Susana Baca

In 1986 I attended a festival in Peru that brought together many of the foremost exponents of the Latin American song.  SICLA: Semana de Integracion Cultural Latino Americana was sponsored by Alan Garcia to celebrate his inauguration as President of Peru. El Taller was invited to send a delegation to perform and film the events of the festival.

Susana Baca was one of the local performers.  And her version of Maria Landó, a song i had never heard before, inspired me to approach her to get more information about that song and her music.  She invited me to her house where I interviewed her and received one of the most comprehensive histories of the African diaspora in the Americas (i.e. how the African music in Peru sounds different than in the Caribbean). At the end of my visit she accompanied us outside and sang Maria Landó.  While she was singing she cried, as did I.

When I came back to New York City I showed the film to David Byrne, who was at that time studying Spanish with me.

The footage that follows is the beginning. The rest is history…

AfricamericaBernardo retorna del Perú después de haber conocido a Susana Baca, una de las grandes artista de la música negra peruana y retorna con cuatro horas de grabación reali-
zadas en la casa de la gran artista. Entre las cosas que el folklorista grabó se encontraba una pieza Peruana llamada “María Lando”.

En esa época Bernardo era maestro de Español de David Byrne y en una larga noche de fecundas conversaciones sobre el folclore latinoamericano entre copa y copa en un oscuro bar de Chinatown, él le dio a escuchar la hermosa melodía de “María Lando”. Siete años después surge una producción discográfica llamada “The Soul of Black Perú”. Una producción de David Byme donde aparece una compilación de música negra peruana. Esa producción dará como resultado el “boom” de la música negra peruana en los Estados Unidos. Como producto de lo antes mencionado tan solo este verano se presentaron en Nueva York, Eva Ayllon in Flushing Meadows Park en Queens, Susana Baca en Central Park Manhattan, y el Grupo Perú Negro en el Lincoln Center, este hecho indudablemente forma parte de ese descubrimiento que ha significado la música Negra Peruana.


Yale Evelev: David’s Spanish teacher, Bernardo Palombo, is also a musician, and was a part of the pan-Latin American Nueva Trova movement. Through this, Bernardo knew Susana and had done a video for a song of hers in Peru called “Maria Landó.” He played a cassette of this for David. I think it was a few years even before there was a Luaka, and David always remembered the haunting intensity of her voice. When we decided to do a compilation of this material it took us quite a while to track her down (Bernardo had moved outside of NY at this point). We finally found her when David, who was on tour at the time, went into a photo gallery in Austin, Texas, and noticed a catalog from a past show of “Afro-Peruvian Photographs.” We contacted the photographer, Lorry Salcedo, about providing photos for our compilation and, by the way, asked him if he knew a Susana Baca. Amazingly enough, she was his neighbor in Lima!
David: My classes sometimes consisted of translating lyrics by bands and songs I liked, or talking about music, and at one point he played me a videotape of Susana singing “Maria Landó.” I had to see it again. I took home an audio dub. I asked, Are there more records like this? Where does this music come from? What kind of music is this? So Susana’s version of this song became the lead-off track on our well received compilation of Afro-Peruvian music. My own version, which I had been doing live on the South American leg of my Rei Momo tour, was the last track. As a consequence, Susana did some live dates, which were great, especially the New York show at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn. We asked her if she would be interested in making a studio version of what she was doing live — simple, direct, honest versions of her own songs and some Afro-Peruvian classics. Some previous records of this material had been pop-ified, lounge-ized or tarted up in various ways, but she liked the direct approach and she agreed. There are some hints of a possible new direction on the record as well. from: The Little History of Luaka Bop

Maria Landó — Susana Baca
Performed by Susana Baca
Words by Cesar Calvo
Music by Chabuca Granda
©1982 Editora Pregón Lima

The dawn breaks like a statue
Like a winged statue spreading across the city
And the noon rings, a bell made of water
A golden singing bell that keeps us from feeling alone
And the night lifts its large chalice
Its large chalice, an early moon rising over the ocean

But for Maria, there is no dawn
But for Maria, there is no noon
But for Maria, there is no moon
She lifts her red goblet over the seas

Maria has no time, (Maria Lando) to even lift her eyes
To lift her eyes, (Maria Lando) broken from lack of sleep
Maria, broken from lack of sleep, (Maria Lando) and from suffering
Maria, suffering, (Maria Lando) only works
Maria works, and her work is for others

Maria Lando, Maria Lando always working
And her work is another’s

About ETarchives

El Taller Latino Americano is a 501(c) (3) community-based arts and education institution founded in 1979 by Argentine musician and composer, Bernardo Palombo. He had arrived in New York not speaking a word of English, yet found no language barrier amongst musicians. He quickly realized the power of culture and art to cross barriers and began holding double-feature concerts featuring artists like Pete Seeger, Mercedes Sosa, Philip Glass and Atahualpa Yupanqui. Palombo also began teaching Spanish incorporating his songs and the languages of Latin America. This immersion model, combining the vitality of the arts with language learning, continues today.
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