Chocolate — Peru's Master Percussionist (Perspectives on Afro-Peruvian Music. The Collection)
(Buh Records BR106, 1990/2019, CD / LP)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2019-09-16
The full title includes the subtitle (Perspectives on Afro-Peruvian Music. The Collection), and was originally released on the New York-based label Lyrichord way back when it was recorded in 1991. Julio "Chocolate" Algendones was one of the essential percussionists in the tradition of Afro-Peruvian music, and recorded this set in Las Vegas at the same time his band Perujazz was there touring. A bit of history: African slaves were brought to the Spanish colony of Peru in the 1500s to work the gold and silver mines high in the Andes. Their bodies were not well suited to survive in such high altitudes and they died by the hundreds. Their Spanish or Criollo (born in Peru of Spanish decent) masters sent them down to lower elevations to work in the large private farms, in the milder climate of the desert coast. There, in small adobe huts, on the packed dirt floors of the courtyards overrun with animals and in the fields of cotton and sugarcane that Afro-Peruvian music, song, and dance were born and flourished. The first side of the LP (it’s available on CD also) opens with “Un Niño en Tiempo,” an introductory piece which is played solo on cajon (an instrument thought to have originated in Peru, although Cubans also claim it originated there) and over the course of almost four minutes Chocolate explores the instrument’s many voices. Following on, the fourteen minute-plus “Conga Forte, Rico Cajon” is what the title sounds like – another solo piece, this time involving both congas and cajon; if this piece is not overdubbed, it truly displays the amazing magnitude of Chocolate’s percussive prowess, and either way illustrates his creative skill and compositional savvy, offering what amounts to a hypnotic trance-inducing meditation. Side B opens with the fifteen minute “Añi-Añi Manola,” a powerful seemingly African ceremonial piece where Chocolate plays congas and seeds, and two other musicians join: Manola on congas, and Makelah on kalimba, the latter coming in around the halfway mark, truly changing the form of the journey. The closer, “Un Tych,” still predominantly an expressive piece played by Chocolate on congas, bongos and talking drum, it features the other members of Perujazz (Manongo Mujica on drums and bowed cymbal, saxophonist Jean Pierre Magnet, and bassist David Pinto) joining in the closing minutes for a powerful and surprising conclusion. Listeners who appreciate extended pieces for percussion will find much to enjoy herein.
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