Samy Ben Pedjeb is a globe-trotting crate-digging junky; a swift perusal of his label's discography provides damning evidence of his addiction. Dubbed Analog Africa, the label’s 44 releases to date are compilations of African and South American music, from the 70s and 80s, each an auditory exposé of criminally underrated artists.
For their latest compilation Analog Africa returns to Peru for the first time since their 2020 release, "Ranil y Su Conjunto Tropical," to spotlight Peruvian Cumbia again, a subgenre of Chicha. The genre emerged in 1968 when Juan Valasco’s military coup blocked cultural imports from America and the UK. The silencing of imported rock amplified local bands and record labels, who thrived under the new regime. In mourning the expulsion of Hendrix, Cream and Morrison from Peru, local musicians fused traditional Cuban rhythms with electric guitars of late 60s psychedelic rock. And so, Peruvian Cumbia was born.
At the head of this craze was Enrique Delgado of Los Dellose who, having dominated the local scene, was aptly dubbed the king of Peruvian Cumbia. Intimidated by Delgado’s mastery over the guitar, lesser musicians kept to his shadow, unable and unwilling to challenge his reign. Enter: Manzanita. His criollo style and formidable talent finally providing Delgado with a worthy opponent. Upon first listen to Analog Africa’s new compilation, it is easy to see why.
Photo: Ricardo H. Fernandes and Kathrin Remest (Analog Africa)
Yet, the project is not one of vanity, the ensemble’s performance merits just as much praise as Manzanita’s. The percussion is complex and infectious, providing a solid foundation for its fellow instruments which coalesce together in perfect harmony. Although the 14 tracks are mostly instrumental, when vocals do make a rare appearance, they are sublime and gracefully punctuate the instrumentation. The compilation never lulls or lags, and no moment is left wasted or wanting; instead, each beat is carefully crafted, a hallmark of truly great musicians.
The album, as much of Manzanita’s work, is an ode to "Home." The opening track, "Shambar," is named after a traditional Peruvian soup that blends both coastal and Andean ingredients. Similarly, the closing track, “Mi Pueblito,” reflects Manzanita’s love for his hometown. Fittingly, the compilation is named after said hometown of Truquillo, it's unique sound, a product of Spanish, African, and indigenous populations mixing for centuries, shining through.
Like many, Manzanita became disenfranchised with the music industry, withdrawing from the scene in the late 70s, before retiring completely. To think, without Analog Africa and Ben Pedjeb’s obsession for unearthing hidden treasures, incredible music like Manzanita’s would be lost. Criminal indeed.
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