It seems as if suddenly the music world woke up and realized that Ecuadorian artists should be listened to more closely.
The buzz around producer Nicola Cruz could be considered the spark for many looking further into the country’s scene, but this musical panorama couldn’t possibly be contained to one genre tag or expression of the multiplicity of cultures that the region contains. Reworkings of fox incaico rhythms and danzante traditions can be found alongside cryptic reggaetón, or meme royalty interpretations of techno-folklore beside looping, pedal-fueled electro-folk. Ecuador may be one country, but it’s one with many national identities, and its music reflects that.
What’s considered Ecuadorian national music has always been, by nature, a mix of cultures; with the arrival of European colonizers also came access to their music instruments and a new range of rhythmic structures, from which guitar, mandolin, and other string instruments were integrated into Andean traditions, and continue to form the basis of much of sampled material in this electronic era. The popular understanding of this music as música nacional, however, does overlook other traditions like that of coastal Afro-Ecuadorians, communities of the Amazon, and minority groups of the 14 distinct indigenous communities of the country.
Online platforms like Boiler Room have become a presence in Quito, but so far the representation of the Ecuadorian scene favors a house-, techno-, and male-dominated perspective. This is just a beginning, and if anything, these moments all contribute their part in smashing expectations of a bubbling scene and the range of localized communities it encapsulates. Beyond international entities coming to Ecuador to explore the music scene from the vantage point of their own expectations of electronic music, in this list of artists, the intention was to listen closely, and to learn.
Quiteño artist Lascivio Bohemia seems to have the psychedelic chops to be some sort of music producer medium, channeling the threads that connect hyper-regional cultural microcosms while still managing to highlight what makes each tradition singular. Afro Andes EP, the most recent album from the former student of the Conservatorio Nacional de Música, intertwines subtle electronic touches on traditional songs from Afro-Ecuadorian communities based in Esmeraldas with heavy use of la marimba and el cununo instrumentation. Lascivio Bohemia has a knack for timing; in 2015, UNESCO declared marimba music and traditional chants and dances from the Esmeraldas province and Colombia’s South Pacific region to be inscribed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. With previous releases on Chile’s Regional imprint, Lascivio Bohemia’s catalog is a journey through tempo changes, 6/8 rhythms, violin recordings from Inti Raymi celebration samples, dancehall, and dub-driven basslines.
Head over to N-T-F-L’s SoundCloud page, and one of the first tracks you’ll be greeted with is “untitled,” which is pretty on point for the extent of clues given away for the who/what/where/when/how of the enigmatic producer. With genre tags like #muerte, #dale, #death, #nah, or the especially intriguing #naah, I had to know more. N-T-F-L’s affiliations are loose, and that’s to the benefit of the multiple dimensions of his productions; his tracks dip between dismantled and often chopped and screwed trap, reggaetón, tribal, and beyond, constituting a catalog that creeps effortlessly between corners of the underground.
Quixosis – née Daniel Lofredo Rota – explores the rhythmic structures localized in Northern Ecuador, looking closely at its “codified stories, woven conflict, beauty and tension.” His most recent album Telar, released by Frente Bolivarista, reconstructs musical traditions like sanjuanito, albazo, danzante, and fox incaico with electronic elements teetering on the psychedelic. Quixosis’ approach is intentionally inward-looking, as he told Sounds and Colours earlier this year. “For the sake of the future of Ecuadorean electronic music, producers need to understand the subtleties and richness of their local musical heritage, instead of copying some aesthetics found on the Internet, as many do now across the world.” And he certainly has the means to do this thoroughly: after his grandfather passed away a few years ago, he left behind about 300 perfectly preserved magnetic reel-to-reel tapes of música nacional from his Caife record company founded in the 1950s, which Quixosis later digitized and documents in his Memoria Análoga blog.
If you hadn’t already been acquainted with Guamote’s own Delfin Quishpe, you are welcome for this momentous life occasion. The artist responsible for the World Cup’s first, best, and only trance-rap-tribal anthem “Vamos al Mundial” (and its beautifully green-screened video) will forever be commemorated in my mind as his best work, though a tecnocumbia cover of Soda Stéreo’s “Cuando Pase el Temblor” is understandably making the rounds. The Andean techno-folklore artist’s collaboration with Wendy Sulca and La Tigresa del Oriente for the “En Tus Tierras Bailaré” video was called the “YouTube We Are The World” by Calle 13’s Residente. How can you not love this artist? Delfin hasta el fin, ya tu sabes.
Guayaquil-based artist Daniela Albán has all of her bases covered; she started DJing in 2009 at the age of 18, and the young producer/DJ also has a handle on live instrumentation with chops in drums, bass, synth, and guitar.
While decidedly dipping into traditions that cull a smooth blend of deep house, dub, and ambient, Albán doesn’t stray from forays into jungle, jazz, and hip-hop. With an embrace of the esoteric with tracks/mixes like “Enigmatic Connections” and “Transición,” the young producer recently teased a freshly spaced-out, 2-step garage lite track “Astral Plane.”
Guayaquileño artist Fabrikante is dead set on innovating a corporeal, DIY approach to music production that hones in on his own beat-boxing techniques. His first album Memoria y Profecía de Doña Petita Pontón was made exclusively with sounds created with his own voice. With new album Kariño Universo, Fabrikante has found avenues to showcase his hope that his musical transmissions impart “the experience of a retro-futurist party between oneself and the cosmos.” Lead single “Kausanguichu” features guest vocals from Ecuadorian poet Steph Apolo recited throughout the track, and the first track on the album with an official video, “Chimo Vibración,” offers a self-reflective, remix-like approach to Fabrikante’s interpretation of cultural and religious symbolism.
One would be remiss not to include Nicola Cruz as an artist playing an integral part of the new musical iterations coming out of the outer-Ecuador world. Born and raised in France but rooted in Ecuador, where he now resides, Cruz is responsible for his signature “Andes step”– spacious productions recalling reworked huayno and cumbia melodies and samples. Cruz’s particular sound quickly became travel-tested across Latin America, the U.S., and Europe with his debut album Prender El Alma in 2015 (ZZK Records). Cruz also appears in our list on indigenous resistance from earlier this year, alongside Otavalo’s Los NIN, plus Lido Pimienta (Colombia), Tzutu Baktun Kan (Guatemala), Luzmila Carpio (Bolivia), Aurelio Martinez (Honduras), and more.
Quito-based producer N.SOB seems to have a fine-tuned self awareness to the lurking, bass-heavy vibe that colors most of his tracks. The “#latenight” hashtag he put on one of his SoundCloud uploads does a fine job of pinpointing the shadowy, sleep-deprived feeling. The noise-cast track “Praum” offers a seriously inventive take on baile funk deconstructions, momentarily breaking down into an almost hardstyle-influenced tamborzão beat. “Uh yuyuy” unmistakingly keeps the structure of huayno while stripping it to its bare parts, taking another unexpected turn into grime. Fittingly, N.SOB will appear alongside Siete Catorce for his tour stops in Quito and Ibarra dates with amaF alaM and Chambacu.
Experimental folk composer Domē Palma is proof that sometimes all you need is a guitar, looping pedal, and your own voice. Palma’s work feels comfortably tucked into the intersection of minimalist instrumentation and an embrace of chance explorations in production; her approach, evident in the title track of her EP Todo Aquí, is a fresh take on the singer-songwriter looping technique. Palma works closely with the netlabel CVRA LVDORVM, which released her debut EP. The label also functions as a booking agency, organizing tours for local and international artists as they make their way between Cuenca, Guayaquil, Montañita, and beyond. The catalog has built the platform to promote an extensive roster of Ecuadorian artists like Arkabus, Método MC, Abbacook, and Sara Ontaneda.
Welcome to #Ancestral666, a space that producer/DJ amaF alaM has carved out for himself. While working closely with local musicians and fellow producers in the Quinchuqui community where he has roots, amaF alaM’s perspective is likewise influenced by the fact that much of his family immigrated to the United States in the 1960s wave that uprooted many from the country. Though he clearly draws closely from indigenous traditions, his sample sources are also difficult to predict, dipping into smoothed-out reggaetón edits on “DURO – L$D25” or an imagined versus track with Luzmila Carpio on “Pacha Mama Tayta Inti.” amaF alaM is preparing to release his Anta EP with Brooklyn-based label APOCALIPSIS in late November, while continuing to release a steady SoundcCoud stream of edits and experimental club music nights with his Wañuy Sound System party series.
Editor’s note: The author of this piece runs APOCALIPSIS, amaF alaM’s label.