IBERIAN SUITE: Concha Buika with Iván “Melon” Lewis & Continuum Quartet at The Kennedy Center

Last night the audience at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall was blessed with Buika.

If being blessed by Buika wasn’t more than enough for a single evening, the audience at the Concert Hall had another virtuoso performance as a “warm-up” act, Iván ‘Melon’ Lewis & Continuum Quartet.

 Concha Buika. Photo courtesy of the Kennedy Center.
Concha Buika. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Buika with Iván “Melon” Lewis & Continuum Quartet was a part of the Kennedy Center’s Iberian Suite: Global Arts Remix, March 3-24, 2015.

As a poet I have long been haunted by the idea of voice: the poet in quest of her or his unique style. Last night I discovered its definition.

Many words have been used to describe Buika’s powerful performance style.

Some combination of flamenco fusion, Spanish copla, jazz and African rhythms, Mexican boleros, and American pop; a voice that is as sensual as it is husky, as dark and foreboding as it is tender and girlish; a style that is of Tina Turner and Billie Holliday, of Nina Simone and Betty Carter, of the “Joni Mitchell or late Camarón de la Isla or late Sarah Vaughan.”

Truth be known. Buika is Buika, and at any moment she is Buika again.

From her very first note to her last giggling sensation, Buika filled the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall with the unique dramatizations of her lyrical expressions. She captivates the ear and leaves the mind awaiting the next unexpected fluctuation or surprising burst of improvisation.

Her singing trembles the rafters; her singing quakes the heart; her singing speaks in intimate embraces; her singing reminds us all what freedom might be, if we only let loose with joy.

Buika arrived in the world on May 11, 1972 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. As she told us last night, she attended Catholic school until the age of 12.  The nun told her that she sang like a dog.

Buika disagreed; she sang like a tiger.

Truth be known: she sings like William Blake’s “Tyger”, all imagination and ferocious joy, “burning bright in the forest of the night.”

Buika was joined on stage by 3 extremely talented musicians: Dani de Morón on flamenco guitar, José Manuel “Popo” on flamenco bass, and Ramon S “Porrina” on flamenco percussion.

Their repartee was as fabulous as their music, which included a variety of songs from “Sueno con Ella” to “Siboney.”

By the time she and the band left, a rapturous audience was left wanting one more song.

Iván
Iván “Melon” Lewis & Continuum Quartet. From their Twiiter page.

Act one of the evening featured Iván ‘Melon’ Lewis & Continuum Quartet.  They offered the musically thirsty crowd a swallow or two from their newest album Ayer y Hoy, songs such as “Gala y Nema” and “Mizizi” to name but a few.

Iván ‘Melon’ Lewis is a Cuban born musician who now lives in Madrid, Spain.

His piano playing is as dynamic as it is fraught with emotional complexity.  He credits Buika with providing the turning point of his career, in 2007.  The two have shared their gift of music with each other ever since. They have clearly fed on each other’s talent and genius.

The three other musicians who joined Lewis on stage were Craig Weinrib on drums, Roman Filiu on saxophone, and Yunior Terry on bass.

Together, they wowed the hall’s audience with their rich, multilayered sound. From the expressionistic piano of Lewis to the pure heart of Filiu’s sax, Terry’s graceful strings and Weinrib’s varied percussions, we were left to dream of possible futures in an impossible universe.

By the end of the evening I walked to my car with a revived understanding of what it means to pursue a self-realization.

Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission.

IBERIAN SUITE  Concha Buika (Spain) with Iván “Melon” Lewis & Continuum Quartet (Cuba) played for one night only March 8, 2015 at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall– 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For other events in the Kennedy Center’s Iberian Suite: Global Arts Remix, click here.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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Robert Michael Oliver
Poet, Performer, Theatre Artist, Playwright, Educator, Writer--Robert Michael Oliver, Ph.D., has been involved in the DC arts scene since the 1980s, when he co-founded The Sanctuary Theatre in the old sanctuary of Calvary United Methodist Church. Since those fierce days in Columbia Heights, he has earned his doctorate in theatre from University of Maryland, raised two wonderful children, and seen more theatre as a reviewer over the last two years than he saw in the previous thirty. He now co-directs, along with his wife Elizabeth Bruce, the Sanctuary's Performing Knowledge Project, which organizes a host of writing and performance workshops, plus Mementos: Poetry and Performance for Seniors, a yearly literature-in-performance Fringe Festival show, as well as Performetry--a monthly poetry and prose performance event at DC's community arts & culture center BloomBars.

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