The African Diaspora lives in the Peruvian musical collective Novalima. For over ten years, the Latin fusion group has added electronica, dub, and Afrobeat in a sound they made their own. Their latest release, Karimba, released by ESL Music, is lush with nostalgic Latin rhythms that come full circle to a new generation. “Mamaye,” a strutty funk-samba tune, and “Guayabo,” a dark and sexy romp with Latin rock motifs, are standouts on the album.
Novalima will join Thievery Corporation as they play three shows (January 11, 12, and 13) at the 9:30 Club. Answer the question after the interview for a chance to win a pair of tickets for the Thursday night show (1/12).
Ramon Perez-Prieto, one of Novalima’s founders, chatted with us about their origins, latest work, and superhero themes.
How did you make Novalima happen since each of you are based in different parts of the world?
Our drive was to keep on making music together even if distance would be a barrier. The four of us had been making music in Lima together and in different bands for ten years already. In the year 2000, when we were dispersed around the world, technology had already made a big step for music production, and you could build up a home studio, which we did, and was a key point for the project. Until 2003, we were recording in four different studios and blending tracks, sending them on burnt CDs through FedEx. No FTPs or web tools in those days! Percussions would be done in Lima and the rest all over the globe.
Tell me about the evolution of African music in Peruvian culture.
Afro-Peruvian music has been in Peru’s culture since slavery; its evolution has been quite slow, almost kept traditional, and maybe the peak might’ve been its fusion with Peruvian “criollo” style, peruvian waltzes. It’s been fused with jazz before though through bands as Peru Jazz, with great results.
You blend both electronic and acoustic instruments in your music. Which do you prefer?
The quote-unquote electronica within our sound is like one more instrument for us, the combination of both in a balanced way is what makes the Novalima sound. We are originally traditional musicians; we learned and played acoustic instruments before the electronic era, but we definitely like the combination, which gives us tools to generate a new sound.
Have you ever worked with Peru Negro? What was that experience like?
I did work with Peru Negro long time ago, for a private event in Peru. This is a renowned Afro-Peruvian band that puts on stage live music and dance in a traditional style; they’ve done a great job around the world introducing Afro-Peruvian music in its pure traditional way.
Do you feel you help usher Afro-Peruvian sounds to a contemporary audience?
Novalima’s sound definitely put Afro-Peruvian music on the spot for younger generations. Actually, in Peru, young crowds lost interest in our own music, but the twist of new sounds and blending global rhythms has captured new crowds again.
What was the overall response to Afro, your first international release?
Afro had a great response—we had all tracks released in more than twenty compilations all over the world, of Latin, electronica, eclectic, jazz, global fusion music, such as Buddha Bar, Siddhartha, Nomads from the Supperclub series, the late Charlie Gillett’s last compilation, etc. This was great exposure for Novalima.
How is your new album Karimba different from anything previously released of yours?
Karimba goes back further into a very roots sound, and at the same time incorporates modern synths and hypnotic riffs, which take you back 100 years in time but with a very contemporary feel. It’s definitely one more step in our musical evolution, which clearly shows all we’ve been learning on our journey. We are a music laboratory, which constantly experiments with new rhythms and sounds to finally strip down the essence of each composition.
Did the inclusion of your song “Machete” in the Robert Rodriguez film, give you more international notice?
The inclusion of the track “Machete” in the movie brought us a lot of attention worldwide. We’ve listened to more than fifteen remixes of the track from producers and DJ’s from all over. Funny thing is, we’ve only sent the original to just a few of them! There are a lot of mash-ups of dubstep, tech house, electro, etc…
If you could compose a theme to a superhero of your choice, who would it be?
I guess we could name quite a few, I’m a comic lover myself, but real heroes are the predecessors of Afro-Peruvian music: Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Lucha Reyes, Abelardo Vasquez [are] among a few who crossed frontiers with this music, long before we were even born, and we make tribute to these late musicians as well to those who are still among us with our project.
We were very lucky to record Felix Casaverde on this album, one of the greatest Peruvian guitar heroes and composers who played along with Chabuca Granda, Lucha Reyes, and Susana Baca back in time and who sadly left us this past year. Culture in its most raw condition is passed on through generations by people who play from the heart and keep on struggling to prevent it from disappearing in time. I guess these are the real superheroes for us and their inspiration has definitely driven Novalima’s musical journey.
Novalima isn’t the only Latin fusion group that’s made a song for a film. Remember Los Lobos’ cover of La Bamba? Tell us your favorite Latin fusion band that’s gotten their work on the silver screen by noon on Thursday. The winner will get to see the show Thursday night with a guest! (The winner must confirm the tickets via email by 3pm Thursday for that night’s show.)