12 Oct 2021

Perú

A balmy breeze for this summer’s heat. 14 mostly instrumental compositions of electrifying Peruvian cumbia and guaracha.

“Music from the future that has been created in the past” is Ben Redjeb’s description of the kind of recordings he has brought back into the spotlight. In 1969 Manzanita sent shockwaves through Lima’s music scene that, with this album, have reverberated into 2021.

'Berardo Hernández – better known as Manzanita – first surfaced during the psychedelic Cumbia craze. At the head of the scene were the magnificent Los Destellos, whose leader, Enrique Delgado, was such a six-string wizard that other guitarists found it impossible to escape his shadow. But when Manzanita arrived, his electric criollo style sent shockwaves through Lima’s music scene and posed a serious threat to Delgado’s dominance as king of the Peruvian guitar. Starting in 1969, Manzanita y su Conjunto released a steady stream of singles that used Cuban guaracha rhythms as the foundation for dazzling electric guitar lines. After countless 45s and several years on the touring circuit, the band signed to Virrey, an important Peruvian label, and recorded two LPs acknowledged as masterpieces among aficionados of tropical music. Most of the songs on Analog Africa’s new compilation Manzanita y su Conjunto are drawn from those legendary sessions of 1973 and 74. Although he scored a few more hits in the later 70s, his dissatisfaction with the music industry caused him to withdraw from the scene for several years; and when he finally retired for good, the golden age of Peruvian cumbia was a distant memory. But when Manzanita was at the top of his game he had few equals. This is some of the best music ever recorded in Perú.' -goner-records

Genius Peruvian cumbia from Berardo Hernández (better known as Manzanita) who led the '70s scene with an electrified personal style that drunk up US psychedelia and crossed it with Cuban guaracha rhythms. Next level!

'Manzanita ascended to notoriety as part of Lima's popular cumbia scene, but had grown up in Trujillo, 500 miles further up the coast where he had been surrounded by Spanish, African and indigenous music that was embedded into the city's DNA. His music was informed by this background, and he fused these sounds with the illicit rock 'n roll that had been banned from the radio in 1968 after a military coup.

When foreign music was banned however, there was suddenly an explicit need for local bands - who had been raised on electric guitar music - who mixed Cuban sounds with rock guitar playing. The result was Peruvian cumbia, and Manzanita was at the center of the genre. This collection combines some of his most important work, recorded at a series of sessions in 1973 and '74 before he withdrew from the music industry.

Listening now it sounds surprisingly contemporary. Manzanita's fusion of sounds is prophetic in many ways, and his virtuoso playing is hard to ignore. The disc captures a golden age of Peruvian music that's hard to grasp from the other side of the world: it's an absolute treat. Seriously exceptional summer soundtrax.' -boomkat


'As has been documented previously within Folk Radio, the Analog Africa label, under the auspices of its illustrious founder, Samy Ben Redjeb, who appears to have both a propensity and boundless energy for travelling the globe, unearthing hidden music gems and then unleashing them upon an enthusiastic and appreciative global audience, is a wondrous phenomenon.

With this album, and following on from last year’s 1975-80 Peruvian cumbia compilation from singer Ranil, he has returned to the same country to highlight some of the best work of Manzanita, one of Peru’s acknowledged masters of the electric guitar. Trujillo, Perú 1971 – 1974, by Manzanita y Su Conjunto, a compilation of 14 mainly instrumental tracks, is the result of a stay with a fellow music junkie in Lima two years ago, and the truly electrifying sounds of cumbia and guaracha music on offer burst from the speakers with exuberance and vitality guaranteed to put you in a good mood.

Berardo ‘Manzanita’ Hernández originally hailed from Laredo, a small town near the coastal city of Trujillo, some 500 miles north of Lima. The city, founded in the 16th Century by Spanish conquistadors, saw the integration of indigenous peoples with this mix of Castilian and Andalusian settlers, some of whom were of Moorish and Jewish descent and later, due to the slave trade, African descendants, with the resultant music created thus being culturally diverse. Having absorbed these influences as a child, Berardo relocated to the capital city of Lima, aged 12, in 1955.

Self-taught on the guitar, Berardo quickly mastered the local criolla style, with its complex rhythms and guitar technique called picadito, which rather than meaning a “kick about football match” refers to speedy thumb and finger runs up and down the fretboard. His first surfacing as a known musician coincided with the popularity of the psychedelic music emanating from the West, but the military coup of 1968, fomented by Juan Velasco, saw imported rock eschewed, even banned, (an internet search for ‘Santana banned in Peru’ makes for an interesting read), in favour of local traditions under his regime. New bands flourished, and the era saw the naissance of a newly created genre of music, Peruvian cumbia. Whilst the rhythms are indeed heavily indebted to Cuban guaracha, the incorporation of electric guitar marks it out as a uniquely Peruvian style, and it did not take long for Manzanita (meaning Little Apple), to become one of its leading exponents.

In 1969, Manzanita y su Conjunto released countless 45 rpm singles that used these Cuban guaracha rhythms as the foundation for Berardo’s scintillating electric guitar. Following several years of touring, the band were signed to one of the foremost Peruvian labels, Virrey, and recorded two LPs, Nuevo Sonido De Manzanita (1973)and Manzaneando Con Manzanita (1974). Most of the songs on this release are drawn from those legendary sessions.

On this compilation, the line-up on most of the recordings includes three exceptional percussionists totally infused in Cuban music traditions, namely Héctor Mattos (congos), Antonio Medina (bongos) and Ricardo Valles (timbales). Add into the mix the driving bass of Enrique Ibérico and Hernan Huamán on organ, and Berardo is given a rock-solid guaracha foundation on which to weave his guitar magic.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, several tracks on this compilation reflect songs in which Manzanita pays homage, in some way, maybe through the title alone, to his roots and north-western provincial roots. The opening track, Shambar, is a traditional Peruvian tune originating from Manzanita’s native province of Trujillo that blends coastal and Andean ingredients. No Me Marchare, (I Won’t Leave), a single released from the album, similarly emphasises Manzanita’s deep-rooted affection for his birth province and is a totally infectious tune El Norteño clearly makes a specific reference to those from the northern coast and emphasises, musically, how the traditions from the Spanish heritage co-exist alongside the indigenous Peruvian culture, the organ sounds adding intriguing counter-points to the rhythms.

With the longest offering on the album clocking in at three minutes 20 seconds, each of the tracks is, in effect, a perfect aural cameo of a little-known genre that has hitherto, for many, remained hidden. La Mazamorrita, with its pulsating, driving rhythm, Manzaneando featuring Manzanita’s extraordinary guitar prowess, Lamentó En La Puna, reminiscent of the sounds issuing forth from the bars along Havana’s El Malecón, the psychedelic guitar sounds created on Un Sábado Por la Noche and the terrific brass on Mama Ocllo will keep the listener’s attention throughout.

Berardo, always cognisant of his roots, often returned to Trujillo to share his knowledge and experience with local musicians. On one such visit, he played with Los Cañeros and persuaded them to travel back to Lima to record with him. Two tracks attributed to him with this group appear here, including  Primavera 71, which would later be re-recorded by Manzanita as El Jardinero. 

The album also closes with a return to a reference to his roots with Mi Pueblito, meaning My Little City, a further single, and a paean to his hometown Trujillo.

Manzanita died peacefully in Lima on the 5th of May 2007, surrounded by his family. This release is dedicated to him and is a more than welcome fitting tribute to a wonderful Peruvian musician who deserves wider recognition outside his native country.' -David Pratt

1. Shambar 2:56
2. La Caihuita 2:54
3. La Buenita (con Los Cañeros) 2:05
4. La Mazamorrita 3:07
5. Manzaneando 3:20
6. No Me Marchare 2:49
7. Lamentó En La Puna 2:57
8. Un Sábado Por la Noche 2:40
9. Salomé 2:48
10. Catita 2:34
11. Primavera 71 (con Los Cañeros) 2:41
12. El Norteño 2:45
13. Mama Ocllo 2:42
14. Mi Pueblito 2:52