From the Dec. 12th, 2013 edition of The Wall Street Journal:
Two Musical Collections Celebrate Peru's Forgotten Legacy: 'The Birth of Jungle Cumbia' and 'Peru Maravilloso' both have music by Juaneco y Su Combo
By Eric R. Danton
LEGACY LOST AND FOUND
When people talk about saving the rain forest or the Amazon, they think of the problem as involving "trees, and maybe jaguars or macaws," says David Aglow, an adjunct English professor in New York. There's less discussion, he says, about preserving the music of the people who live there.
To help remedy that, Mr. Aglow released "The Birth of Jungle Cumbia" on his The Vital Record label last Tuesday. The album is a compilation of songs by the Peruvian band Juaneco y Su Combo, recorded in the early 1970s, and one of two new collections this fall examining the cross-pollination in late-'60s and '70s Peru of indigenous music with Latin jazz, cumbia, rock 'n' roll and other sounds.
Many people "don't realize there are booming metropolises...unique people down there who were part of the ecosystem who have over the years been subsumed by these industrial hubs," Mr. Aglow says.
The second complilation, "Peru Maravillososo," includes a later Juaneco track among 15 songs by Peruvian artists who were popular at the time, but never received international distribution.
That "was a hugely vibrant period. It was a period when radio was really important and many people had access to it," said Martin Morales, a music executive and chef who helped compile "Peru Maravilloso" for Tiger's Milk Records, an offshoot of his London restaurant Ceviche.
Born in Peru to an English father and Peruvian mother, Mr. Morales' family moved to England when he was a child.
Juaneco y Su Combo, an anchor of the Peruvian music scene at the time, was considered exotic even within the country, said Carlos Villacorta, a native of Peru and visiting professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
The album cover of "The Birth of Jungle Cumbia" speaks volumes: A group of musicians stands in a forest clearing, clad in what looks like native dress—and clutching electric guitars. That mix of modern and traditional is reflected in the music.
"The Peruvian jungle was always something distant, different and difficult to articulate in the mentality of Peruvians," Mr. Villacorta said, in part because the Andes separated the rain-forest region from the rest of the country.
Juaneco y Su Combo first performed traditional music. By 1970, the group had begun incorporating electric instruments and other musical styles on original songs, which they released on a handful of singles, a mini-LP and a full-length album in the early '70s. Five of the nine band members were killed in a 1977 plane crash.
As for "Peru Maravilloso" ("Marvelous Peru"), which came out in November, it's to be the first of two compilations, reflecting a sampling of what Messrs. Morales and Aglow agree is a vast array of cultures and languages in Peru.
For the first installment, Mr. Morales and his collaborators, Duncan Ballyntine and Andrés Tapia, focused on Latin and tropical music from the late '60s and '70s for what it represented in a nation that was deeply impoverished and, from 1968 to '75, under the control of a military dictatorship. "Music, as always, was a release," Mr. Morales said. The second "Peru Maravilloso" installment will explore funk, punk and psychedelic rock.
Though poverty persists in the country, Mr. Morales said that a booming economy in recent years has afforded many Peruvians the opportunity to re-examine their cultural heritage and put it in a modern context. He added, "We're rediscovering our own."