Shortly after we began our Daytrip Picks feature, asking selectors to share ten songs that sketch out the flow of a day, sharing a beloved escapist vibe that grows and throbs, we knew we had to ask The Sugarglider. The writer and DJ recently returned home after nearly finishing a second circumnavigation of the world, on their bike. Yup. They also happen to be a great writer and selector, having contributed to a couple of our Deep Cuts articles, and delivered the most recent Deep Cuts mix, putting a personal spin on the 'Fantasy Realm' theme by mixing in tracks from the most transcendent memories of their travels. Here these rhythmic memories are expanded into 'a South American influenced playlist set to a sunny day in the Peruvian capital’. The tunes are gathered in this here Spotify playlist, tune in, switch off and float away...
Sometimes we forget the latin musical sphere exists almost entirely outside of our own, clubs and cultures with their own distinct scenes that go far deeper than Shakira, and the mad sing-a-long of Despacitio followed by humming as no-one knows the rest of the lyrics. Their underground and even major chart acts are largely unknown to most ‘western’ music listeners, which is both a blessing and a curse for discovering what is happening over that side of the pond - dip your toe into this world and you immediately uncover an array of exciting sounds, but good luck trawling through those Spanish music articles… The infectiously happy sounds of Colombia - alongside Brazil - is often regarded as the spearhead of this exciting musical culture, with Cali constantly grooving to its own fusion of quick salsa, the afro sounds in Cartegna and of course, the Bossa Nova of Rio’s Copacabana.
Although not as famous, other cities are making moves to similar grooves, infused with their own twists and local influences, Medellin being the little brother to the Bogota scene and even Lima down in Peru is making its own waves. That’s where we picture ourselves now…
It’s a hazy morning in the city beyond your Liman bedroom window; sun streams through a break in the curtains, you turn on the radio and turning onto your side for a little more sleep. The relaxed tones of Dizzy by Mos spill out into the room, her unique English lyrics bridging both the gap between sleep and wake, and the Latin/Western scenes. A delightfully downtempo RnB jam to break in the day gently.
The next record rolls in as you make yourself a particularly strong brew of Peruvian coffee. His smooth flow of Spanish bars the perfect accompaniment to dulcet keyboard tones and minimalist hip-hop beat. Sprinkle in a few of his spoken English samples and already you find yourself forgetting you have no idea what’s being said. It sounds good, sophisticated and somewhat sharp. The Bogota man rocks a look to match his cooler-than-cool lyrics which you can’t help but check out, glancing at the screen just past your coffee.
Now it’s time to get moving, you’re out on the street and needing to get into centre. You feel the buzz of the place starting to pick up as the waking city is breaking into life, with tuk tuks revving up in slow moving traffic as you make your way to the bus. It’s a sunny Saturday morning, it’s always sunny in Lima, yet today has something extra. There’s a spring in your step, maybe it’s the jam your listening to - ‘Sonido Animal’ by ACHKIRIK - an infectious electro funk track from the Lima locals that’s really got you moving, tapping your feet on the empty bus as your headphones transport you to a different world.
Now you’re in downtown, the buzz is real here, morning shoppers are out to grab the first of the weekend bargains as you weave through the packed streets to the food market where you’ve promised to meet a friend. The market is a collection of tiny stalls selling everything from fresh juices to vegetables to fish. It’s dead cheap and you grab a small dish surrounded by locals enjoying that morning’s fresh ceviche caught from the sea just a few hundred meters away. The market looks onto a small square where a two-piece busking band are letting fly some English bars. One guy is laying down a chilled beat on a couple of crisp snares and toms, you recognise the track as ‘Eye Know’ by De La Soul. The irony hits you, the superstar New York hip-hop group that bears a partially Spanish name you never really thought about until now. The word soul doesn’t sound like it could belong in Spanish now you think of it, and it doesn’t, but making a guess you to arrive at it meaning ‘from the soul’, and that sounds pretty good.
After listening to the duo strut their stuff, it’s time to head down to a plaza where a stage has been set up. This seems to happen a lot, and people are milling about to see what’s going on. NovaLima take to the stage, blasting out their feel good fusion of electronic and Afro-Peruvian music. It’s understood by old and young alike as underlying 4/4 beats set the pace for the rolling percussion and traditional instruments that are played live on top. Inevitably, everyone starts dancing and smiling like only South Americans can. The old man who seemed barely able to walk just seconds earlier has broken into a wild salsa that signals the day is now truly in full swing, whilst young kids are eagerly running around the crowd’s legs.
Sweat beads down but everyone keeps moving as the set closes out. As they begin to pack away and set up for the next act they play ‘Yo Voy Ganao’ (meaning I’m going to win) by Systema Solar over the PA. Modern Colombian music at its finest continues the fiesta, as afro inspired wonder hit does its bit to keep everyone smiling.
It’s getting pretty hot by this point, so it’s time to walk through the colourful streets and down to the beach where a small surf regularly pulls surfers back to shore. The gentle breeze is welcomed by the crowds basking in the sun. It’s time to get the bluetooth speaker out, selecting something that bubbles, but is a little more chilled than the madness up at the stage. It’s going to be Bomba Estéreo’s live recording of ‘feelin’’, the band is a pop sensation in both their native Colombia and internationally, but they’re good, really good. Bottling up that authentic sound and presenting it with an electronic twist, they have grown to be one of the most recognised bands around and now even have their own ‘Estéreo Beach’ festival. The live version of ‘feelin’ is packed full of raw power from Saumet’s vocals that compliment the lightly delayed chords and sun that is just starting to arch downward in the sky. It’s time to head back up, to where you can sit and look far down on the water with a cold beer in hand and watch the sun set into the sea. The warm orange glow illuminates the surf and reflects off the building windows behind you that combines to give a beautiful hue to the last light to the day.
The bluetooth speaker is still going strong as the sun finally vanishes into the sea. You toast it, to the end of the light, but definitely not the end of the day. You know you will see it again in a few hours as things always run on late in this city. Atlantic Oscillations by Quantic is playing to the inspired group you know find yourself in, where whispers of which parties and afterparties are starting breaking out in excited tones. Like many people, the British-born Will Holland (known as Quantic) was also inspired to move to south America for seven years, where he produced two albums with talented local musicians in Cali. This track however is from his latest album, and pushes subtle strings over a disco groove - a sure tool ready to build the party from grassroots.
After a quick dash back home for a shower and some fresh clothes you return with a few more beers and almost ready to head out. It’s going to be a big one. The techno scene is surprisingly big in certain cities like Colombia’s Bogota, but still there is a trickle down effect with larger artists visiting Lima and the likes. Tonight you’re off to hear Aleja Sanchez’s psychedelic take on techno, with its emotive light phases followed by darker passages that see you losing all track of time. It’s the type of set you just get immersed in, where tracks blend seamlessly into a continuum of classy minimal music. Hours have flown by and all you have are a few blurred faces etched into your memory and a single Shazam, it’s one of her own and properly encapsulates the night.
This isn’t the end though, you’re joining a few of those blurred faces for an afters near the sea, they’re playing ‘Pedacito de Esperanza’ by Cerrero, its ethereal tones creating a hazy atmosphere in the small room. Light just starts to creep through the curtains and everyone heads out to the park across the road. Sat on a couple of benches everyone watches the sun slowly light up the sea from behind the mountains. You decided to replay the first track of the day again, just to hear experience it in new surroundings. Dizzy leaves everyone entranced in a silence, sitting, staring, thinking. This definitely isn’t London, Berlin, Barcelona or even Bristol, but you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. Something about this place and these people has captured you. That feeling lives on through the music you still hear from the continent to this day, leaving you think of the next time…