Various ‘Peru Maravilloso: Vintage Latin, Tropical and Cumbia’ (Tiger’s Milk/Strut) CD/2LP/Dig 4/5

Peru MaravillosoWith the notable exception of Susana Baca, Peruvian music rarely gets a look in on the international Latin music scene and that is an oversight that this excellent new compilation aims to put right. In fact Peruvian musicians were acutely aware of developments throughout Latin America and this is reflected in the diversity of styles on the anthology which is part sponsored by a London-based Peruvian restaurant, a pioneering endeavour with dance label Strut that regularly likes to dip into more exotic roots grooves. The dynamic ‘Mambo de Machaguay’ by Lucho Neves y su Orquesta opens proceedings on a high and is the kind of number that the classic Tico label might have released in the 1950s, and for fans of 1970s style hard hitting salsa, ‘Salsa 73’ from Chango y su Conjunto fits the bill admirably. However, this is no mere retro salsa compilation. Surf guitar meets indigenous fusion on ‘los Orientales’ ‘Bailando en la campaña’ while the Beatles’ ‘I feel fine’ is transformed into an instrumental and re-titled ‘Me siento feliz’. Shades of Santana surface on the Latin-fusion of ‘Meshkalina’ from Paco Zambrano y su Combo and neighbouring countries grooves are evoked on the manic psychedelic cumbia of ‘La cumbia del pacurro’ by Juaneco y su Combo.
For those familiar with the earlier works of Susana Baca, a lovely interpretation of ‘Toro Mata’ is delivered by Lucia De La Cruz and the song is so revered that even the great Cuban diva Celia Cruz has attempted her own version. Looking forward to a second volume if this is any indication of the richness of the archives of Peruvian music.  Tim Stenhouse