As some label’s have pointed out in past years Peru has proven to be a hotbed of musical treats that have given our ears plenty of amazing grooves. Among them, Peruvian cumbia or chicha (as it might mistakenly be generalized) is a musical genre that still remains largely uncharted world that still holds many surprises up it’s sleeve. Thankfully Mike P of MAssTropicas is out to shed some light on the matter one release at a time.
The label’s latest release, El Sonido de Tupac Amaru, realizes months of travels and research collecting the diverse sounds of Comas, a northern working class neighborhood in Lima. Scouring local radio stations for interesting sounds and from this own digs he’s compiled a collection artists and songs that encapsulate the eclectic sounds that resonate day and night along Avenida Tupac Amaru. The comp brings together a really tasty mix of vocal tracks, check out the the great opener by Grupo Naranja below, plus a handfull of instrumentals including probably one my favorites off the comp by La Septima Region a real percussive cooker with a some great guitar work as the track’s title appropriately labels it “De la Selva con Furor! (From the Jungle with Might)
Check out Light in the Attic’s interview with Mike P below for more on this release and stay tuned on Masstropicas’ next projects, from what i’ve chatted with Mike there’s some more amazing more stuff coming up, including some recording of some never heard before bands from the deepest of the Peruvian jungle. Can’t wait. Enjoy. EB
Tell us about Masstropicas. What inspired you to start the label?
Masstropicas is a collective of sorts not only do I come up with ideas for releases but I also present them to the bands with a collaborative attitude in hopes that they will be receptive. I was inspired to start Masstropicas because no one in North America was releasing Peruvian cumbia and I thought these re-issue’s deserve more than a CD and iTunes.
We reviewed the Ranil’s Jungle Party record, which is fantastic and got a lot of play in the LITA offices (it also made our top reissues of 2010 list). Was that the label’s first release?
No that was actually Masstropicas 4th release, the 3 that came before that were all pressed in very small quantities. Number one being a 45 by LOS CHAPILLACS from Arequipa, Peru. Number 2 being a 12″ from GREEN MANSIONS ( a band between a friend from Denmark and me) and number 3 being a cassette from EL HOMBRE ORQUESTA an amazing street musician from Lima, Peru who performs many cumbia songs and also does some salsa.
Both Ranil’s Jungle Party and El Sonido De Tupac Amaru are prime examples of Peruvian cumbia. Can you talk a bit about this style of music?
Peruvian cumbia much like Peruvian food is a true mix of styles ranging from Asian influence to indigenous Andean influence to American surf rock influence. You’ll find records in Peru that have styles printed next to the song titles, one will say cumbia-rock another will say cumbia-beat and another one will say cumbia-hyuano. It’s always been all over the place but it’s all cumbia Peruana and people outside of Peru who try to pinpoint it always seem to not have the best description.
Tell us about the El Sonido De Tupac Amaru compilation. How did you find these songs/artists?
All of these songs come from my travels in Peru at one point or another. Half of the songs are from 45s I dug down there and songs I heard through a radio station close to my wife’s family’s home called Radio Comas. I would tune in late at night and record radio shows that played cumbia and skim threw the tapes and if I heard something groovy I would ask around and play the song for people in hopes that I could get the name of the group. The compilation is also named after Tupac Amaru which is an avenue also close to where my wife’s family live and you can hear a lot of this music blaring from taxi’s, restaurants, and street vendors there.
Tell us about the re-mastering process. What was the source material that you had to work with? Vinyl? Master tapes? Who did the re-mastering/restoration?
95% of the source material is from vinyl and 5% being from master tapes. Unfortunately only a few labels kept master tapes in Peru and it’s very hard to come across smaller labels who do own master tapes. So we relied on the cleanest copies of the records that I own and trying to mix the sound with the songs on the compilation that come from the master tapes was quite a dilemma for Pepito Perez and Anres Tapia, the two guys who mastered El Sonido De Tupac Amaru along with Ranil’s Jungle Party.
And the packaging looks great! Really cool design and the bonus 7″ makes it even more special. Tell us a bit about the design/packaging.
El Sonido De Tupac Amaru and the Centeno 7″ were both designed by a close friend named Tunchi who is also apart of the street photography collective http://limafotolibre.com. I’ve known him for many years prior to him designing things. It’s truly a collaborative effort with him as well, I trust him very much though, we also work with another photographer names FOKUS who will get us photo’s from old bands and also take newer photos if needed. El Sonido De Tupac Amaru comes with an 11″ x 22″ full color insert with tons of rare photos and along with that it comes with a double sided 11″ x 11″ insert with liner notes and additional art.
Lastly, what are you working on next?
I keep those things under my hat until it’s 100% but we are going to Peru in May to record some bands from the Jungle!
For audio samples and to order El Sonido De Tupac Amaru (LP + 7″ | Tropic-06) click HERE!