fri 26/04/2019

Buika and London Lucumi Choir, Union Chapel | reviews, news & interviews

Buika and London Lucumi Choir, Union Chapel

Buika and London Lucumi Choir, Union Chapel

African-Spanish flamenco star and Cuban choir electrify Islington

Buika: The woman with duende

The choir sing off stage at first, under the wide arch to the side before filling the platform and singing the praises of Cuba’s Orisha spirits. Those Orisha guys must be shining like beads on a necklace. Lucumi were finalists in the 2008 BBC Choir of the Year, and they’re a multicultural London choir putting their voices at the service of Afro-Cuban music traditions, where it all begins with the hands and mouth. Percussion, lead voice, chorus, and the call-and-response pattern-making of chants that swim us to the deeper end of the pool. They sound grand in the Union Chapel’s acoustics for this sold-out La Linea gig.

The previous night, I’d talked to English world musician Andrew Cronshaw before an Alchemy festival event at the Southbank. He was saying that his definition of the music he made was "playing with your neighbours". Those neighbours may call home a place on the other side of the globe, but the nature of folk and roots music is that it lives in time, not space. Lucumi are far from Cuba, but their passion for and relationship with the music makes them neighbours. The Choir is community music making at its best. Cuba is far across the water, but it’s a voice and a drum skin away. 

She swishes her red dress, fumbles her mic, vamps it up for the crowd. They love it. They love her

The African-Spanish flamenco star Buika has not played in London since 2008, but with a voice so smoked it's charred, and an easy command of the stage and her audience, she can stop the clocks when she comes to town. Her audience is with her all the way. There are no dancers, no palmas, no guitars; just piano, from Cuban musician Ivan Gonzalez Lewis, percussionist Ramon Suarez Escobar and Buika’s deep, soulful voice. Her arrangements have the form’s chiaroscuro while being well adapted to the concert hall, with touches of tango, jazz, and plain ole showbiz. Her songs’ themes and passions are as old as tumuli, and she got duende. She has a new album due too, La Noche Mas Larga (The Longest Night). And the early evening sight of a queue of hundreds snaking round Compton Terrace for a world music gig is something to behold in a triple-dip recession.

Buika possesses (or is possessed by) a flesh, blood and guts voice. Would the Orisha spirits dig it? I think so. I think they’re neighbours. She swishes her red dress, fumbles her mic, vamps it up for the crowd. They love it. They love her. It’s all drama, emotion and entertainment. Down in southern Spain, flamenco flashmobs are congregating in the atriums of failed banks. It’s a protest movement. Maybe we should bring that here, invite Buika to tear the fabric of the air in front of those high-rolling gamblers. Failing that, get the Blackheath Morris in. They’re neighbours, too. They got duende

Her arrangements have the form’s chiaroscuro while being well adapted to the concert hall, with touches of tango, jazz, and plain ole showbiz

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters