead electric and rhythm guitars, backing vocals and percussion; Buika on lead vocals; Laura Mvula on backing vocals; Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums; Salvador Santana on keyboards; Tommy Anthony on rhythm guitar; Benny Rietveld on bass; Karl Perazzo on timbales, congas and percussion; David K. Mathews on Hammond B3 organ and keyboards; Andy Vargas on backing vocals; and Ray Greene on backing vocals.
Africa Speaks brings out of the best of Santana and Buika: memorable guitars and exceptionally expressive vocals rooted in African traditions. One of Santana’s finest albums in many years.
I’ve had trouble accepting the (no doubt overstated) contention that compact discs are rapidly becoming a thing of the past or, in the opinion of some, already are. Granted, the number of CDs dropping through my mail slot has decreased (which is one reason why I haven’t reviewed any for this site in many months), but the flow certainly hasn’t run completely dry. So with all due gratitude to the forbearance of World Music Central and those who continue to bless me with shiny circles of sonic discovery from around the world, here’s my take on some that have engaged my ears of late.
African rhythms have been successfully combined with the Celtic music most closely affiliated with Ireland, but to the best of my limited knowledge, African and Scottish music hasn’t had a proper melding. Boston’s Soulsha is out to change that with Carry it On (Soulsha, 2019).
Funky, bagpipe-laden melodies swirl their way into hot breaks punctuated by sabar and talking drums, invitations to celebrate and dance are plentiful, equal measures of Western and African musical language are apparent in both music and lyrics, and there’s not a single track here that won’t move you literally and/or in spirit. You’ll hear grooves with origins in Scotland, Senegal, New Orleans and the inner city, and the brief interludes between some of the tracks only hint at the next burst of pure joy to come. Highly energetic and highly enjoyable throughout.
The latest discovery in the seemingly endless succession of great musical treasures from Cape Verde is Laço Umbilical (Lusafrica, 2019) the debut album by Lucibela. She’s got that kind of lilting, longing vocal style brought to the world by Cesaria Evora and the many that followed, and the bubbling, mainly acoustic accompaniment alongside her matches with swaying perfection. Influences of Brazilian samba and the wider Lusophone world are many, making this a lovely addition to the Cape Verdean canon.
Longtime Swedish trio Väsen is back with Rule of 3 (NorthSide, 2019). Their combination of acoustic guitar, viola and nyckelharpa (a keyed, bowed traditional Scandinavian instrument) is as winning and evocative as ever, as much for the way the three of them blend into one exquisitely crafted wall of sound as for the way they ably support each other when one of the three is prominent. There are no vocals on these 15 original tunes, just a triad of gents wielding their instruments with unencumbered, nothing-to-prove expertise suggestive of everything from folkloric dances to loosely structured jazz and quiet afternoon chamber music. Savor this at your leisure and then feel free to savor it all over again (which you’ll likely want to do).
New Yorker Benji Kaplan and Brazilian Rita Figueiredo, both accomplished musicians on their own, combine to form the duo of Benji & Rita on their self-titled, self-released (2019) first album. Fans of classic Brazilian styles will take an instant liking to this, and the abundance of strings and reeds in the arrangements are often employed to create sweetly moody interludes between passages where the rhythms kick in. Rita’s richly textured vocals engage from the start, Benji’s arrangements and guitar are as first rate as his compositions (please tell me I’m not the only one who hears melodic nods to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” on “Zenite e Nadir”), and topical sentiments like the anti-war “Memorial Day” take things even higher. It’s quite an impressive and wide-ranging debut, sporting roots in Brazil and branches in many other places. I hope this twosome stays and plays together for a long time.
Another Brazilian voice kicks off the compilation Acoustic Women (Putumayo, 2019). Fernanda Cunha’s heart-stroking samba is a perfect start to a very fine set of songs by ladies hailing from various points. Some were already familiar to me, some not. I needed no reminders as to the greatness of Spain’s Buika or France’s Francesca Blanchard, and discoveries like the Arab Spring testimonial of Lebanese singer Tania Saleh, the wistful harmonies of Welsh collective Bendith and Canan Uzerli’s splendid German/Turkish duality are ear-openers of the highest order. Another in a long series of keepers from Putumayo, Acoustic Women scores big by spotlighting an intriguing selection of artists and maintaining an air of delicate but sturdily crafted beauty. It’s just under 33 minutes long, but not a moment is wasted.
The musical attitudes of singer/guitarist John Westmoreland were shaped by the passing of his musician grandfather, his partial Finnish heritage, several American folk icons and a stint in Senegalese kora player Diali Cissokho’s band. It all adds up to Cast Fire (self-released, 2019) by the band that bears his surname, Westmoreland. Even before I read the same comparison in the promotional material, what I heard in Westmoreland’s sound reminded me of Leonard Cohen: sung/spoken vocals, a dose of mysticism in the lyrics, a certain degree of aloofness, etc. What could have been a straight up folk rock album is given a “world” overtone with additions like subtle African percussion, charango, the aforementioned kora and some unconventional, unhurried rhythms. A cover of “All Along the Watchtower” feels a bit thrown in, but original material like the soul-searching realities of “Open Your Eyes,” “By and By” and the title track run deep and satisfying.
Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles turns dour demons into dancing angels on Carnival: TheSound of a People (Culture Shock Music, 2017, released 2019). Trinidad’s carnival celebration includes many a devilish character to remind humankind of the ills we’ve inflicted on each other, and Charles performs a kind of musical exorcism on them by combining tightly structured jazz, freewheeling Afro-Caribbean beats and the basics of bamboo, iron and steel percussion into an ecstatic mashup that’ll get your jumbies jumping like crazy. This is an absolutely fantastic release that words can’t adequately describe. Just get it.
And if You Will Come to Me(Cumbancha, 2019), the latest from Israel’s Idan Raichel, finds him in very good form. A keyboardist, composer, producer and programmer of formidable skill, some of his works have nonetheless come across as a bit cold. Not so here. Featuring guest musicians and sounds from Bulgaria, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Japan and Niger, the album is an innovative and melodically pleasing series of tracks that blend global elements into Raichel’s Hebraic sensibilities with grace and style. It’s dance music, meditative music, unity-promoting music, roots music and cutting edge music seamlessly rolled into one, and it all stirs the heart and hips from the get go.
Best described as indie pop world music, Man Made Fire (self-released, 2019) by Petit Celine is a sometimes quirky, ferociously catchy set of songs created by a multilingual chanteuse who cares less about categorization and more about accessing the emotions that link us all. Whether sizing up the human condition in all seriousness or musing about a dude in a wine bar, Celine hits target after target on songs that borrow from jazz, rock, blues, techno, cabaret and more. But regardless of what the songs borrow, they never fail to give back to the listener a heap of both fun and food for thought.
Celebrated guitarist and composer Carlos Santana has released the video electronic press kit from his upcoming album, Africa Speaks (Concord Records).
Santana and his eight-piece band (that includes Santana’s wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums), got together at Shangri La Studios in Malibu to record a large number of tracks during a 10-day period. Acclaimed Afro-Spanish singer Buika provided the lead vocals throughout the album.
This international music compilation provides a sampling of
music made by female artists from various countries. The styles vary considerably.
The Acoustic Women highlights include the opening track by Brazil’s Fernanda Cunha, an irresistible samba titled “Amanheceu”; the soulful flamenco jazz “La Falsa Moneda” by Afro-Spanish singer Buika; the warm feel of “Samba Le” by Martinique’s female trio Elle & Elles; the beautifully-crafted “Todo me lleva a ti” by the charming Colombian artist Mónica Giraldo; and the Celtic flavored “Angel” by Bendith (Wales).
Legendary rock guitarist Carlos Santana has announced the release of a new album titled Africa Speaks, on Concord Records. The new album includes the song “Los Invisibles” that features acclaimed Spanish singer Buika.
Buika (pronounced BWEE-kah) was born Concha Buika on the Spanish island of Mallorca, to parents who arrived to Spain as political exiles from Equatorial Guinea. They lived in the island’s capital city, Palma de Mallorca, where, Buika remembers, the only black resident other than her family members was a man hired to stand in the doorway of a gift shop, like just another novelty on display.
She was a skinny girl with an afro hair style that curious neighbors would reach out to touch — hair which she later learned to style from photos of her early musical idols Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Her father, a writer and activist, left the family and returned to Guinea, and her mother raised Buika and her five siblings in a household “filled with people, food and music.” She grew up singing and playing instruments – guitar, piano, bass. She has recently taken up cello.
“I am African and an African does not have musical training,”she explains. “An African can’t live without music. When my grandmother was upset with someone and so mad she couldn’t speak, she would sing what she wanted to say to them instead. My first memories are of hearing music playing. Like meals, music was part of our daily life. There has always been music in my head and in my heart.”
Buika also found a second home among the community of Gypsy families who had settled in Palma. She played after school in that marginal neighborhood, and as always, music was a part of those long childhood afternoons, which are echoed today in Buika’s instinctive embrace of flamenco’s emotional deep song, and the copla. But as much as she is currently identified with the copla, and credited with reinventing that classic romantic Spanish style, Buika herself refuses to define music by genre or style. She considers all artists and all kinds of music to be “a gift from God,” but allows that she’s most drawn to music, borne on society’s fringes, that expresses her own desire to tell it like it is.
“It’s not just about music, it’s a way of life,” she says. “It’s about not running away from yourself. Some people sing about what they would like to happen, but in the copla and el cante [flamenco song], we confront who we are, with all of our fears and all of our defects. In the United States there’s also a great tradition like this: it’s called the blues.”
When she was seventeen, Buika’s aunt recommended her for a job singing R&B in a hotel in Mallorca. Not ever having considered singing professionally, the teenager said no, but relented when she learned the gig paid more than she could make doing other jobs available to her. “Since I got on that stage I’ve never stopped working,” she says now.
Buika soon took off to the see the world. She spent some time in London, and in 2001 the singer ended up in Las Vegas, where she worked in casinos as a Tina Turner impersonator, with the requisite wig and platform shoes. She later divided her time between Mallorca and Madrid, where she found soulmates in a community of artists “more interested in the show than in the business.”
“Not all artists want to see ourselves as just sexy girls, some of us want to communicate what we have inside and practice our art,” Buika says. “I look for music that helps us live and that feels good. I want to keep giving love and passion to my music and my audience.”
In 2015, Buika released her eighth album, Vivir Sin Miedo, with vocals in English, Spanish and a mix of the two languages. Vivir Sin Miedo was recorded over four months in Miami, New York, London and Madrid, and features various guests, including Me’shell Ndegeocello and Jason Mraz.
Buiika currently lives in Miami, United States.
In 2019 she collaborated with rock star Carlos Santana. They recorded the album Africa Speaks.
Mestizüo, with Jacob Sureda (Blau, 2000) Buika (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2005) Mi Niña Lola (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2006) Niña de Fuego (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2008) El Último Trago, with Chucho Valdés (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2009) En Mi Piel, compilation (Warner Music Spain, 2011) La Noche Más Larga (Warner Music Spain, 2013) Vivir Sin Miedo (DRO EastWest/Warner Music Spain, 2015) Para mí (Warner Music Spain, 2017) Africa Speaks, with Santana (Concord Records, 2019)
Last evening, the Recording Academy announced the recordings nominated for Best World Music Album. This category includes albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal or instrumental world music recordings.
The GRAMMY Awards will be presented on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, live from Madison Square Garden in New York City and broadcast on the CBS Television Network from 7:30 – 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time / 4:30 – 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
The Rhythm Foundation will be presenting some of the best sounds from Spain with two outstanding concerts at the intimate Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.
Flamenco guitar icon, Paco de Lucia, one of the finest guitarists in the world, is returning to the United States for a rare tour of select cities, starting with Miami Beach. He brings his ensemble of Spain’s finest musicians and dancers. Paco’s newest CD and DVD features a triumphant live recording in Spain last year.
Buika, the unforgettable Afro-Spanish singer, jumps from the screen in Almodovar’s 2011 hit film The Skin I Live In, to a live concert with her ensemble. Her latest work continues to explore the sublime fusion between flamenco, rumba, jazz and soul – with a dose of classic jazz stylings and the American songbook.
These two nights of fine music from Spain are presented with support from TVE and Dish Latino. Season support is received from the City of Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council, Miami Dade Department of Cultural Affairs and Miami Magazine.
Paco de Lucia
Thursday, April 5th, 8 PM
FIllmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater
Tickets $25 – $100 through Ticketmaster outlets or the Fillmore box office
Saturday, May 12th, 8 PM
Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater
Tickets $25 – $75 through Ticketmaster outlets or the Fillmore box office
Rhythm Foundation members, call the office at (305) 672-5202 for premium ticketing and no service fees.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion