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Thursday, December 10, 2009

‘I sing to avoid going crazy’

Concha Buika (right) with the woman she pays tribute to in her latest CD El último trago:?Chavela Vargas.

By Mariana Marcaletti
Herald staff


Just arrived from Chile, Concha Buika is sleepless but she stills looks happy. Talkative, funny and outgoing, she speaks her mind on almost everything. Forgetful, she doesn’t remember coming to Argentina before although she has been here twice, offering shows in La Trastienda and ND/Ateneo. Maybe travelling makes her feel dizzy, and she has been currently touring across the globe.
“The world is full of fantastic places,” she says. “As there are awesome spots, I would like to get to know them better – that’s why I wouldn’t come back to Palma de Mallorca. My life over there was nice, brilliant, quiet. To me, it was strange because we were the only family of Africans living on the island at that time”.

Before she was born (in 1972), her parents, who were from Guinea, moved to Spain due to political reasons. Her mother was a big fan of religion, and her father, a man hooked on politics. Both passions made her rebel against all the established truths. In her view, nothing lasts forever, not even our own opinions. When she was 9, her father dumped her mother and left the family. For her, it was a relief because her father would beat her and used to be rude. Brought up by a single mom, Buika hanged out with her gypsy friends at the Chinese neighbourhood she lived in and she started loving music.

‘Art is the only true religion.’ Out of an impulse, she took off to the US and moved to Las Vegas to become a singer. “The experience was hard because I felt like a fish out of water. There were many shows, but not much music out there: a lot of casinos, but no live concerts. But it was good, all in all. I went there searching for a job. I believe there aren’t many limits to work, as most people believe. I just decided to get there and did it”.

Her determination to sing wasn’t just for the sake of it, but because it came in handy. “I sing to avoid going crazy. I write songs in order not to forget anybody. And also to understand that some episodes in life are not exactly the way I want them to be. They are just the way they are, actual facts, not disguised by the way I look at them. Music helps me come to grips with the fact that reality is just as it is. And singing helps me remain healthy, to be in peace with myself. Singing is relieving my emotions. Music belongs to the world of arts and arts represent the only true religion: human beings resort to music to redeem themselves, to communicate with the past, with the future. Composing is also connected with this. I believe that if you keep your miseries inside of you, they get worse. What’s interesting about a wound is that it stops bleeding, not that it heals. If all wounds heal, then you forget about them and they might come back. I mean, the bad experiences you suffered in the past can be repeated. So, it’s important to remember the sad moments we went through: they make us stronger”.

When talking about her music, Buika cannot help giving examples of her personal life. In her songs, she resorts to her experience to find the raw material to work with.

“I sing from my own life. I don’t need to contemplate somebody else’s misfortunes. I have my own, and I can sing based on them. My wounds were caused by some mistakes in my education: I haven’t been taught properly how to love, how to cope with loneliness, how to stand being dumped, all this hurts you. We shouldn’t point out a person and make them responsible for our happiness. I am not frightened of pain, but I fear ending up hurt. Love is an incredible wound. You cannot get angry at a snake because it has bitten you, even if it murders you. Loving is an animal feeling. It can hurt you, but  it cannot offend you. I think that most people are wrong when they are annoyed with somebody they love. Because loving somebody else is the first step to loving oneself. It’s marvelous. And loneliness, at least for us, women, is fantastic because it’s the place from which we can build ourselves. Getting rid of others, without having to tolerate people, we can be just perfect. We cannot blame others for our own sadness. If I am not happy, I’ve only got myself to blame. It’s up to me. And if somebody chooses to leave you, there isn’t some secret evilness underneath their intention”.

‘I am always in love.’ When asked about the wounds she mentions, Buika describes them: “they are surely the same that you have. I write and I sing from my feelings, which means different emotions. Falling in and out of love is one of the main topics, although they are out there in every single record that is released all over the world. It’s not that I stand up for a different concept of love, I just let myself go. I cannot take a stance about anything because what would happen if I changed my mind? It would drive me nuts. I felt free enough to let myself go in the direction that the songs were asking me to at the very moment I was performing them. Songs were demanding certain feelings from my heart, and I complied to that request”.

Love can mean different things, and Buika’s idea of love is all about freedom. Some years ago she got married, got pregnant, had a child. Then, she crossed paths with Africa and had a crush on her. She introduced Africa to her former husband, who liked her as well, and they formed a love triangle. But triangles aren’t always as complicated as in the movies, and they were all cool with it. “I am in love. I am always in love, with different people. My relationship with my girlfriend is wonderful, because we are two women who just let it be. I broke up with my husband some time ago, I gave up on him because he was really such a pain in the neck! (she laughs out loud). You know, I simply like men too much. That’s why I try not to start a family with a man. I choose men for love, for sex, for friendship but not for commitment. I would marry again, though. Because I am not afraid of repeating the same mistake over and over again. I like screwing things up, I am human, I enjoy being the way I am. I am not frightened of myself because, some time ago, I found out that my heart was clean and pure. So, I am free to sin, because due to my sin there aren’t children suffering, or people dying, robbed, blackmailed or physically or emotionally mutilated”.

The last drink. In her new album, El último trago, she expresses those emotions: she can be torn, desperate or happy, feel miserable or head over heels – it doesn’t really matter because she can communicate her deep feelings with a simple, direct, tone of voice. Produced by Javier Limón in Cuba, with pianist Chucho Valdés, the material was ready in eleven hours. For Buika, the album is already over and done with and there’s no need to explain it too much. “This album means many things for me. It is a tribute to (Costa Rica-born world-renowned singer) Chavela Vargas and to all our lands. CDs are beautiful deaths. And death, when it’s not tragic, is always pretty. There are wonderful deaths and when things die, they remain forever. An album is a lie, because there are people who are no longer alive, but I can listen to them despite their death. For instance, I can hear Lucho Gatica, with his superb voice. An album is a timeless moment, and whatever comes to a standstill, stops moving. And, if it stops moving, then it’s dead”.

Instead of focusing on inanimate objects, she would rather concentrate on living things. “Performances never lie, that’s the truth, it’s something unquestionable. A painting is something that is alive and kicking, you can feel it, but the idea of a painting doesn’t exist because it has already been done. Hitting a stage is something completely different from preparing an album. I enjoy both experiences, though. They are different, and that’s precisely why I am hooked on both – recording in a studio and singing live. They cannot compare, and the variety makes you have fun”.

In order to enjoy her career, Buika believes she needs to take things easy and let it be. “I just walk because I have feet, but I don’t know where the path will lead me. I suppose I just keep moving because my heart beats. I wish I could keep on living, having more sex, eating tasty meals, in countries like this that pamper my heart to the extent of leaving me exhausted. I am going to be taken to a tango venue and I will enjoy it as a bitch”.

With that same energy, she expects to make the most out of tonight’s gig. Although she didn’t want to reveal many details about the show, she said: “all I know is that it will be a happy night”.

Cinderella

Concha Buika is her Spanish name, but, as her origins are African her real tribal name is Kitailo, which means “Cinderella.” Being a black woman who sings flamenco in Spain must have been difficult for her, and meant she had to debunk some misconceptions in order to be recognized for her astonishing skills as an artist.

In her opinion, it has been much easier because it depends on how she sees attitudes. “Racism is something you suffer and practice. If you ignore it, because you don’t really know where racism comes from, you cannot suffer it. For example, a man can treat me awfully because of my skin colour. I can read it in two different ways. In one, I can think he is a racist and place myself in the role of the victim. Or I can say ‘he’s crazy, I’d better cross the street because he’s nuts.’ I usually choose the second option. Because I don’t buy these lies that have been told to all of us. I don’t believe them anymore. We don’t hate each other, that’s bullshit that somebody made up in order to keep us stupid. We like each other”.

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