I have been in love with Buika since I first heard her in 2008, and truly believe that anyone who doesn’t fall for this spellbinding Afro-Spanish flamenco-jazz singer ought to have their ears and their heart examined. Her voice gives me chills, that rich, throaty, smoky, delicious honey-chocolate voice, able to soar to the heights and drop off an emotional cliff, veer from rasping rage to a heartbroken whisper. But it’s the emotion behind her voice, the sense that she’s living every song each time she sings it, plunging into its meaning, tortured or exultant by the second. If that sounds like extravagant praise, you haven’t heard Buika sing. (Pedro Almodovar adores her, and has put her in several films, most recently The Skin I Live In).
Also, I love her back story and her guts. Her parents were political refugees from Africa who fled to the island of Mallorca. After Buika’s father walked out, her mother became her idol. Theirs was the only black family on Mallorca, so Buika found her soulmates with the gypsies, as well as her live for the moment ethos. She started singing in high school, did a stint as a Tina Turner impersonator in Las Vegas (really). At one point she was married to a man and a woman, and once said she wanted to marry herself, so she could love and honor herself. Whenever I’ve talked to her, she laughs loudly and deeply and often.
I was lucky enough to cover her U.S. debut at the Manuel Artime in Little Havana back in 2007, presented by the Rhythm Foundation. They bring her back at 8 p.m. Saturday, to the Fillmore Miami Beach; tickets are $25 to $75. Buika usually tours with a changing but always superb ensemble of Cuban musicians living in Madrid, supremely skilled and sensitive musicians with an almost telepathic sensitivity to their diva. Go and lose yourself.