Album Review: ANDINA – The Sound of the Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 [Tiger’s Milk Records; 20th October 2017]

Compiled by Martin Morales – Peruvian DJ and restaurateur of London’s Ceviche restaurants – ANDINA unites traditional songs nestled in the heights of the South American mountain range.

The late sixties and seventies was a time when afro-influenced cumbia music joined forces with dance-style huayno influences and spread across Peru into the cities and coastlines. This is a rare step back in time where the recordings remain unchanged as most have not been re-released since their original pressing. Both cumbia and huayno music are performed alongside foot-stomping pair dances, designed to engage and ritualise the courtship between two people. This is an easy-listening album with simple hooking melodies and infectious polyrhythms.

Opening number ‘La Chicera’ is the most internationally known track on the album, unveiling the early cumbia Andina sound. The song was written by Lima composer Carlos Porfírio Baquerizo Castro in apparently two minutes and is regarded as introducing cumbia to a wider audience. The unknotting of two horn melodies at the start leads the way to his infamous harmonic oscillations. The remainder of the song continues to frolic and sway on top of multi-layers of percussion.

‘Mi Casacancha’ transports you into the hillsides. You’ll find your imagination in a central courtyard of a small rural village surrounded by expansive farmland and grazing alpacas. The villagers are screaming and hollering. Circle joyously hand in hand with the locals as the melody plays in time but the beat lays the steady foundation. The LP then ends with Toyascha, a high-pitched stringed swinging number that repeats itself until it fades out.

This is an album which showcases a side of musical culture that ferociously aims to get people on to their feet and smiling. This collection is genuinely vintage and folkloric and so is the integrity of the recording quality. As a result, this can be hard to relate to in a modern context. However, it is a meaningful release which not only opens the ears to differing cultural forms but can encourage more modern interpretations and re-imaginings.

Wear your brightest colours and gather your friends. As you turn up the volume, enjoy the best of celebration music from the Peruvian heirloom with your favourite people beside you.