Susana Baca

Susana Baca de la Colina was born on the 24 May 1944 in Lima, Peru. She hails from a long family-line of illustrious Afro-Peruvian artists: the family of De la Colina, from Peru’s southern San Luis de Cañete District.

Throughout her childhood, in the Chorrillos District of Lima, Susana was surrounded by musicians: her father played the guitar, her mother danced, her aunts sang and her cousins who were the founders of Perú Negro, an emblematic music and dance group.

Despite this immersion in music from a young age Baca’s studies drew her towards education, and she graduated from the Universidad Enrique Guzmán y Valle as a teacher in 1968. Most of the next few years were dedicated to teaching and travelling throughout Peru.

But, the love of music never left the young Susana and during this post-University period she also began to study – winning scholarships to both the Modern Institute of Art of Peru and The National Institute of Culture – and formed a group for experimental music, which combined music and local poetry.  By 1970 Susana was working with Chabuca Granda – the composer of such classics of Peruvian music ‘Fina Estampa’ and ‘La Flor de la Canela’ – as her personal assistant and becomes her protégé and then great friend.

As early as 1973 Susana Baca’s own musical prowess was beginning to be recognised, when she won first prize for her musical interpretations at the International Festival of Agua Dulce, but it took another twenty years for her to gain international recognition with the releases, in 1995, of her version of ‘Maria Lando’ which featured on the Luaka Bop album ‘Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru.’ Her debut solo album for Luaka Bop ‘Susana Baca’ followed in 1997.

In 2000 Susana recorded one song for Real World Records, ‘Cardo o Ceniza,’ for the album ‘Gifted: Women of the World’ and throughout the rest of the decade released a number of albums for Luaka Bop, including ‘Eco de Sombras’ (2000), ‘Espíritu Vivo’ (2002), ‘Travesías’ (2006), ‘Seis Poemas’ (2009) & ‘Afrodiaspora’ (2011).

Susana Baca has now released some 18 albums and been awarded three Latin Grammy Awards:
Best Folk Album: Lamento Negro. 2002.
Record of the Year: Latinoamérica. 2011.
Best Folk Album: A Capella. 2020.

In parallel to her music career, Susana’s interest in documenting and preserving Afro-Peruvian culture has remained. From 1989-1991, Susana and Ricardo Pereira, her spouse and representative, travelled Peru’s coastline collecting first-hand testimonies and documents from Peru’s Afro-Peruvian people. The material was compiled into a book titled Del Fuego y del Agua, published in 1992. This led to the pair creating the Centro Experimental para la Música, Negrocontinuo, in 1995, with a clear mission to preserve and maintain Peru’s traditions.

During 2011 Susana held the post of Minister of Culture of Peru and currently she manages a cultural centre, Centro Cultural de la Memoria Escondida, in San Luis de Cañete in the south of Lima.

Age casts a different light upon the world and this album seeks to express freely and honestly those things that I love most intensely. At the age of 76 it is time to stop thinking of always having to please others and deliver an album truly from the heart. These ten songs seem to be mostly premonitions of the difficult times we are now living through. They weave music from my deepest roots with urgent words, of hope and condemnation, to seek out a mature and cherished truth. With my own spirit and the hearts and talent of all those who have contributed, we offer this album as a renewal of our traditional music. I hope those listening to this album feel both a love for life and a love for living truthfully. Susana Baca

In the 50th year of her musical career Susana Baca has no intention of surrendering her creativity to the will of others and Palabras Urgentes is not just another album in her discography. It is more than that. It is a musical creation, a collection of songs, intended to take on today’s difficult times.

The album was not created to be just a beautiful distraction or as a means to charm the listener. On the contrary, Susana has recorded this album as a form of protest and to spark debate – and the listener must understand this to really understand the album – but, also, as a means to encourage us to cherish and value the time we are given and to live in the fullest sense.

Immersed in her country’s political landscape Susana Baca has come to understand and value the importance of being the heir to singers that once sung for liberty, social equality and for the end of racism. There is a bleak shadow over Peru’s recent history and the only way forward is by confronting the past.

Further reading

Bab L’ Bluz win Songlines Award for Best Fusion Act

The Moroccan-French four piece band's album 'Nayda!' was released last June on Real World Records.

‘Mangled Pianos’ by Bob Holroyd, new on Real World X

New music from acclaimed artist and composer Bob Holroyd on Real World X.

Track of the day: ‘Bitumba’ by Montparnasse Musique

Bitumba is the second release on our new imprint, Real World X, and features Congelese band Mbongwan...

Track of the day: ‘Curfew’ by Khalab & M’berra Ensemble

'Curfew' is taken from the forthcoming album M'berra, out on 23 April 2021.