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A taste of Peruvian rock

Surf guitar meets cumbia rhythms in these collections of Peruvian music.

May 22, 2011

Below are a few essential Peruvian rock collections that highlight the curious convergence of surf guitar and South American cumbia rhythms.

Various artists, "The Roots of Chicha, Vol. 1 and 2" (Berbes)

"The Roots of Chicha, Vol. 1," the compilation that more or less helped introduce styles of cumbia peruana — Peruvian cumbia — to the American public, was a surprise hit in 2007, garnering strong media praise and interest. French compiler Olivier Conan used the inaugural volume to focus on giants from the 1960s and '70s, including Los Destellos, Los Mirlos and Los Diablos Rojos. Three years later, he followed with "Vol. 2," trying to dig deeper and broader by highlighting acts such as the Cuban-influenced Compay Quinto and the Andean band Los Shapis.

Various artists, "Cumbia Beat, Vol. 1" (Vampisoul)

Released in 2010 by Spain's Vampisoul, "Cumbia Beat" is a two-CD primer on cumbia peruana that covers songs from 1966-76. The collection covers some of the same ground as "The Roots of Chicha" (Los Destellos, Los Mirlos) but also showcases a host of other artists from the diverse cumbia scene, including cult favorites Los Orientales de Paramonga and such futuristically named groups as Los Galax and Los Beta 5.

Ranil y Su Conjunto Tropical, "Ranil's Jungle Party" (Masstropicas)

Ranil Llenera is a cumbia peruana pioneer from the Belen district of Iquitos, one of the biggest cities in the Peruvian Amazon. Even in his early days, Llenera was a bit of a maverick among the various cumbia bands, opting against signing with one of the bigger national labels and insisting on releasing records on his own. Last year's "Ranil's Jungle Party" compiles a dozen songs from across Llenera's '70s releases and highlights his hypnotically fluid criollo guitar style.

Various artists, "El Sonido de Tupac Amaru" (Masstropicas)

Masstropicas is run by "Mike P" Pigott, a cumbia enthusiast from the unlikely home base of western Massachusetts. For "El Sonido de Tupac Amaru," Pigott turns away from the psych-influenced instrumental tracks that typify some of the other compilations by highlighting more vocalists, including Alfonso Quispe, a.k.a. Chacal of Chacal y Sus Estrellas. "El Sonido de Tupac Amaru" also goes deep into the dense northern Lima neighborhood of Cono Norte, from which all but two of the bands on the comp hail, including the popular, late-'70s crew Grupo Guinda.

— Oliver Wang

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