The new compilation Andina opens with “La Chichera,” an iconic Los Demonios del Mantaro recording popularized in the mid-1960s. Martin Morales, the force behind Andina, remembers the song best from his childhood, recalling when he’d dance to the jazz-inspired cumbia as a 6-year-old with his grandmother while she cooked.
“I was born on the coast, but my mother and grandmother were from the Andes. They were andinas. That’s the name for women from the Andes, ingredients, dishes, and music. And so, this is a tribute to them,” he said.
In some ways, Andina is an ode to a personal Peru that Morales, a Michelin-starred chef, restaurateur and founder of the label Tiger’s Milk Records, reconnected with while traveling through the country, researching music and food. Morales was born in Peru, but left as a teenager and settled in the United Kingdom. About two years ago, he teamed up with dubstep producer DJ Mala and embarked on a journey to learn more about Andean sounds. He later partnered with Tiger’s Milk co-founder Duncan Ballantyne and music collector Andres Tapia del Rio to release some of the recordings he’d dug up on his travels for a three-part series that starts with Andina, but will eventually encompass music from other parts of Peru.
Andina, released today with Strut Records, highlights and preserves many of Morales’ discoveries and rediscoveries. The album takes legendary Andean recordings originally released between 1968 and 1978 and brings them soaring into the present day, restoring their sound and production. The songs come from labels such as Sono Radio and El Virrey and in many cases are premiering for the first time since their original vinyl debuts.
“La Chichera” is, appropriately, the first track: The song was so ubiquitous on the streets of Peru that its composer Carlos Baquerizo Castro once remarked, “The entire world has danced to ‘La Chichera.’” When Castro recorded “La Chichera” with the band Los Demonios del Mantaro, part of the song’s magic was bare-bones simplicity, crafted with a saxophone, drums, a clarinet and a rondín. On Andina, the release comes surging back to life, feeling fuller and brighter.
La Perúanita’s “Recuerdo Corazon” also makes an appearance, notable for a rhythm Morales describes as “bass-driven funky huayno.” (“Who would have thought? And Londoners and New York clubbers love it!” Morales said).
“They are rare to find, we heard them on our travels and when I was a kid. They represent a broad section and also an era of heavy migration when andinas and andinos traveled to the capital and were influenced by urban sounds, dance music, and more,” Morales explained.
The project fits into the revival of chicha and cumbia that has taken place over the last decade. The boom started with Barbes Records’ 2007 release Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru, and most recently included the relaunch of Discos Horóscopo, the legendary chicha label from Lima. Andina stands out for its insistence on smashing what Morales refers to as clichés in Andean music, and revealing some of the most unique gems that showcase the diversity of the region.
“It’s time people understood that Andina music is more than just pan pipes. It’s a whole world of danceable music; it can be funky. It can have zampoñas and charangos, harps and violins but also can have tropical, cumbia or funk in the mix, too,” Morales said.
Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia – The Sound of the Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 is out now on Tiger’s Milk/Strut. Purchase the vinyl, CD or picture disc on Bandcamp.