The 1960s saw a merging of two very different styles of music in Peru. Cumbia had been snaking its way from Colombia across Latin America for decades while American rock was carving a similar path. When they met on the Peruvian coast the two sounds merged with local traditions like the highland huayno and created a musical craze that swept the nation-Peruvian cumbia was born. This movement gave rise to many incredible musicians like Juaneco y su Combo, Los Destellos, and Manzanita y su Conjunto.
Bernardo Hernández aka Manzanita is one of Peru’s undisputed masters of the electric guitar. In the 1960s and 70s Manzanita y Su Conjunto put out a steady stream of Peruvian cumbias that prance along Cuban guaracha rhythms, serving as the foundation for his brilliant guitar work. Analog Africa takes us back to that golden era of Manzanita and Peruvian cumbia with a new compilation, “Manzanita y Su Conjunto: Trujillo, Peru 1971-1974”. This album is 14 mostly instrumental compositions of electrifying Peruvian cumbia and guaracha that will transport you to a surfside patio, all tan skin and salty hair.
The album, as with much of Manzanita’s music, is a reflection on “home”. Trujillo, where his own roots lay, is ever-present in his music. “Mi Pueblito” reflects Manzanita’s love for his hometown, as well as his extraordinary guitar skill. Manzanita even turns taste into sound, a good reminder that the best meals make you want to dance. The opening “Shambar” is named after a traditional Peruvian soup from Trujillo that blends both coastal and Andean ingredients, not different from the musicians themselves. But, beyond his own home, Manzanita y Su Conjunto often played for the Andean migrant workers living in Lima. The band would play the traditional huaynos and molizas rhythms that reminded them of their own homes connecting a musician who travels far from home to work with the migrants who must do the same.
“Manzanita y Su Conjunto: Trujillo, Peru 1971-1974” is not just some vanity project. Though, with a musician such as Hernández it would almost be understandable. Instead, each song gives all band members the chance to shine. “Manzaneando” is a display of Hernández’s genius but it also gives the space for the talent of each musician to come through. The percussion is multifaceted and interesting to listen to. The best part is hearing the musicians interact with each other and cheer each other on, this is a theme throughout the album. “Lamento de la Puna” lets the guitar shine but it can only do so because of the foundation the percussion provides. This is one of the few songs with vocals, they are few but the vocalists are also providing the support that the instruments require to drive the point deeper into the listener.
“Manzanita y Su Conjunto: Trujillo, Peru 1971-1974” is a balmy breeze for this summer’s heat. The album showcases a musician at the top of his game surrounded by other musicians of equal talent and creativity. In 1969 Manzanita sent shockwaves through Lima’s music scene that, with this album, have reverberated into 2021.