Afro-Peruvian music pioneer Susana Baca has always been the kind of artist who performs better in front of a crowd. Knowing this, she, producer Craig Street, and the folks at Luaka Bop Records decided
Afro-Peruvian music pioneer Susana Baca has always been the kind of artist who performs better in front of a crowd. Knowing this, she, producer Craig Street, and the folks at Luaka Bop Records decided to try a novel approach for the recording of "Espiritu Vivo" (Live Spirit), her third album for the New York-based imprint: They invited an audience to the studio sessions.
The plan was irresistible to Baca, her musicians, the label, and the lucky invitees. The band -- augmented by guitarist Marc Ribot and keyboardist John Medeski -- would rehearse the material for a couple of days and then begin recording, all the while making eye contact with the studio audience of 20 or so guests.
What no one could have anticipated was that, by scheduling the project for the week of Sept. 10, 2001, the participants would become enmeshed in one of the most horrific -- but ultimately uplifting -- experiences of their lives.
"I don't recall saying, 'Let's play' or anything," Baca says. "We simply went toward our respective spots in the studio and started making music. It was the only way to vanquish the pain and untie the knot we had in our throats. It was cathartic. We opened our souls and felt relief."
Due April 23, the finished album reflects the chemistry between the Peruvian and American musicians, the silent presence of the studio guests, and the poignancy of Sept. 11. The material includes traditional Afro-Peruvian songs adapted and interpreted by Baca, as well as covers of songs by Mongo Santamaria, Caetano Veloso, and Bjork.
Excerpted from the April 20, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section .
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