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Guest Voz: Peruvian indie music group explains why it’s important to sing about Peru’s reality

LatinaLista — Peru has seen its share of turmoil in its history and many would argue that while things have improved, they stay the same. One group who wants to bring renewed attention to Peru’s problems is the tropical-fusion band known as Bareto.

This month, the Lima, Peru-based band released their album Ves lo que quieres ver (You see what you want to see) digitally. While the album is a mixture of cumbia, reggae, psychedelia and dub, among other latin generes, the lyrics reflect how Peruvians deal with their differences as a society. As such, songs on the album deal with racism, social differences and street insecurity, facts that coexist in Peru’s everyday reality but ones that Peruvians don’t necessarily talk about because as the title of the album suggests, “you see just what you want to see.”

In the following post, written while the group is currently on tour in Japan, the band explains their motivation for creating music that doesn’t just ask its listeners to sing or dance with them — but to think and ask questions.

Peru’s indie music group Bareto

It is not easy to explain the story of Bareto. We began to make music as an instrumental combo in the early 2000s, playing reggae standards as an openning act for great legends of the genre (for example, Abbysinians and Steel Pulse.)

After a while, we began to blend Jamaican music (or at least our version of it) with Latin flavors such as Cumbia, inspired by a trip we did to the Amazon. It was there that we first heard the sounds of “Psychedelic Cumbia” pioneers Juaneco y Su Combo, a Peruvian band from the 1960s.

In 2008 we recorded and released our record, Cumbia, an album of cover versions of these old Peruvian classics. That record was a huge success all over the country and we began to tour nationwide.

We have been playing as a band for nearly 10 years now. In the last four years, all of the band members were finally able to quit their “day jobs” to be fully involved in the development of the band. (Some worked in advertising, some gave music lessons, and I had worked for a decade as a journalist.) This is a unique situation, truly something that almost never happens in a country like ours, where artists are still looked upon as eccentric people, not as professionals. Indeed, we live in a country where the words “music” and “business” barely go together.

Of course, there has been a favorable context for this to happen: in the last 12 years, just before the end of Alberto Fujimori’s corrupt decade leading the government, three democratically-elected presidents had directed the economy in a way that allowed macro-economic numbers to go up; that is, there was a right wing focus and orientation on exports, as well as the allowance of foreign capital to enter the country. The current president, Ollanta Humala, although he had a leftist- oriented election campaign and military background, has continued that path.

Unfortunately, the sensation of prosperity isn’t something that every Peruvian can experience. Huge social differences continue in the country, despite the media coverage of the so-called “gastronomic boom” (the media’s label for sophisticated traditional food that is the number one export product of the “Peru Brand”) and the accompanying economic bonanza it has brought to the country.

That is why we’ve chosen to make an album called “Ves lo que quieres ver” (in English, “You See Just What You Want To See”), which was released in the U.S. digitally on August 7th.

On this record we have written and recorded ten songs that reflect those aspects of our social reality in Peru. These circumstances don’t make it into the press, but persist as a disease for our nation: racism, poverty, street insecurity, and political corruption.

That is why our first single and video from the album are called Camaleon (“chameleon”): because, as the song says, “cambian los nombres, pero no la situación” (in the government) the names could change, but the situation does not.

Maybe it’s not the most logical commercial bet, but as artists, we feel deeply the necessity to express this reality with our music; we are very proud that we can still manage to make a living with it.

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