The Austin Chronicle

Live Shots

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, November 19, 1999, Music

Susana Baca

One World Theatre, November 13

It started with a show of hands, One World Theatre founder and executive director Hartt Sterns asking the see how many patrons had ventured out to the Tuscon-style villa on Bee Caves Road before. Who had been to Argentina, Cuba, and Cameroon all while sitting in the dark, intimate confines of the elegant 300-seater -- Bass Concert Hall with only front-row seats? Who had let the music spirit them away? Up went a couple dozen hands, the nearly full house now hushed. "Tonight, Peru," said Sterns, announcing Susana Baca. Only it was Hugo Bravo, congas, bongos, and clay pot, who stepped out from the wings to tap out a beat on his cowbell. The musicians, guitar, stand-up bass, and cajon, took their places, a soft, constant rhythm rising up from the raised, square stage. Into this river of rhythm stepped Baca, her dark skin glowing against her white dress, her bare feet at ease on now familiar ground. Opening the second performance of a two-night stand with a song from her self-titled 1997 Luaka Bop debut, the 55-year-old Peruvian singer started sashaying her way slowly across the stage, her eyes closed and an arm outstretched as if to a dancing partner no one could see. Suddenly, Austin, Texas, USA, was the farthest thing from anyone's mind. "Goodnight," she whispered, her ever-present, effervescent smile never to wane throughout both the evening's sets. "Buenas noches." That was most likely the last time English mattered on this night. Slowly, the cajonero beat out a pulse on the wooden box he sat upon, Bravo joining him on gourd. "Molino Molero" sashayed its way through Baca, Bravo prompting the audience to clap. He didn't need to -- the music was hypnotizing enough, the warmth of the small room suddenly making it hard to keep one's eyes open. "Luna Llena," then a duet with her guitarist, who kissed Baca's hand when they stopped, would no doubt have elicited a similar response from Baca's adoring audience. Following "Negra Presentuosa," Bravo also kissed the diva's hand. "Gracias," she said softly at the 45-minute mark. "Thank you so much." Ingleis, oh right -- intermission, spent with a crescent moon and a sumptuous view from One World's second story balcony. Night air to die for. The second set was better, Baca's smooth, tender tenor caressing her native Spanish like an infant; songs of love and regret, kisses and glances cast aside. Songs of color, blushed with sounds of jawbones, sleighbells, and wooden boxes. A kiss from the cajonero just prior to "No Vale, Valentin," the rousing set-closer, sealed it. Baca lifted her arms in the air. "Muchas gracias," she greeted the ovation while bidding them goodnight in Spanish. "Thank you for the music, thank you for being here, muchisimas gracias a Luaka Bop, to this teatro hermoso -- One World -- to Tish Hinojosa[?]. Gracias, gracias." First-class prices to be sure, but who wants to travel the world by coach?

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