Concha Buika ravishes with her singing voice, but even in spoken conversation, the sweetly rasping flamenco singer provokes goosebumps, pouring out her ideas in poetic cadences. Her artististic principles are at one with her outlook on life: an open bisexual, a child of African immigrants, a one-time Tina Turner impersonater, an aspiring electronica programmer—nothing's a contradiction for the ever-evolving Buika.
In this interview, Buika reveals what "your mother" and Chucho Valdes have in common, and dishes how she got kicked out of Chavela Vargas' dressing room and danced with Antonio Banderas. The Indy spoke with her by phone back in September, before she embarked on a North American tour behind El Ultimo Trago (2009). She performs at N.C. State University's Stewart Theatre Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m.
Independent Weekly: How would you prefer that I call you, Concha or Buika?
Buika: Well, my name in your mouth is yours. Both are my name.
You've lived your life outside of convention in many ways. How has that affected your expression as an artist?
I don't know how I do what I do. I can't explain it. I do what I do because I am what I am. I just close my eyes and I sing what I hear inside.
I'm very interested in this Latin scene that's going on in Madrid right now; your producer has worked with El Cigala and Bebo Valdes, and now you did this album with Chucho Valdes. How much is it a "scene," that is, a new remix of these elements of Africa, Afro-Cuba and Spain?
Well, I think all the world is united for the same thing: the arts. I think that arts are a unique religion that we have, because it's the only one that unites the world. The rest of the religions, they separate the people. Every time I find myself in front of another musician, or a painter, or a writer, or a photographer, I think that I'm in front of someone who is trying to do the same mission that I do. That's to reunite the world again. I think that we are living separate [because of] ideas that are from other people. And I think that our idea is to be together.
Above all, this year's Troika Music Festival felt less like a festival that happened to take place in Durham and more like one created specifically for Durham. This isn't to say that the festival wasn't welcoming—its embrace of all comers was apparent in the often larger-than-usual crowds greeting the festival's three-day pile-up of (mostly) local bands.
This year's Troika might not have had the marquee names of years past, but this mostly proved an opportunity for the locals to show their mettle. Saturday sets from Chatham County Line and Hammer No More The Fingers—both at the Motorco Music Hall, at 8 p.m. and 1 a.m., respectively—gathered room-cramping attention at the festival's largest venue.
But even as local stars shone their brightest, the festival's success came from its variety. Thursday's itinerary made up for a damp, chilly evening with the elegant chamber-folk of Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes, the burly gallop of metal foursome HOG, Wood Ear's twang-rock, Double Negative's spree of noise-addled hardcore and Dexter Romweber's singular brand of rock 'n' roll purism. With the largest cluster of venues within a block of each other (Motorco, Fullsteam brewery, the trotter Building and 618 Foster St.) most of the festival, and all of my Thursday night, was an easy shuffle from door to door.
Troika Music Festival had me worried, at least at first. I arrived at the free Central Park kickoff show—last year's co-bill between Megafaun and The Beast there remains a highlight—shortly before 9 p.m. on Thursday night to pick up my pass. The show was nearly deserted, despite a solidly entertaining set from funky hometown rap-rock crew Mosadi Music. I chalked the thin attendance up to the chilly weather, but even at the festival's Rigsbee Avenue-and-Geer-Street nucleus, I found a parking spot just feet from the entrance of Motorco. The indoor shows were hardly more populated.
I became truly concerned when Double Negative's mathy, no-holds-barred hardcore—not quite the type of music to idly enjoy—failed to incite the all-too-polite Motorco crowd. Although a decent crowd had gathered at Fullsteam by the time Midtown Dickens closed out with a heartwarming set that previewed several cuts from their upcoming album, I was underwhelmed with the overall Thursday night turnout. During my drive back to Raleigh, I wondered if, after successful showings this fall at Hopscotch, SparkCon and Shakori, Triangle music had burnt out on music festivals. Surely not, I hoped.
The rest of the weekend, however, was quintessential Bull City. Despite even colder temperatures and occasional sprinkles, the diverse, music-loving lot that's typical of Durham shows turned out in full force once the bands got rolling Friday night, putting my doubts to rest. With brown paper bags and cans of cheap domestics, the punk kids young and old filled 307 Knox's Foster Street headquarters, making it tough for late arrivals to gain entry to see Los Naturales and Whatever Brains—the former seeming like a disciple of the latter's hooky, noisy garage rock. Charming Carrboro duo Mandolin Orange tried their best to quiet the booming crowd of Fullsteam Brewery with relaxed, rustic originals.
I spent a lot of Troika Music Festival not thinking about music at all: I wrestled over the perils of eating food truck-inspired second dinners. I cursed my broken cell phone. I paced between venues looking for familiar faces. I thought about a boy. I clumsily broke a glass and poured beer on my foot. I felt relieved not to have a camera. I started taking tallies of people wearing un-ironic headwear and boys with beards. Mostly, I wondered how we all got there and why we'd come in the first place.
Because if you didn't happen to be rambling the streets of Durham Thursday, Friday or Saturday night, the weekend was just a cold, rainy couple of days you might have spent curled up with warm tea and Netflix. But if you were, you saw a showcase of many of the area's finest musicians playing for wholly supportive hometown crowds. Like Hopscotch before it, this year's Troika conjured camaraderie in the local scene that I think we all know exist but don't very often get to see and hear in such a holistic way.
That whole is best considered in parts. A few favorite moments from a weekend full of great ones follow.