Friday, February 4, 2011


I just did a phone interview with DJ Afro, mostly to help promote Los Amigos Invisibles tour, for a local newspaper I write for. But obviously I was a lot more interested in chatting with the Venezuelan guitarist and DJ about his new solo album, Free, and his approach to cumbia. So this is the second half of that interview, translated to English.

- Free is a very different album from your previous Will Work For Fun, which was mostly focused on Latin house remixes.
- That one wasn’t really an album but just a collection of remixes I had been doing for a while for different people. One day I put them all together and showed them to a friend a he told me “you should release it!” And so we did. But it wasn’t conceived as an album. This new one is completely different. We were done with the recording of (Los Amigos Invisibles latest official LP) Commercial, which was done mostly in my own studio and I was on a roll, I didn’t wanna stop recording, I still had my head full of ideas so I kept going. Commercial had this rigid rules that we set out ourselves about doing pop songs, Free is the total opposite. No rules at all. Whatever I wanted to do, I did.
- That’s why there’s such a variety of rhythms and styles.
- Yes, it’s a little schizophrenic in some sense. But at the same time is the stuff that I listen to. The concept behind is was not to have a concept at all, do whatever comes up.
- Of course the track that stood out for me was the cumbia, “Rata.” What’s the story behind it?
- Actually, I fell in love with cumbia when we went to Perú (in 2008) and I discovered chicha. I went crazy for chicha. It killed me. I drove me mad. The guitar, the wah-wah, all that psychedelic thing. And this was at the same time of this cumbia revival and cumbia basically is—I’d argue that cumbia is the only rhythm that’s danced throughout all Latin America. You have cumbia from Mexico to Argentina.
- Funny that you said that because in that song I noticed references to both Mexican and Argentine cumbia, am I right?
- Absolutely.
- And on top of that you had a Venezuelan singer. Quite a statement of cumbia’s internationalism.
- Exactly. That guy, Gianko is a whole character. He’s a comidian/musician known in Venezuela for doing cumbia versions of rock song, like Lenny Kravitz. I met him and I said to him, “we gotta do something together.” It was amazing.
- What do you think about the whole new cumbia phenomenon and its appropriation by DJ culture?
- It was just a matter of time for it to happen. Cumbia is has a very trippy element in its beat and at the same time it’s very sexual because of the tempo. I think that everything that Zizek and what Toy (Selectah) is doing for cumbia is—It was a matter of time for it to explode. Two or three years ago I discovered chicha and I was telling people that cumbia was eventually going to overthrow reggaetón’s supremacy and they laughed. Look at where it is now.
-  So, can we expect to hear some cumbia in Los Amigos Invisibles future repertoire?
-  We’ve done it already! We did a cumbia for a Mexican wrestling video game last year called “Los Luchadores.” It’s a Mexican cumbia classic.
-  No way! You recorded a cover of Conjunto Africa’s “Los Luchadores”?
-  Yeah, that same one. You can actually download it for free from my website
- Oh man! I love that song, I actually used it as an intro for one of my mixtapes. (Linyerismo Episode II)
- Oh, and we just recorded another cumbia for a compilation, it’s a cumbia version of an old Amigos’ song from our first album.
-  One thing I always loved about Los Amigos Invisibles shows was when you guys do live mash-ups and mix riffs of popular songs with your own. I always had the theory that that had to come from a DJ brain, hence it had to be you.
-  And you’re right. It’s a lot of fun doing that. We throw many obvious references that everybody will get, like I don’t know, Boys II Men or (2 Unlimited’s) “Get Ready For This” but what I like the most is to mix in a little more obscure stuff that not everybody will get, but some will.
- You made my day last time you came to town and mixed in the intro of Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” with one of your songs, I don’t remember which one. Anyway, I know that you have recently picked up DJing again.
- Yes, it’s because of living in New York, it inspires me a lot. I felt the need for it. To be in New York and not do that would be foolish. It also has to do with the fact that after many years playing vinyl I finally made the transition to digital, so going out to play is a lot less painfull. Before, each time I went out to play I had to spend an hour and a half sorting through the records. It was a very amusing process, but still, now I became fond of the laptop.
- But you still have a vinyl fetish?
- Of course! That sound has no comparisson. Vinyl can’t be replaced.
- Well, then you gotta insist that Nacional Records releases more vinyl including both Los Amigos Invisibles and DJ Afro.
- I will, don’t worry.

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