Tag Archives: Peruvian music

Artist Profiles: Novalima


Novalima is a collective of four Lima-based producers: Ramón Pérez Prieto, Rafael Morales, Carlos Li Carrillo and Grimaldo del Solar. They combine the rich musical traditions of Peru with subtle electronic textures, bass tones and drums. The result is a fascinating percussive framework that includes acoustic musical instruments along with cutting edge digital sounds.

Novalima uses traditional instruments such as the native cajón, quijada, and congas to compliment programmed beats, funk-inspired bass lines, and contemporary piano melodies.

The founders of Novalima became friends while in high school in Lima. The children of artists and intellectuals, Ramón, Grimaldo, Rafael and Carlos were well-educated and well-traveled, and while they grew up listening to the popular and folk music of Latin America, they also shared a fascination for rock, pop, reggae, salsa, dance and electronic music.

Novalima developed with the help of modern technology. The group came was formed parts of the world. From their homes in London, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Lima, they started emailing song ideas to each other. These long-distance experiments resulted in their 2002 debut album, the self-titled Novalima.

The reception to the album exceeded their wildest expectations, eventually reaching platinum sales status in Peru, and for their next album they invited more Afro-Peruvian musicians to join their recording sessions, including Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Lucila Campos, Lucha Reyes and Zambo Cavero,. The result was Afro, an album that was released worldwide in 2006 to remarkable acclaim and put Novalima on the international music map.

The founders of Novalima have since returned to Lima and invited some of their favorite Afro-Peruvian musicians to become permanent members of their band: Juan Medrano Cotito, Mangüe Vasquez, Milagros Guerrero and Marcos Mosquera, as well as Constantino Alvarez, a renowned local drummer and percussionist.

The partnership between the original cosmopolitan quartet and members of the Afro-Peruvian community has generated a lot of attention at home, principally because the divide between black and white in Peru has made these types of collaborations rare.

On their album Coba Coba, Novalima expanded on the formula they developed with their two previous recordings, while taking their fusion in new directions. The album’s title is derived from an Afro-Peruvian expression used to incite musicians, much like shouting “Go for it!” or “Take it!” to a musician in the midst of a great solo.



On Coba Coba, Novalima explores further into the African roots of Afro-Peruvian music, bringing in influences from its Afro-rooted musical cousins such as reggae, dub, salsa, hip-hop, afrobeat and Cuban son. They took a more organic approach this time around, and the songs more accurately reflected the live sound of the band, thanks to time spent working together as an actual band rather than a studio project.

The 2012 Karimba takes the listener on a trip through the history and travels of Afro-rooted music.


* Novalima (2002)
* Afro (Quango, 2006)
* Coba Coba (Cumbancha, 2009)
* Coba Coba remixed (Cumbancha, 2009)
* Karimba (Eighteenth Street Lounge, 2012)
* Karimba Diabolic Remixes (Wonderwheel Recordings, 2013)
* Planetario (Wonderwheel Recordings, 2015)


Folk Music from Peru

Wayna Picchu / Takirari / Tinku – Folk Music from Peru

Wayna Picchu / Takirari / Tinku – Folk Music from Peru (Arc Music EUCD 2675, 2016)

In Peru, I met and knew him as the biggest rogue on Earth / For in sin and crime, he’d wallowed, since his mother gave him birth / And they called him ‘El Mestizo,’ no one knew his mongrel race / There were traces of four nations on his evil-looking face.”
from “El Mestizo,” by Randolph Henry Atkin, 1914

It is relatively simple to determine which parts of modern “mestizo” Andean music come from the Spaniards and their descendants and which belonged to the indigenous people of the region. There were no stringed instruments in the Americas in pre-Columbian times. Therefore, a listener’s ear can easily separate, with a high level of accuracy, the elements with obvious guitar-ish origins from those birthed from wind instruments and drums.

Most world music fans can quickly divide melodies into New World and Old World origin, as well. Thus, Andean music makes most of us happy, armchair ethnomusicologists, and that is always fun. Within these generalities, this Peruvian folk anthology gives one the strong impression that the Inca were oppressive conquerors, perhaps not on the level of the Spanish settlers, but definitely suppressive of the earlier regional cultures they suppressed two and a half centuries earlier. The song titles and themes all refer to either Inca or Hispanic Christian issues. As to how much of a cultural, aural stew existed when the Spanish arrived, we have little idea.

What is captured here is the beautiful, magical sound we associate with Peru and the Andes. The deep, rich, large flutes immediately bring the Andes to mind. The bass drums are mountain echoes, and the higher percussion and wind instruments are avalanches, streams and birds. As for the Old World instruments and influences, guitars are incorporated for song intros, outros and modulations. They season, and they translate for ears descended from Europe. Vocals on this release are more instrumental than narrative, chants more than songs. It is a good addition to one’s world music collection.

Folk Music from Peru


Length & Time: Dengue Dengue Dengue!

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.

Along came a Peruvian duo with a very long name, Dengue Dengue Dengue!, in 2011, and a project to release a new sonic-selfhood or indigenismo. Read Simon Bolivar’s “Letter From Jamaica” where he denounces the killings of the continents previous landowners but also the limits placed on persons like himself born in the Americas by Spaniards and you will understand how serious indigenismo is: reason for revolution.

They are young but they are proud. They are also cosmopolitans and would like to meld the world into Peruvian sound and song. For the cover of their most recent release Siete Raices, the name of a Peruvian punch beverage that is an aphrodisiac, they wear masks, as many non western cultures, including those of tribes native to the Americas, do. Like their name, dengue is the name of a fever, the album screams “Feverrr!” as La Lupe does so on her recordings spectacularly. It is an album of 9 songs, each a gem of ambient, sultry, electronic, clinical rhythm, layers of instrumentation, and sometimes singing.

The songs are fun but their intent is clear: these are cultural songs that seek to replenish nation and culture. “Guarida” is a plunge of song – there is text and grave singing to the rhythm that we are introduced to slowly but surely. “Dubcharaca” also begins slowly to quickly move into dance-able excitement. Listening to “Amazonia” is a walk through a world somewhat psychedelic but maybe indigenous. “Badman” is a great dance song.

With radio length for each song and through intricate layering on facile rhythm to a time of heightened affordable hedonism but also of public dissent, this duo offers their native culture modernity and complexity and us the ability to feel cosmopolitan Peru.


Length & Time: Susana Baca

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.

Peruvian singer Susana Baca’s songs first and foremost exist to feature a voice: Susana Baca’s. Hers is a phenomenal voice, so the purpose of her songs are beauty, as much as it is to highlight Baca.

What’s more is that Baca’s songs are poetic songs in traditional shapes: producing a Baca song is producing poetry and an enunciation of what Bourgeois liberal living obscures. If to produce a Baca song is to produce Baca singing an empathetic rendition of years of cultural history, then to do so well is capture a voice, its empathy, and also years of cultural history in a single song. It’s what her music promises.

Is all of what we’ve just discussed accomplished?

Baca’s album Afrodiaspora features songs that are majestic, poetic, and empathetic. Baca lets the instruments perform confidently enough to not pander to them. We hear her assure that every part of her singing is heard clearly. The song “Afrodiaspora” is a great example of this. When she sings, she takes the spotlight. When she is not singing, it is as if the song was an instrumental song.

Susana Baca
Susana Baca

“Yana Runa” is another example of this. She plunges into her song with her timbre and enunciation, grabbing the spotlight from already lyrical instruments. It came with experience. Her singing on album Lamento Negro is much less poignant and panders much more to the music, especially to strings.

The length of the songs are all radio length but their tempos do not adhere to radio. They are not produced for short attention spans and are richly lyrical, always songs that one can imagine can fill up a room if one gives her song a chance against mass-culture.

Baca’s are songs of confidence, sung at a time when artistic confidence has been plundered by commerce.

Buy Afrodiaspora