Peru Maravilloso, released in the US this week, is the first compilation from Tiger’s Milk Records, a new UK-based label devoted to historic and current Peruvian music. We recently had a chat with one of the compilers of this compilation, Duncan Ballantyre, who outlined the process and the approach behind picking the tracks for this record. “This is just about really good music from Peru,” Ballantyre said, “We don’t sort of try to slice a section, an epoch, and say, okay, that music is from that era and it has that pigeon hole. We’re not doing that. I think you’ll find that Peru Maravilloso is all over the place musically.”
While it is definitely an eclectic album, it holds up as a cohesive collection. The album is strung together well with threads of fuzzy guitar lines, cowbells, group vocals, and vintage organs. “We decided just to keep it within the realm of Latin music. So that covered everything from chicha to salsa to very soundtrack, odd, unique tracks; some cumbia, some surf.”
The first three tracks sum up the diversity and continuity on this compilation very well: The opener, “Mambo De Machaguay” by Lucho Neves Y Su Orquesta, begins with vocals and horns reminiscent of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66, mixed with NYC mambo; this impression is immediately superseded by an odd, delightful Andean-folk-influenced piano melody that directs the rest of the piece. Track two, “Salsa 73” from Chango y su Conjunto, is pretty classic salsa dura, but with guitars playing the montunos and solos instead of the usual piano. By track three, we are in deep cumbia selvática land with Juaneco y su Combo, one of the most ‘famous’ chicha bands: a heavy cumbia groove with riffing bongos and timbales, melodies carried by surf-style electric guitars, and reverb-soaked vocals with bird calls in the background.
The delights continue: Los Ecos, “Me Siento Feliz” is an instrumental chicha cover of the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”; Rocker ‘Zulu’ is featured with the lounge mambo/rock “Sueño De Amor”; “Toro Mata,” the traditional Afro-Peruvian anthem, is deconstructed and re-orchestrated in jazz-style by Pocho Purizaga, drummer for Lucia de la Cruz. We could go on, but you get the picture. Go cop you some Peru Maravilloso.
In the words of Afropop’s Director of New Media, Sam Backer: “This is a joyful and lovely record. It has made my life happier for having heard it, and it makes the world a better place for existing. This is under-represented music, and it is presented in a delightful way.”