Romperayo ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ LP (SOUK) 4/5

Imagine with me that you’re heading out on a road trip. You leave your home in a metropolitan area with major highways and things to look at everywhere; tall buildings, apartments, industry, parks that are loud and teeming with life all around you. That trip eventually takes you off the main highways and onto country roads where the view is mostly open fields and maybe the occasional cow. While these landscapes may not seem as alive as the city scenery, if you were to pull over and walk through those fields, you would see an abundance of different species of wildflowers, critters and creatures galore. Though it may look barren at first glance, these places are rich with life. Unearthing this life is exactly what Romperayo has set out to do for Colombia’s music scene, taking us off the mainstream highways and deep into the less travelled country roads. Helmed by musical mage and percussionist Pedro Ojeda, Romperayo is back, with a brand new tropical 9 track album that puts Colombia’s fertile rhythmic landscape on full display. ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ demonstrates Ojeda’s genius as well as his range.

Ojeda is one of the busiest men in music. Involved in a plethora of projects including Los Pirañas and Chupame el Dedo, Ojeda has found a way to create a signature sound with each project referencing the other yet remaining distinct and special. “La Segunda Parte de la Reforma Agraria” is like an industrial tango full of synthesizer and mechanical sounds, something all its own and yet the voice on the track is a total callback to Chupame el Dedo’s “Mi Ancestro Berraco” from 2019’s No Te Metas Con Satan. “Sangre en la Uña” recalls a bit of Los Pirañas’ “Dragones Chinos” with several more layers of psycedelia laid on top.

Romperayo sets itself apart from Ojeda’s other projects though with its aim to dig up often unknown historical samples creating an anthropological conversation between listener and musician. ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ is as avant-garde as you would expect coming from Ojeda but it’s much more subtle and restrained than you might imagine. The subtlety of his musical voice allows the complexity of the folkloric rhythms to shine. This is especially evident in a song like “Uyuyuis” which has this gorgeous vintage tropical sound off the top and melts into this eccentric cumbia-esque flow, with his signature high pitch vocal elements in the mix. Somehow he manages to make it all work together without sounding overdone or messy. It probably doesn’t hurt that he has the help of some really talented friends, including Jaime Ospina on the Gaita and arguably the greatest accordionist of our time, Ivan Medellín.

I often wonder how Pedro Ojeda sleeps. He has his hands in so much Colombian music that he must be up all hours of the night. With Romperayo’s ‘Así No Se Puede Muchaches’ that loss of sleep proves worth it. Big rhythms and the spirit of experimentalism set the album apart and help expand our understanding of not only the sounds of the Colombian coast but what music, in general, can be.

Molly Gallegos