Coba Coba (Cumbancha)
If you hear similarities between Novalima's modern Afro-Peruvian music and the rhythms brought from Cuba by Celia Cruz and Tito Puente in the '50s, you're on the right track: Peruvians have borrowed a lot from the Africans taken to South America as slaves during the 17th Century - the drumming and the vocals have that same intense, ardent spirit, and many tunes from the country made their way into the Caribbean.
For instance, Cruz had an enormous hit with "El Toro Mata," a composition by Lima-born Maria Chabuca Granda. But Novalima is not your grandmother's Afro-Latin music. Formed by musicians based in different parts of the world (including Hong Kong), the band draws inspiration from the sounds of their native country while incorporating elements from electronica, hip-hop, samba and other genres, coming up with something fresh that still is closely attached to their roots.
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On Coba Coba, Novalima continues to explore and try different things - an example of this is "Ruperta/Puede Ser," a tune that looks at Peru's African heritage, while waxing on the reality of racial discrimination, a malady that affects black Latinos just as much as in certain parts of this country. On "Libertad," they look back at the troubled history of the slaves brought to South America, their struggles, victories and also the hope for better times.
"Mujer Ajena" blends a reggaeton beat with a jazzy keyboard groove that elevates the music to great heights. Another welcome surprise is "Tumbala," a mostly instrumental piece that reminds us of the kind of funk-inflected material that you hear around the more urban areas of Brazil - a heavy bass lays the groundwork, while the drums, vocals and keys give it shape.
"Tumbala" is a tune that is ready to be discovered by the more open-minded DJs around the country - don't be surprised if you happen to hear it at as you do your thing at your local dance club. Coba Cuba will interest those who like to look at Latin music from outside the box.
Don't expect anything to me too traditional, as this is not what these artists seek - their objective is to bring contemporary Peru to the ears of new audiences. If this CD is any indication, they might well succeed. - Ernest Barteldes