Monday, March 26, 2012

SENSACIÓN SHIPIBO-Reshin Noma/Amakashin Amawe (Masstropicas, 2011)

The cumbia universe is filled with absurd, bizarre, ridiculousness, kitsch and absolute lack of regard for anything that resembles a conventional sense of taste. That's part of its charm, especially when taken out of context and viewed through the prism of irony. Of course there's the whole other side of the story, the deep African diaspora roots and the contagious funky beats.
Cumbia new fans, the ones who didn't necessarily grow up in a cumbiero environment (myself included) have probably arrived to it enticed by either one of those two factors, or a combination of both.
Then you have Michael Pigott of Masstropicas, a vinyl (and cassette) record label out of Massachusetts that started releasing reissues and is now also including newly recorded original material in their slowly by steadily expanding catalog. This guy's interest in cumbia, Peruvian cumbia in particular, is a total mystery to me.
Unlike most other gringos who fell under the chichadelic spell in recent years, Michael doesn't go for the funkier side of chicha that appeals to the soulful break beat-digging heads and DJs out there. And when it comes to the kitsch and the bizarre, he goes beyond the imaginable and taps into flat-out crazy territory, with no apparent ironic intermediation. He somehow managed to extract some of the strangest expressions off the fringes of Peruvian pop culture and instead of laughing at it, like the millions of people mocking Wendy Sulca on youtube, he seems to actually, genuinely, enjoy it.
I used to think he was just another gringo who went down to the Amazonian jungle to experience ayahuasca and after a mind-distorting psychedelic trip came back obsessed with chicha music and Peruvian aboriginal culture. Now I'm pretty sure his connection to it goes way deeper, but I still don't quite understand it.
Sensación Shipibo's 7'' vinyl single on Masstropicas is some of the strangest Latin American music you would expect to find pressed in this particularly expensive to produce format. And that's evidence that this guy must really, really love this music, unless he's an eccentric millionaire looking for more imaginative ways to waste money, which I doubt.
It's obviously not chicha. Not at least in the classic sense of it, established (for most of us outside Peru) by the reissues and compilations of Barbés and Vampisoul. Neither it's huayno. It's a peculiar brand of cumbia that's noticeably detached from the Afro-Colombian roots of the genre (as it is detached from any other known branch of modern or traditional cumbia), probably because of it developing in almost absolute isolation from the rest of the world, in some tiny-ass extremely poor town in the middle of the jungle. The lyrics (recorded with lots of delay) include some verses in Spanish but most of it is delivered in the singer's native language, and according to Michael himself, under the influence of ayahuasca rituals (the band's leader is also a shaman).
Of course the music is trippy as fuck, but not in the sense most would probably expect. It still has a kind of up-tempo party vibe. But strictly from a DJ point of view, I'd think it twice before dropping these tracks in my set unless I'm confronted with a very open-minded mixed crowd and they are totally fucked up and is very late in the night. The average Latino party crowd won't get it and even the Peruvians that come to my gigs would probably feel embarrassed. That being said, if you have the right audience at the right time and you are pretty confident you're in the zone and you have them eating them from your palm, drop this shit and it's dancefloor chaos guaranteed.
Needless to say, if you're down for the completely unconventional I strongly suggest you get one of the limited copies of this release as soon as you can. If you were looking for some ñu-cumbia dance-floor-smashing hit to please the hipster crowd, probably look somewhere else.

This 7'' single is exclusively sold as part of a set along with an LP by Los Jharis de Ñaña. Get it here.

1 comment:

andujar said...

ha! my homeboy Mikey P loves his Amazonian cumbia as much as he does his Colombian hardcore. total Gringo, definately not rich...but with an appetite for wacky tunes and a Peruvian wife who may find all this silly.
i love the blog. thanks!