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New Music From Around The World

The Buena Vista Social Club Presents Omara Portuondo
Omara Portuondo(Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch)

Review By Tom Schnabel

There is a touching moment in Wim Wenders' fine film "The Buena Vista Social Club" when Omara Portuondo and Ibrahim Ferrer are recording the bolero Silencio in the studio; it was to come out on Ferrer's solo CD on the World Circuit label. The camera circles them several times, and she begins to cry, and Ferrer wipes away a tear from her cheek. It is Wenders' favorite moment in the film, and one you don't forget.

Portuondo was born in Havana in l930. Her mother, from a rich family, expected her daughter to marry into and thus remain in the privileged class; instead, she ran away with a tall, handsome baseball player from the Cuban national team. She later joined the dance corps of the famous revue at the Tropicana Nightclub.

Omara enjoyed singing as well as dancing; she soon formed a musical club with stars like Elena Bourke and Frank Emilio, and in 1959, a momentous year in Cuban history, Omara Portuondo recorded her first album. Many of her earlier albums are still available as imports, but this new one, made with other members of the Buena Vista Social Club, shows her at her best. She is finally emerging from Cuba's long isolation, and like the other members of Buena Vista, is at last receiving the international acclaim she deserves.


Susana Baca
Echos de Sombras (Luaka Bop)

Review By Katharina Lobeck

After her triumphant debut album, the queen of Afro-Peruvian music is set to surpass her own success with the recently released "Echo de Sombras." Exuding the same air of tranquillity and sweet melancholy as the first CD, Susana Baca's new work stretches further to radiate a jazzier, more ambient aura.

In addition to her excellent Peruvian band, she invited some of New York's finest jazz musicians, including keyboard player John Medeski, guitarist Mark Ribot and bassist Gregg Cohen, whose contributions add a distinctive avant-garde flavor to her passionate poetry. Her ten sentimental ballads are characteristically understated. Shimmering textures and subtle instrumentation give the songs a feel of open-endedness that keeps them floating in the air long after the record is turned off. One of the album's highlights is the introspective Poema that shines through the intriguing communication between Susana's sensuous melodies and Cohen's responsive bass

Having drawn worldwide attention to Afro-Peruvian music with her first release, Susana Baca shows on "Ecos de Sombras" the multitude of directions her music can take. Once again, she has proven to be a visionary artist who will undoubtedly keep causing stirs on the Latin music scene.

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