Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Question about Susana Baca

Afro-Peruvian Music

On September 22, 2010, I went to see Susana Baca perform live for the third time in my life. The first time was at the La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, CA back in the late 90s. I was on a natural high for six months. It was like listening to Billie Holiday or Bessie Smith in Spanish with a combination of African, Indigenous, and Spanish rhythms and melodies for accompaniment.

The second time was very recent; the spring of 2010, she performed at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, CA. This time, her rhythm sections along with the guitar and choral accompaniment were much more upbeat as she displayed her smooth dancing moves on stage. Although, I would have liked to have seen and heard more traditional Afro-Peruvian instruments like the quijada del burro (jawbone of a donkey) and the cajón (a wooden box slaves used as a substitute for the drum, which was forbidden by slave holders), I felt her music and that of her band deeply as she combined Afro-Peruvian, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, and modern music in her pieces.

Baca sings about Afro-Peruvians but there are no Afro-Peruvians in her band.

Finally, I went to see Susana Baca at the Palace of Fine Arts theater in San Francisco. Susana is always moving her body well to the heart felt music. I thought of her as one of the hardest working women in show business. From watching and listening to the talented musicians who were accompanying her, I noticed something disturbing, and I stand to be corrected on this if anyone reading this blog understand the music business.

Does Susana discriminate against Afro-Peruvian musicians or is such discrimination beyond her control?

This is the third time I've seen Susana Baca with a five or six-piece band. It was only when I saw her back in the late 90s did she have an Afro-Peruvian musician in her band. If she is going to be singing about Africans, the diaspora, and black people, she could at least include two or three Afro-Peruvians in her band, if not an all Afro-Peruvian band. There is too much job discrimination against blacks as it is. Why is she perpetuating it? Can she not find talented Afro-Peruvians for hire or is this beyond her control?

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