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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America


By Derek Beres
Published June 27, 2006

Mr. Bongo

It would be difficult to imagine any country devoid of ambitious producers reinterpreting their cultural folk music by digital means. Electronic music is modern folk, it seems. On their second recording, Novalima tackles the questing songs of enslaved Africans. Within this hour-long disc are found numerous brilliant takes on slave chants. The cajon, originally shipping crates used by Africans as percussion, dominates the rhythm section. Accents are provided by handclaps, thumping bass and lucid guitar work by Oscar Aviles, Jr. Ironically, this four-person collective is globally-based: Lima, yes, but also Barcelona, Hong Kong and London. They don’t restrict themselves to Peruvian styles, working cumbia, son and bossa nova into their digital tracks. Still, the dominant sounds are organic, highlighted by vocalists and live percussion. The vocal/cajon bounce of “Chinchivi” and saxophone/conga interplay on “Malato” show how little polish this soulful outfit requires. There’s a grittiness embedded throughout Afro, the very word defining Peruvian folk. It must be remembered that freedom is more a state of being than external conditions claim. But having a good soundtrack can do wonders for the soul.