Susana Baca | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Susana Baca 

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SUSANA BACA

For the last decade Susana Baca has made it her mission to conserve Afro-Peruvian music and culture, founding (with her Bolivian husband, Ricardo Pereira) the Instituto Negrocontinuo and traveling all over rural Peru to collect the pieces of a dying oral tradition from a marginalized population. In this country, Baca is best known for her voice, and while the bulk of the material on the two excellent albums she's recorded for Luaka Bop comprise those same endangered tunes, her performances of them are too lively and dynamic to be taken as mere artifacts. In fact, two of the songs on her latest, Eco de Sombras, are new works written by young Peruvian composer Javier Lazo, who was inspired by her anthropological discoveries. Baca's longtime quartet makes the songs sound simultaneously timeless and contemporary, elasticizing the spare percussive grooves--played on traditional instruments like the cajon (a wooden box) and the checo (a rattling gourd)--and filling the space between them with billowy, hypnotic bass and acoustic guitar figures, while the singer herself incorporates traces of jazz, soul, Cuban music, and other Latin American traditions with a slow-burning intensity. Producer Craig Street, who helped bring out the acoustic richness of Cassandra Wilson's records, added some interesting musical tension to Eco de Sombras by inviting Marc Ribot and John Medeski to the sessions, but Baca's eponymously titled U.S. debut made it clear that her own band is pretty interesting in its own right. Wednesday, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Trevor O'Shana.

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