Imagine you're growing up in a Latin American country at the tail end of the 60's/early 70's. You are entranced by rock music & the burgeoning counter-culture movement sweeping the states & the rest of the world. There's a "benign" leftist military government in power that doesn't look took kindly on electric guitars/long hair or anything else that reeks of hippiedom. Compound the fact that the vast majority of the country lives in abject poverty & once those teeming millions seek musical entertainment, to escape their deplorable conditions; they find it in salsa/tropical sounds, syrupy spanish pop or native folk styles.
Luckily for you, being a member of the more affluent classes, allows access to those subversive objects of desire: vinyl lp's by life-changing groups like The Doors/Jimi Hendrix Experience/Pink Floyd et al. Cover versions by said groups start to take up the time of your neighborhood garage band. You soon get to a point that original material starts to develop & instead of being content in aping those foreign influences; a synthesis of fuzz guitar/wind instruments/studio manipulations occurs, coupled with intense readings of the mystical teachings of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan treatises plus esoteric Peruvian pagan folklore. Copious intake of homegrown hallucinogens like Ayahuasca help to cement your vision of a pychedelic rock sound that acknowledges its Anglo-Saxon roots, all the while layering upon its foundation elements that reflect the Peruvian reality.
Once the providence of obscure record collectors, the onslaught of the Internet age has made these forgotten gems available to new generations. I've chosen some of the main players along with a 'lil blurb on them, but I prefer to let the music do the talking. A lot of this material has been reissued, especially by the great Repsychled Records. There are also some good compilations in print: Back To Peru Vol. 1-2, Demoler- Rock Peruano 1965-1974, Sons of Ymac (bootleg cd). Pick them up if you get a chance.
TARKUS- These guys only put out one lp in '72 , but it's a killer, heavy Sabbath/Hendrix influences. Probably the loudest band in Peru at the time, only 50 copies of the lp were made as the record label decided to shelve the release due to low demand. The band was actually half Peruvian & half Argentinian. They broke up soon after the recording, leaving behind this heavy classic & a personal favorite that still sounds as vital as when it was recorded.
TRAFFIC SOUND- Standard bearers of the Peruvian psych sound. They originally started as a merseybeat/surf cover band, but by the time of their second lp "Virgin"; they had morphed into a very unique blend of psychedelic rock with Latin & Andean rhythms. Their 3rd lp called "Tibetis Suzette" is the culmination of that outlook & a true masterpiece. They were also the first Peruvian band to tour South America, sponsored by an airplane company no less. They still gig periodically at music halls in Lima.
PAX- These guys, along with Tarkus, were probably the heaviest of the blues-based pysch bands. The band featured guitar hero, Pico Ego Aguirre, a veteran of the early 60's pop group Los Shains. They managed to put out a couple before dissolving in '73. They later reformed in the early '80s & updated their sound to echo current NWOBHM bands like Judas Priest, releasing a 45 in '84 that featured a rousing cover of Golden Earring's "Radar Love" en espanol. They still gig on a regular basis.
LAGHONIA- Classic band whose name is a play on the words that sound like The Agony- LA AGONIA- but with an extra h in the middle to join the words. One thing that set them apart was the use of a Hammond organ, probably one of the first South American bands to record with one. The band also included the Cornejo brothers (Saul on guitar & Manuel on drums) along with a 16-year old American backpacker whom the brothers had heard playing guitar on a park bench. the song Glue is a thinly-veiled reference to the narcotic properties of adhesive substances. They would release 2 lp's & the brothers would later go on to start We All Together, a band that mined the lighter side of the Beatles (think Paul McCartney & Wings).
JEAN PAUL "EL TROGLODITA"- Members of Laghonia served as the backing band for this talented singer-songwriter's 'Vudu' lp. Jean Paul's nickname, the troglodyte, came from when he starred in a mid-60's beatnik flick in which he played a savage/cro-magnon rock'nroll biker type. The range on his Lp's is amazing: full orchestral pieces, string sections, lush baroque arrangements mixed in with trippy psychedelic sounds & a dark subject matter. This all made him something like a peruvian Lee Hazelwood. He passed away in 2004, but future generations can forever enjoy the beat of El Troglodita!
LOS TEXAO- Most of the bands I've mentioned up to now were from Lima, the capital. The southern city of Arequipa, on the border with Chile, nicknamed the "white city" due to its desert-themed architecture; also had a thriving rock scene. This heavy Santana/Malo-influenced combo hailed from there and put out 3 fuzz-laden 45's, which this song called Stone highlights. There is a great compilation of Los Texao & other bands from "La Ciudad Blanca" called 'Rock en Arequipa 1969-1974' put out by Repsychled Records.
GERARDO MANUEL Y EL HUMO- Gerardo has a long & storied history in Peru's rock scene. Playing in the early '60s teen combo's Los Shain's/Los Doltons & the Cream-influenced Pepper Smelter group. His self-titled records with El Humo: Apocallipsis & Machu Pichu 2000 Lp's, are an incredibly potent synthesis of all his influences filtered through a psychedelic prism. He also started up what was arguably, the first music video show in the 80's, called Disco Club, beating MTV to the punch. He still performs regularly & writes a weekly music column/blog for a local newspaper. A peruvian rock'nroll institution!
DON JUAN MATUS- This is actually a current band, formed in 2006, by guys that were born around the time of the bands I've just highlighted. They grew up with the HC/Punk explosion of Lima in the 80's & somewhere around the way, decided to dig into their roots & formed this combo that's a direct spiritual heir to their psychedelic forefathers. The band's name, coming from the main character in Castaneda's books & the participation of LAGHONIA's Manuel Cornejo on one of their lp's; brings everything full-cycle. They've put out several Lp's & are gearing up for some new releases, check out their page here: http://www.myspace.com/donjuanmatusofficial
SERPENTINA SATELITE- Another current band formed in 2003. They incorporate Kraut Rock/Prog elements to their spacey jams. The 3 lp's they've done so far layer mostly long instrumental tracks that build a hypnotic loop, superimposing spoken word/native religious texts & swirling drones in a kaleidoscope of trance-inducing sounds. Truly great music to take drugs to make music to. For info on them, check here: http://www.myspace.com/serpentinasatelite
I hope this served as basic introduction to these amazing sounds, I'm biased of course, Peru being the land of my birth. My own introduction to these lp's were on summer holidays to Lima in the early 90's: there were outdoor record flea markets where one could pick these up for pennies as no one outside of a small circle of collectors & fans with long memories cared. All this changed as music critics created cultural trends deeming South American rock sounds worthy of retrospection. I hope that the same thing that happened to the 60's Brazilian Tropicalia movement & its subsequent reappraisal in the last couple of years, will also occur with this uniquely Peruvian hybrid. Enjoy the music.