Spring belongs to the hummingbirds. Those tiny, hard to catch little creatures that are gone before you’re even really sure you’ve seen them. Such is the newest album from Argentinian percussionist and composer Martin Bruhn, Picaflor, a swift, spirited album so full of delight it requires back to back listens. Bruhn’s Picaflor is an homage to the music and culture of the Huanca, a Quechua people from Peru’s Mantaro region. Bruhn managed to capture a vintage lo-fi sound that matches the vinyl recordings of the Andean region’s huayno orchestras, from artists like Picaflor de los Andes and the Ases de Huancayo orchestra. This simple yet celebratory sound was achieved by recording the album in Bruhn’s home studio during the first part of the pandemic lockdown.
I find it rather intriguing that Bruhn could capture such a jubilant sound in the midst of so much anxiety and uncertainty. It’s perfect really because it gives you something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. The songs on Picaflor almost blend into each other allowing for a celebration that doesn’t have to end. The only flaw to be found on Picaflor is that the rivalry is short-lived. At just half an hour the album flits away before you have a chance to get a good look, much like its namesake the hummingbird. The good thing is, all you have to do is press play again to be transported back to the fiesta.
There is so much beauty and craft in the songs on Picaflor. Popurri de Festejos sounds like dancing. The hooting and hollering mixed in with the percussion entice you to add your own cheers to the chorus. My favourite song on the album is Bruhn’s rendition of Cariñito which maintains the integrity of the beloved original while preserving Picaflor’s sound. While most of the songs interpret celebration to be upbeat and lively, Akuie sounds like a reinterpretation of Auld Lang Syne, that song we all sing as the ball drops each New Year’s Eve to celebrate our friendships and the lives we’ve lived up to this point. Akuie is a bit more sombre than the rest of the album but it’s sombre in the way Auld Lang Syne is sombre. A touching reminder to celebrate the paths that have led us to where we are now. Closing out Picaflor is another outlier, Ases, which while still holding onto that lo-fi aesthetic, is much more modern and psychedelic. If Picaflor as a whole is a tribute to the sonic aesthetic of Huanca culture, Ases is an homage to sounds that don’t exist yet, sounds that weave the past and present together.
Picaflor is so much more than an homage to a beloved sound and culture, it is a celebration of life, one that could entice even the most elusive hummingbird.