Three years ago, Tiger's Milk Records founder Martin Morales had one of those nights—the ones that open your eyes to some new revelation. Unsurprisingly, it happened at a party. Morales had been invited by his friends in the Lima tropical bass band Dengue Dengue Dengue to one of their blowouts. Walking in, he saw something he'd never witnessed before: DJs mixing chicha (Peru's sped-up version of cumbia) with electronic basslines, followed by 70s chicha bands taking the stage. "Kids would go nuts at both the tropical bass and the traditional sounds. This was like a modern rave Peruvian style the like I'd never seen before," Morales recalls.
Inspired by this effortless mix of old and new, Morales decided to release a series of compilations on Tiger's Milk to capture that sound. The first, Peru Bravo, focused on early 70s political funk, while the second, Peru Maravilloso, picked up late 60s jazz. The latest, Peru Boom—which we're streaming in its entirety above—is a guide to the sound of Lima's youth: tropical bass, a hybrid genre that merges electronic elements with traditional sounds from South America, Africa, Spain, and Peru's indigenous Andean heritage. (Not to be confused with Kygo's brand of Norwegian tropical house.)
Working with Tiger's Milk co-founder Duncan Ballantyne and tropical bass DJ Chakruna, Morales put together a roster of today's most vital underground producers, including Dengue Dengue Dengue, Animal Chuki, and Deltatron. "We've attempted to give an overview of the last five years' development of the tropical bass scene in Peru," Chakruna says. "Initially we intended to include a track for each bass producer but eventually realized that the album would benefit from solely focusing on a vibe. That vibe aims to show the variety of genres coming out of the scene, and the influence of Peruvian chicha and cumbia."
Chakruna tells me that each track boasts its own story—such as Animal Chuki's "Luto," which was inspired by an experience they had in a village in the Andes, particularly their way of celebrating the ritual of death. Meanwhile, Tribilin Sound does his own take on Afro-Peruvian music on "El Carmen and "Negroide," emphasizing the use of the cajon, a Peruvian drum.
Thanks to promoters of underground parties in Peru booking tropical bass DJs, and those DJs playing at international festivals like Sonar, Chakruna is confident that tropical bass has a bright future, both at home and abroad. When he concludes that "we're slowly but surely getting the attention of more and more people and our audience is growing every day," I believe him. After all, over here in New York, parties like Que Bajo are already spreading the gospel to a crowd that likes "mangoes on their ice cream and more cheese on their chalupa." So the next time these warm-blooded sounds drop in the club, we hope to see you wilding out.
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