Over the next couple of weeks, Backbeat will feature some Top Ten lists from around the Village Voice Media chain. Click here for previous year-in-review coverage from Backbeat and VVM.
Americans who still think of Latin music as mariachi bands and
gyrating Ricky Martins and Shakiras might want to lend a closer ear to
the genre. This country's Hispanic population isn't just growing, it's
growing more diverse. More and more unique musical styles are being
gobbled up, and that should come as good news to alternative gringos
hoping to spruce up their castellano. This year's Latin-music
highlights come from all over the Spanish-speaking map. We'll start in
the farthest geographic corner: an island in the Mediterranean.
Niña de Fuego
artist Buika epitomizes cultural and ethnic diversity. Over three
decades ago, her parents fled political turmoil in the former Spanish
colony of Equatorial Guinea and made a new life for themselves in a
gypsy neighborhood on the island of Mallorca. After stints as a Tina
Turner impersonator in Vegas and as the vocalist on some chic house and
funk albums made for the European clubs, Buika has found her niche in
flamenco and Latin jazz. This year's Niña de Fuego contains many of the
same gitano elements found on her successful LP Mi Niña Lola, and
pushes the boundaries further by adding Mexican ranchera. Only someone
as strangely bohemian as Buika could pull together these emotive styles
with just the right amount of melodrama.