On ‘Africa Speaks,’ Santana Finds a Worthy Partner in Buika



Credit Debra L Rothenberg/Getty Images

By Jon Pareles

The call was completely unexpected. It was Concha Buika’s manager on the phone to say that Carlos Santana had invited her to work on the album he was making. “I was like, no!” Buika recalled by telephone from her home in Miami. “I was so nervous and so excited. I couldn’t believe it.”

Buika is a multilingual singer and songwriter from Spain who has fused flamenco, jazz, rock, African and Afro-Caribbean rhythms and more. She won a Latin Grammy in 2010 for the album “El ÚltimoTrago,” a collaboration with the Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés, revisiting rancheras from the Mexican singer Chavela Vargas. (Although Buika and the Santana band have done a few performances together, they are touring separately this summer. Buika is performing at Central Park SummerStage on Sunday.)

Buika expected to be a guest vocalist, for perhaps a song or two, on an album filled with other guests and would-be pop hits, along the lines of Santana’s 1999 blockbuster “Supernatural,” which has sold more than 15 million copies in the United States alone. (On tour this year, Santana is celebrating that album’s 20th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of his barn-burning Woodstock set.) Instead, Buika became the singer and co-writer of every song on “Africa Speaks,” Santana’s new album.


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