For years, the career of singer Susana Baca has been fueled by a burning desire to save the musical traditions of the Afro-Peruvian minority in her homeland from extinction, and it’s beginning to pay off. Complementing the array of largely forgotten traditional material on her gorgeous new album, Eco de Sombras (Luaka Bop), are two new songs written by a young Peruvian composer named Javier Lazo that clearly draw inspiration from the very history Baca has been struggling to preserve.
“It’s really beautiful for me because it brings the tradition into the present,” says Baca, speaking through a translator.
A devoted student of the myriad African rhythms that pulse through the various Latin American styles, Baca investigated their disparate permutations on an early album, Del Fuego y del Agua, which included songs of Brazil, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and Cuba. With her husband, the sociologist Ricardo Pereira, she founded Instituto Negrocontinuo (Institute of Black Continuum) to collect and disseminate black Peruvian culture, a rich tradition once strictly limited to oral transmission.