A few months ago, I traveled through Peru to learn about the musical culture of this magnificent country shaped by the impressive Andes mountain ranges.
I had the great honor of meeting an extraordinary woman, with an enormous aura, who immediately conquered me completely. The Afro-Peruvian singer, composer and ethno musicologist Susana Esther Baca de la Colina.
Susana Baca was born on May 24, 1944 in Lima and grew up in the Chorrillos district. Her father was a guitarist, her mother a dancer, and her cousins Ronaldo Campos and Caitro Soto had founded the famous ensemble „Perú Negro“.
Susanas were a role model. And they convinced her to dedicate her life to music and her Afro-Peruvian roots.
Another pivotal event that defined Susana Baca’s life was her meeting with the famous Peruvian singer-songwriter Chabuca Granda. She hired Susana as her secretary and the two became friends. After Chabuca’s death, Susana continued the passion of her friend and her role model: researching and preserving the music of her homeland.
For eleven years, Susana and her husband, the sociologist Ricardo Pereira, investigated testimonies from the Afro-Peruvian population, descendants of black slaves, who live on the Peruvian coast. In 1992 Susana and Ricardo published all these documents in the book “Del Fuego y del Agua”.
Three years later, they founded a cultural center called “Instituto Negrocontinuo” in San Luis de Cañete, a small coastal town south of Lima, to keep Afro-Peruvian culture alive.
In 1995, Susana Baca became famous when David Byrne invited her to record her song “Maria Landò” for her label “Luaka Pop” on the album “El Alma del Perú Negro”.
Since then, Susana Baca has won several Latin Grammys and has worked with such important musicians and singers as Mercedes Sosa, María Rita, Totó La Momposina, Gilberto Gil and many more.
Despite her musical successes, Susana never stopped fighting for her Peruvian homeland in other areas as well. In 2007, she was named “ambassador of SOS Children’s Villages”.
In July 2011, the then Peruvian President, Ollanta Humalo Tasso, appointed Susana Baca Minister of Culture, a position she held until the end of 2011.
From 2011-2013 she was chosen by the OAS, an organization of American states, to chair the Inter-American Commission on Culture.
When I had the privilege of interviewing Susana Baca at her home in Lima, in September 2022, she had just returned with her group from an important tour of Argentina and Chile.
At that time, we had no idea that the social and political situation in Peru would reach such a point that the country is currently, unfortunately, on the brink of civil war.
Very openly and with great kindness Susana Baca answered all my questions and she told me about her life and her rich experiences!
Women as fighters like her give hope!
Hear for yourselves everything this inspiring singer, songwriter, ethnomusicologist and so much more told me!