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Sofía Buchuck: the musician with her own rhythm

She is one of the most recognised musicians of the Latin American community in the UK, where she has gained prominence thanks to her talent, discipline, her musical works and her involvement in various community projects that are not always arts related. The Prisma’s Memoirs. January 2012


Juan Galbete


Very early on, at just 12 years old, Buchuck began to experience the harsh life of a migrant. A large part of her life has therefore been spent travelling, most of the time as a nomad out of necessity. However, she has always been able to draw on the positive aspects of her experience, trying not to blot out the memories of the past, although at times it is hard for her to recall.

She was born in the Cuzco Valley, in Peru, “a volcanic art factory”, says Sofia Buchuck. From a very early age she felt a leaning towards music and literature, a seed, sown in her childhood that has never stopped growing.

It all began with music, learning songs off the radio and singing along just for fun.

But influences from her father’s side also enabled her to develop her career which since her childhood has not stopped evolving, in an almost unconscious way.

Daughter of a poet and singer, she learned from her father that writing allowed her to say something she would not dare to express or say in another way. “I understood that poetry was a very rich form of expressing my feelings, but I never dared to write anything down of my own until the day my father died and I was unable to go to the funeral”. This blow awoke in her a passion for the written word.

“By not being able to be at my father’s funeral, I felt the need to throw all of these feelings down on to a piece of paper. That’s when I felt that writing was something really powerful, because I could encapsulate these emotions that I couldn’t or didn’t want to express in any other way”, she explains.

Later on, her innocent vision of music, a game she played with her cousin climbing up a tree in the Cuzco Valley, still standing today, was disrupted in some way when she migrated to the capital, realising that besides being just a game, “music was also an industry, a whole career”, she added.

Leaving for London

In 1991, after spending her childhood in Ecuador and Colombia, the political circumstances of her country (conflict in Peru between the government, the paramilitary forces of Sendero Luminoso and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) gave her the impetus to emigrate to London, where two of her brothers were living.

In London, she gained a degree in Latin American studies and mastered in both Hispanic and Latin American Studies and Researching Living Culture.  This gave her the opportunity to work on a similar two year project for the Museum of London, as well as working for Lambeth Council (London) on a project on Latin American identity.

In her student days, she performed with an endless array of Latin American groups, until in 1994 she began her solo career to express ‘her own musical rhythm” that she had felt from an early age.

“One day I realised I had material of my own to perform by myself. A friend encouraged me by telling me how my songs have a message; not only about life in the countries we’ve left behind but also about life in the U.K, about the experiences of those who had to leave Peru or any other place”. “So, I started performing my own material at concerts and I felt people really warmed to it”.

Demands of art

Her experiences with Latin American groups were a ‘life workshop” where she learnt how to play several instruments. She realised, however, that if she wanted to develop her own musical personality, she would have to perfect her style.

As a result, throughout her career, she has invested a lot of time and money into this commitment, drawing on the fact that she had kept in contact with people “from all walks of life” from the worlds of theatre and music.

In 2005, after 14 years in London, she returned to Peru, a reunion that touched her deeply as she had remembered the country as if it were “frozen in time”. In 2007, she had in fact released a single in Peru, her first piece as a professional musician and in the same year she performed at the Segura de Lima theatre and at UNAM, or National Autonomous University of Mexico.

“My experience at different music schools has made me more demanding”, she points out. “London lets me try out very particular things which are really special. But if you go to Peru or Mexico, you have the national schools of folklore and music; you can’t say you’re a singer if you don’t practise a minimum number of hours a week”.

Above all, Buchuck believes that “besides technique, what you need is feeling”. “You can have incredible technique, but if there’s no feeling, it’s pointless” she says. Of course, it’s also vital to have a good voice which she does.

For those who know music and who have listened to Buchuck, she has a beautiful voice: one that has been tutored, a professional voice without pretensions, of which there are few.

Her music explores the themes of migration, the emotions felt, and the obstacles to overcome. But it also explores the theme of nature and our responsibility towards it, as well as “day to day life, respect for our elders, childhood, defending women’s work; I try to reinvigorate these themes in my lyrics” says Buchuck.

The discovery of the oral history of Latin America through her participation in the Museum of London project changed her perception of art and opened new horizons for her. “Before, I focused on sharing my traditions, the Peruvian culture, which is really valid, but by getting to know the whole Latin American panorama, you realise that there are themes that transcend borders and unite us at the same time”.

She also tries to incorporate this Latin American heritage into her concerts by including the works of literary greats such as Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo or Nicolás Guillén.

Art and compromise

Besides her artistic works, Buchuck is also a committed activist on political, social and cultural themes both in Peru and in London’s Latin American community.

Buchuck is a member of Lambeth’s Voluntary Centre and has worked as a volunteer for Amnesty International. She has worked on projects related to contemporary music with young Latin Americans in England, with Latin American women and has participated in poetry workshops and many other projects. She also sings protest songs, marked by criticism of Peru and the forced exile of many of her compatriots, in a ‘meditative, but not aggressive way”. On the other hand, if she has learnt anything from her experiences it is that “there are many wasted chances. People cling on to idealisms, but don’t put them into practice, they use them as a mask, like a business card. We need communication beyond political differences that are out of step”. “Art needs a space where people do not judge or restrict you”, concludes Buchuck.


(Translated by Rebecca Beswick  – Email: – Photos supplied by the interviewee

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