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Album Review

More than four years after her previous release, Espíritu Vivo, Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca picks up just where she left off with Travesías, as though no time had passed at all. Her singing is still as strong and emotional as ever, her interpretations of traditional and classic songs are just as interesting and fresh, and the affecting subtlety that her band brings to the pieces only heightens the haunting beauty of Baca's timeless voice. While most of the lyrics on Travesías are in her native Spanish, she also, in her constant pursuit to explore other music and apply her own style to it, sings in Portuguese (with Gilberto Gil on "Estrela"), in Neapolitan (on Vincenzo DeCrescenzo's love song, "Luna Rossa"), in Haitian Creole (for her plaintive cover of Frantz Casseus' "Merci Bon Dieu"), in English (in her interpretation of Damien Rice's "Volcano," to which she also adds her own Spanish vocals), and in French (for her Latin blues version of Maxime Le Forestier's "Né Quelque Part"). The precision of both Baca and her band allows for all of these explorations to occur without anything seeming out of place. In fact, the whole album is so consistent in its pretty, temperate sound that it has a very atmospheric quality to it. The songs are gentle and poignant without coming across as forced or corny, and each note, either played or sung, is so achingly gorgeous that it's almost impossible to not feel attached to each one. Because of this, Baca is able to sing love poems about women by Manuel Scorza and Pablo Neruda ("Guillermina" is also found on Lamento Negro) with complete sincerity, as if she had written them herself. She feels the music just as strongly as the writers felt the words, and this emotion is transferred into the listening experience. Her love of what she does is sensed by anyone who hears what she sings, which certainly makes Travesías a wonderful album.


Born: 30 April 1954 in Lima, Peru

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s, '10s

With a splendid voice and equally impressive interpretive gifts, Susana Baca is a primary exponent of the Afro-Peruvian musical tradition. Baca came to world attention in 1995, when her rendition of "Maria Lando," a heartbreaking ballad of Third World worker oppression, was included on David Byrne's The Soul of Black Peru compilation. Since the Byrne compilation, she has toured the United States several times and released several albums, including an eponymously titled solo album on Byrne's Luaka...
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Travesías, Susana Baca
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