Monsieur Periné on Moving Beyond Stereotypes of Roots Music on New Album ‘Encanto Tropical’

Photo by Alejandra Quintero. Courtesy of Monsieur Periné

With their second full-length, 2015’s Caja de Música, Colombia’s Monsieur Periné soared. What once started as a wedding band is now a full-fledged, Latin Grammy Award-winning, nonstop tour titan. After countless live shows and three years to mature their genre-hopping sound, the band returns with Encanto Tropical, their ambitious third album, recorded once again under the direction of producer and Calle 13 member Eduardo Cabra.

The 12 songs featured on Encanto Tropical were picked from a pool of over 30 tracks, which shine with sophisticated and carefully crafted arrangements, and the band’s restless drive to experiment with Latin America’s folk traditions. On Encanto Tropical, Monsieur Periné isn’t in search of a unique sound; the band found it on Caja de Música and have fine-tuned it here, creating a controlled, danceable, and effervescent musical universe.

The album floats as easily as the breeze its title evokes, seamlessly surfing through genres, from the proggy “Tarde” and the nostalgic merengue of “Llévame,” to the throwback bolero “Me Vas a Hacer Falta” and the Andean-inspired closer “Vámonos.”

The samba undertones of lead single “Bailar Contigo” find Monsieur Periné in their poppiest incarnation yet; fittingly, it was co-written by Mauricio Rengifo, one of the co-producers of “Despacito.” This is just one of a handful of songwriting collaborations with other artists, like the swing-splashed “Veneno,” co-written by Julieta Venegas, and “La Sombra,” which features ex-Sin Bandera member Leonel García. But far from feeling outshining Periné’s style, the band’s point of view always stands front-and-center.

Just in time for the release of Encanto Tropical, we chatted with frontwoman Catalina García and producer Cabra to learn about the album making process and working together for the second time.

How do you feel Monsieur Periné has evolved throughout its three albums?
Catalina García: The first album was like a seed; the second one is when the stem starts to grow, and on this third one, [the plant] blossomed and gave fruit. Our second album was [us saying,] “This is what we feel we really are.” With Encanto Tropical, we no longer needed to prove what our language is; it already exists. We focused on making a solid repertoire of songs we can feel comfortable with and which can stand the test of time.

We wanted to talk about our way of approaching music, because we come from a tropical country where rhythm, movement, and the diversity of our cultures are very present. But at the same time, our project always considers the freedom of imagining [new things], not just focusing on a stereotype of what tropical music, Latin music, or music in general can be.

Photo by Alejandra Quintero. Courtesy of Monsieur Periné
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How would you describe the experience of opening up the songwriting process on Encanto Tropical and getting together with outside artists to write music together?
García: We were a little bit more insular on our previous records when it came to songwriting. We would make songs very spontaneously, without thinking too hard or being self-critical of what we were saying.

For this album, we really wanted to break away from that formula and find a richness in writing with other artists who also had different styles than ours. To me, teamwork has always been more attractive than working solo. There’s a big challenge in finding a shared language and empathy in those encounters. I find that very rewarding.

On “Bailar Contigo,” you worked with Mauricio Rengifo, co-producer of the biggest pop urbano song to date. Do you feel these sounds have influenced this song in some way?
García: The thing is, música urbana and reggaeton come from a common root, which is Africa. And the rhythmic elements in soukus, calypso, champeta, and other music from our Afro-Latino roots are present in a lot of music. Working with that music doesn’t mean you’re [necessarily] doing reggaeton or pop urbano.

So, you’d rather reference the source of those sounds.
García: We don’t restrict ourselves to the limitations of being folkloric. We don’t make roots music; we’re proposing a futuristic vision of our roots. We’re looking forward – we can’t go back.

“We don’t make roots music; we’re proposing a futuristic vision of our roots.”

Eduardo, what was your production approach on Encanto Tropical as opposed to when you worked with the band on Caja de Música?
Eduardo Cabra: We tried to go for a broader sound. The band’s DNA was already eclectic, but production-wise, we wanted to separate the ideas even more. Make the pop songs even poppier, the more organic ones, even closer to their roots. And there’s an electronic detail that flows through the whole album which is the common denominator.

I like to work on albums that are like an octopus; each tentacle is a different idea, and the octopus’ body ties it all together. The challenge is to make every song have its own identity and still make them feel like they’re from the same artist. I feel like on this album, as opposed to the previous one, each tentacle is longer, so each song has a stronger identity.

What is the most remarkable thing about Monsieur Periné, the thing that separates them from the pack?
Cabra: They let their instincts guide them more than anything. They could take the easy road, but they’d never pass up the pleasure of standing by something they like and believe in. They feel very responsible for what they do, and they are hard workers.

This is a very ambitious, baroque album compared to what the mainstream offers, but it’s also gentle. It’s very hard to do something with substance and sneak into the mainstream. They deserve this great album.

Encanto Tropical is out now. Catch Monsieur Periné live on their upcoming North American tour:

June 3 – Upstream Music Festival & Summit – Seattle, WA
June 4 – Arts Common – Calgary, Canada
June 6 – Miner Auditorium (San Francisco Jazz Festival) – San Francisco, CA
June 7 – Kuumbwa – Santa Cruz, CA
June 9 – Hollywood Bowl (Playboy Jazz Festival) – Los Angeles, CA
June 10 – North Beach Bandshell – Miami, FL
June 12 – Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA
June 13 – The Howard Theatre – Washington, DC
June 16 – Highline Ballroom – New York, NY