Vintage music from the Peruvian Andes makes for a lively compilation, although it loses something in the translation from past to present.
Andina: The Sound of the Peruvian Andes: Huayno, Carnaval & Cumbia, 1968 to 1978
Strut / Tiger's Milk
20 Oct 2017
Part of a larger group of companies dedicated to promoting Peruvian culture, Tiger's Milk Records partners up with Strut, one of the foremost labels for vintage funk and dance music from across the globe, to release compilation Andina. The 1960s and '70s music from high up in the Peruvian Andes are the tracks collected for Andina and are a lively bunch, quick and catchy, with percussion running rampant behind nimble guitar and piano lines.
It's a far cry from most of Tiger Milk's other compilations, funky, tropical outings with more of a psychedelic bent. Here, the air is thin, and the music is dizzying. Each song is characterized by a lot of repetition - a lot of repetition - making it clear that this music is meant less for casual listening and more for serious dancing.
While there is little variation within each song, there is some to be found between songs. After two tracks of happy, midtempo bouncing, instrumental Los Walker's De Huánuco track "Todos Vuelven" picks up speed and adds a sharper energy to the mix, a definite highlight. Later on, "El Lorcho" by Los Compadres Del Ande brings in organ and violin; the two instruments hand the lead part back and forth, a seamless relay that adds romance and excitement. Los Bilbao continues in that dramatic vein with "Zelenita del Año 2000", a tight and intricate track that largely stays in one melodic hotspot, a showstopper. Closing the album is Conjunto Kori Cinta De Huancavelica's ethereal "Toyascha", a song that climbs the mountain heights and keeps going, rising into the cloud forest canopy.
Listen too long while sitting still and you might lose your mind a little; each song's two or three discrete musical passages stick with you whether you like them or not. As infectious as these kinds of Carnaval music and cumbia are when you're in the mood, hearing nonstop celebration music when there is, in fact, no parade in sight, gets hard to handle. The repetition in each song is underscored by vintage recording quality, all the elements in most tracks set at the same volume and sticking together in a way that is hard to process. It's an inevitable side effect of the source material, as likely to transport a listener to a different time and place as it is to irritate.
If I sound like I'm waffling on taking an actual stance on Andina, it's because I am. There is something wonderful about the prospect of archived music being unearthed and released, recordings that have withstood the years. Andina is music from a time that was once the present, and having it at our fingertips now lets us connect with that time, perhaps to understand it on a visceral level that would otherwise be impossible, lost somewhere in a fixed past.
Andina lives on, thanks to Strut and Tiger's Milk, there for us to experience over and over. But the selections are hard to parse, and so far removed from their original context that it is difficult to appreciate in its current form. But the work these labels do together is admirable and promising. May the deep digging continue.