Live review: Celtic Connections: Buika, Mayra Andrade at The Royal Concert Hall, 21/1/14

Buika_2To even the keenest of blog oglers and gig goers, Buika will be a name unheard of.

Buika is not part of the local vernacular; you won’t find her in The List’s listings the fat of The Skinny.

So, to introduce, Buika is a Latin singer, poet and film producer who has been nominated for a Grammy (twice *snap*) and toured internationally for over a decade.

Buika’s style of performance is set clear from the start, she arrives a little late in a long white dress, slit to the hip, the belt cinching her waist the same scarlet shade as the flowers in her hair.

Her husked accent is sensual and, however implausible, her pauses between words even more so.

She eyes the audience and speaks in statements “the cold makes me feel like an angel”, “I can feel a mystery … there is sadness inside these walls, like my hometown”.

She stands tall between the seated guitar and Cajon box, beckoning their playing with gestures: clicks and waves.

To begin with, her voice enraptures the audience (enchant would be too sweet a word, too quaint).

She sings in Spanish with a traditionally Latin style reminiscent of Lola Flores but with Nina Simone’s soulful sighs and shouts.

The first few songs are impressive and incredibly emotive, however lyrics are quickly forgotten and embarrassment understandably ensues.

In honesty, I doubt many in The Royal Concert Hall would notice, language barrier ‘n’ all, but Buika does not handle it well.

The veil of enigmatic performer drops as it transpires her jazzy improvisation is – in this case – filling blanks.

Overcompensating, she pushes her voice too much and offers strange apologies and blames “I am worried because of time … time does not exist in the temple … we are in the temple”.

For the rest of this performance Buika seems to be trying to pull her comfort blanket back on; the blanket of her creative, candid stage character.

Pauses between words and songs grow longer and seem less sensuous than before.

She begins turning away from the audience more and, at times, covers her face.

By this point, people from the audience are trying to tip toe out of the hall as she speaks more sermons than she sings songs, holding her arms aloft and repeatedly proclaiming her loneliness and passion.

For those who have stayed, songs like ‘Mi Nina Lola’ and ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ are performed with incredible, intense emotion and great singing.

On the whole, Buika’s performance is memorable but judging by the weary faces leaving the venue, too tiresome for some.

Let’s hope that those who left early also came early, as they would have seen a warm and versatile support slot by Mayra Andrade.

Where Buika’s behaviour made it difficult to decipher her set, Andrade and her band’s performance pleased the audience.

They play a mix of Andrade’s material, spanning languages and genres.

Andrade herself scrapes on the guiro and sings as if it was more natural to her than talking.

Words: Leonie Colmar

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