Novalima is the poster child of the resurgence of a new Latin American generation that is looking ahead without leaving the past behind. Novalima follows suite as many other musicians from the region such as Argentina’s Gotan Project, Mexico’s Nortec Collective, and Colombia’s Bomba Estereo, who are getting international recognition. The best part is they are winning over their own country’s youth by sampling their parent’s records and mixing their country’s traditional sounds to create awesome new fusions.
I first came across the Peruvian collective Novalima in 2006 through the BBC’s article on the political shift post 9/11 in Latin America, How the U.S “lost” Latin America. Finding their album Afro among staff picks in Reckless Records years ago, their long anticipated U.S tour and first Chicago performance (and afterparty) in Millennium Park this Thursday is long overdue.
While the South American region has experienced great political transformations, the music (and cinema) coming from the region has been following an even stronger pace. For Novalima, it can only make sense that they would implement different sounds from different areas, as the group of high school friends from Lima exchanged their music from the location of each member from Barcelona to London to Hong Kong. While you can pick up on various beats from song to song, each song pays homage to their Afro-Peruvian roots.
While listening to cumbia or norteno is not only acceptable but hip to hear in clubs from Buenos Aires to London, Novalima’s fusion of Afro-Peruvian is a more than an audible experience. Novalima highlights the underrepresented populations of Afro- Peruvians visible in and outside Peru’s borders through the sounds and even the stories told of a black Peru , especially in Africa Lando, which tells the tale of a slave’s past sung with the sultry voice of band’s singer, Milagros Guerrero.
Afro- Peruvian music has been in Peru for more than 400 years and is as native as folkloric music. Novalima takes these rhythms and revolutionizes their sound with electronic beats that compliment rather than compromise the Afro- Peruvian roots. Throughout their albums, sounds from el Cajon, a box used to carry harvest- turned into a drum by the African slaves. The instrument can be heard especially in Spanish flamenco but is purely a Peruvian instrument. El Cajon even graces the cover of Novalima’s third album, Coba Coba, where an Afro- Peruvian man is drumming a speaker in the image of a cajon lets you know that Novalima is creating something new and beautiful from the old.