Paykuna ‘Rinakaruy’ (SONNA) 4/5

Combining Bolivian folk music and modern jazz aesthetics, “Rinakaruy”, Paykuna’s second album, is a wonderful melting pot of folk melodies and rhythms, and lyrical contemporary jazz. Fronted by Swiss-Bolivian pianist, composer and band leader Demian Coca, the musicianship from all of the players is exemplary, capturing perfectly the musical landscapes and scenery of Bolivia.

In recent years, this seven-piece band has toured Switzerland, Austria and Slovakia, playing music from their 2017 debut album “Raíces”. With this new release, the inspiration comes from locations in Bolivia. Alongside the warm and expressive music, each composition has had a video recorded at the location it was inspired by, featuring dancers who interpret and compliment the tunes.

The music itself is multi-layered and fascinating. Vivid melodies grounded in both folk and jazz traditions mix together seamlessly. The band’s music emphasises its folkloric background, but the cool, thoughtful Swiss side of the composer is certainly not hidden. Demian Coca has written some fabulous tunes here, and he grants his band members time and space, allowing everyone to contribute in an intuitive, joyful way. Piano, flute, sax, guitar, bass, drums, percussion and the occasional vocals are all perfectly in tune with one another, creating beautiful landscapes of sound in an expressive, tuneful, and listenable way.

The seven tracks take the listener on a compelling journey, with each piece symbolising a breathtaking place in Bolivia. “Alas” is inspired by the mystical sounds of the tropical forests of Chapare. “Tunari” is a homage to the mountain that towers over the city of Cochabamba. The music flows gorgeously from track to track, lilting melodies combining with exciting solos. “Callari” symbolises Lake Titicaca, and the title track “Rinakaruy” is a musical interpretation of a journey through the Bolivian Altiplano. I’m listening intently, and I feel surrounded by warmth and kindness as I share the journey the band are on. “Q’ocha and “Uyini” tell the story of the Salar de Uyini and the deserts and lagoons surrounding it. And finally, “Barrio 12 De Enero, Calle 5” is dedicated to the neighbourhood of the composer’s Bolivian home.

For me, I rate this album as one of the best folk/jazz cross-overs I’ve heard in a while. It has been decided, according to the label’s press release, that the album is not going to be released on CD or LP, but as a download to be accompanied with four videos, cards, posters and specially commissioned illustrations and artwork. While that’s all very nice, I have to say I find it disappointing. For me personally, focusing on the music alone, I would have happily purchased this album on vinyl – I’d imagine it would sound stunning and really do justice to the band’s excellent music making. From what I understand, this is a joint decision between the band and SONNA Records, so fair play to them both, and I wish them every success with this excellent album, even if I would rather be holding a lovely product in my hands.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Paykuna ‘Raíces’ CD (QFTF) 3/5