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.





PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.