Diana Navarro takes on traditional Flamenco style

Ed Morales
Newsday (MCT)

For several years now, flamenco, the traditional music of Spain, has been sprouting fusion offshoots that integrate it further in Latin and other musical styles. The past few months have seen new developments, particularly among female vocalists. The landscape of Mexican pop-rock has also changed, ushering a new era of mainstream youth-oriented music.

Diana Navarro, who created quite a stir during her appearance last month at the New York Flamenco Festival, offers a haunting Middle Eastern tinge that augments her feathery yet charismatic voice. Her recent album "24 Rosas" (Warner Latina) features spare, conventional production, hinting at Celine Dion-style strings, without sounding syrupy. What is most striking about Navarro is the vibrato effect she achieves, heightening the eerie drama of the songs.

A strong contrast to Navarro's style is Buika, who hails from Equatorial Guinea, where she grew up around local Gypsy culture. Having spent time as a jazz singer in London and a hotel lounge singer in Las Vegas, Buika has a husky voice that captures flamenco's primal essence. Her recent album "Mi Nina Lola" (Warner Latina) features guest stars such as Nino Josele on guitar, Jerry Gonzalez on trumpet and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez on drums.

Buika's approach ranges from jazz-tinged on the title track and "Ojos Verdes," to rootsy flamenco on "Buleria Alegre" and "Nostalgias." But it's clear throughout that she holds the key to the link between African and Iberian music, and her unique background makes her fusion natural. Her voice is often hoarse and sticks to a narrow range, but the emotion she conveys is palpable and arresting.

Finally, Ojos de Brujo's new album, "Techari Live" (Six Degrees Records), is a perfect example of how some bands are much more explosive in a concert setting. Their rowdy rap-flamenco repertoire is electric, and as a bonus, there's a bilingual, salsa-tinged remake of the Bob Marley classic "Get Up Stand Up."

The new Mexican pop-rock is exemplified by the trio Camilla, ensconced in first place on the Billboard Latin Album chart with an album originally released in May 2006. "To do Cambio" (Sony) has only actually registered on the chart for 42 weeks, indicating how it's been coming on slowly as a sleeper. The songs use a variety of styles, from boy band R&B to Coldplay-ish droning, and there's even an English-language track, "U Got My Love." Their "hip" haircuts and dress signal not so much the rebellion of the early `90s golden age of Mexican rock as NAFTA-style conformity.

Similarly, the light folk-rock of Jesse and Joy and the slightly harder "modern rock" of Motel (whose newest album, "17," was released in early January on Warner Latina) symbolize a new commercial sophistication, if not an original aesthetic. Representing the "alternative" tendency in Mexican rock is Panda, whose live double-album "Sinfonia Soledad" (Warner Latina) will be released next week. The Monterrey-based quartet plays edgy indie rock with long-winded song titles (roughly translated, "We Find Attraction in the Most Repugnant Things," "I'm Lonelier Than Yesterday, But Less Than I Will Be Tomorrow," are a couple) are earnest and thoughtful, but don't quite transcend their American counterparts.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.