Elegance defined, passion embodied, and emotion unrelenting. This is how I would describe the enchanting performance style of the so-called “flamenco queen” (a.k.a. “Buika”). However, the only way to truly know her power would be to see her live in concert. Friday night I was one among a massive, worshipping audience paying homage to “the queen” at the CAL Zellerbach Hall. Dressed in a long, draped black dress made of silk or satin her diva-standing was overshadowed only by her disarming show of humility. Her bare feet and playful discourse throughout the performance attest to her humbleness.
My lack of fluency in Spanish was in many ways an asset during her show because, though I couldn’t follow her whole story, it allowed me to be moved purely by her grace, emotion, and strength. All of which are easily conveyed with the deep, rich tone of her voice and the inspiration in her movements. The raspy current penetrating her voice conveys both the pain and beauty that have undoubtedly been prominent in shaping her life. Buika, or Maria Concepcion Balboa Buika, is the daughter of African immigrants and grew up in a poor neighborhood in Spain, where camaraderie with local Gypsies led her to discover flamenco.
What originally made me think of posting about this beautiful singer, was that while reading the CAL-provided pamphlet I discovered that the artist’s latest album was in homage to the artist Chavela Vargus. It appears that the two are rather close, as Vargas has even referred to Buika as her “black daughter.” There are also many similarities to be heard in the strength and emotion with which both women sing. Some may describe her style as ‘excessive,’ but I’d say only in all the right ways; besides, how else does one get crowned “the Queen of Flamenco?”