I sing with desire: Buika

Spanish singer Buika strongly believes that living a life that is honest and positive has had a direct impact on her much lauded singing voice. "I laugh a lot, I try not to lie, I do not say ugly things," she tells Life! in an e-mail interview.

The 41-year-old, who will perform two sets at the Esplanade Recital Studio next Tuesday and Wednesday during Esplanade's Mosaic Music Festival, is renowned for her husky yet powerful voice. She has also been credited with reinventing flamenco by fusing genres including Cuban jazz, pop and electronic music.

Still, the singer is modest about the acclaim she has received. "I never thought that my voice was beautiful. I sing with desire. As far as I believe, the voice is not that important."

It is important enough for her to earn a Grammy and several nominations. Her 2008 album, Nina de Fuego, was nominated for Album of the Year at the Latin Grammys. Her most recent work, La Noche Mas Larga (2013), was nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album at the Grammys in January. El Ultimo Trago, her 2009 album with Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes, won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Traditional Tropical Album.

Calling her a flamenco superstar, British newspaper The Telegraph hails her singing in La Noche Mas Larga as something that "envelops the listener like a great blast of muffling Andalusian heat", while describing her as "a woman who could make the One Direction songbook sound like a masterpiece of powerhouse, tormented passion".

The New York Times, in a review of the same album, compares her voice to both folk jazz icon Joni Mitchell and jazz legend Sarah Vaughan.

Born in Spain and of Guinean heritage, the singer, whose full name is Maria Concepcion Balboa Buika, is based in Miami but her music encompasses influences and collaborations with artists from all over the world.

Her latest album includes musicians such as Cuban pianist Ivan "Melon" Lewis, also the musical director, and American jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny.

Language and cultural barriers come tumbling down once the music starts, she says. "I feel we are united by the same memories and experiences. No matter in which language, our secrets are identical, we have been hiding the same secret for years, we know and we love one another more than we can show, I feel."

Buika, who has a 14-year-old son, says her busy touring schedule has kept her away from her Miami home and her place of birth, Spain. "I am a world traveller. At the moment, I live on tour. I try to make a living in Miami but I cannot spend too much time there because I have a full schedule. I travel to Spain every couple of months and soon I'll be in Singapore."

She is excited to play her first concert here, but cautions against the audience having any expectations of her sets. "Having expectations is a bit boring and also dangerous. I, for one, do not expect anything from anyone because I think that is the best way to be happy with reality."

Book it
Where: Esplanade Recital Studio
When: Next Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm
Admission: $30 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
Info: mosaicmusicfestival.com/2014/

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