Dances with Shamans
Nothing helps a hangover like watching people play with dirt on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Buenos Aires. Konex, a converted factory turned Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, is home to everything from Monday night drum raves, the musical “Rent” in Spanish, even blind theater, and that Sunday it was a pre-Earth day celebration. One of the organizers announced,“We are making ‘bombas de semilla’!”, (seed bombs), little balls of dirt and seeds for people to bring home and plant. Konex’s outdoor space has a section labeled “Native Landscape” and the backdrop of the stage was dressed in pastel fabrics to set the mood.
Like a good dose of Ayahuasca
The celebration began with the entrance of a panflute troupe of about 25, playing and harmonizing in a circle. The group was dressed in matching costumes that incorporated the checkered Argentine “native tribes” flag, the fashion symbol of the hippie youth in Buenos Aires. Next, a dance troupe, Grupo Neheun, entered in brown camouflage performing a mix of modern and folklore dance to traditional Northern Argentine folk music.
For their last song, they danced to a remix of a famous Bolivian folk singer, Luzmila Carpio, whose incredibly high pitched huayños (popular Andean folk songs) soared over beats that made everyone in the crowd move. The song was by the headliner, Nación Ekeko, and introduced the band and their crazy neon visuals in Aztec patterns that made me feel like I had just had a good dose of Ayahuasca. The music was a mix of improvised percussion, Brazilian berimbau and electronics, a sound that was clearly heavily influenced by the late Ramiro Musotto.
Band leader Diego Perez, resembling Luke Skywalker of Peru, proceeded to wave lit batons conducting the pitch of his electronic bases. Each song combined field recordings of voices or poems of indigenous people Diego had met during his travels. Many of the recordings were taken from his trips around South America, especially to the community on the Uros Islands, a pre-Incan people who live on man-made floating islands in Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia.
Diego is most famously known for the electro-folk super group Tonolec, a duo with Charo Bogarin. Tonolec was originally a straight-forward electronic project, drawing on 90s electronic influences such as Massive Attack and Portishead. They received a ton of early success, and were flown to Spain as the prize for winning an MTV contest. In 2001 they returned to Argentina to find their country deep in economic crisis.
Both Charo and Diego are from Chaco, in the Argentine Northwest, home of the Toba and Wichí tribes. “It really shook us up, things were happening fast and going well, but at the same time, we weren’t representing where we are from or what was going on there”, Diego says. They decided to immerse themselves in the music and culture of the Toba tribe and recorded their first album four years later. He adds:
“It represents the land where we grew up, and our influences from not only inside but outside the country. So many Argentines just say they are descended from Italians, but the truth is is that they some have a Guaraní accent, they drink Mate, etc. We need to be more conscious about all of the influences that the indigenous peoples have on us, and that they are alive and are part of our culture. For many reasons, we have always been taught that things from outside Argentina are better, and when the capitalist system failed here, people started to look at their own identity, their own country, and their own resources, and that is how the trend began.”
The idea of Electroandina
With Nación Ekeko, Perez tries to present these indigenous characters ”as if they were photos from a trip” and combines them with electronics that create an ambiance and environment to bring the person to that place in a modern setting. The event is a part of an idea he calls Electroandina. Using Latin America’s Andean routes, Perez adapts and unites the influences of South and Central America into modern spaces, creating a meeting point where that culture and music can be enjoyed in an interactive group context.
Nación Ekeko’s debut album is being finished and will be released in Argentina in a few months. The recordings feature everything from recordings with the late Atahualpa Yupanqui, Argentine’s most important folk singer, to Guaraní shamans, Aymaran women and Wichi men, tying in field recordings, many done by Diego himself, with modern electronics.
From ambient folklore to Ayahuasca raves
As Diego pointed out, this trend goes far beyond Nación Ekeko. Musicians from all over Argentina and South America are mashing up pan flutes and beats, pushing the Electroandino sound from deeper ambient folklore to Ayahuasca raves. Check out the playlist below to hear some more groovy Andean beats hot in a Southern cone: