Random Is Not Whatever: New Music from Bolivia

By 14 October, 2011

Random Is Not A Whatever are a rare thing, a record label from Bolivia. This year they’ve released a number of albums from Bolivian artists that are clearly influenced by both Latin American and international music but also have an energy and invention that deserves attention. With Bolivia being one of the least connected countries in South America this is attention that is not always forthcoming. Hopefully Random Is Not A Whatever can put that right!

We spoke to J. Zamora and André De Oliveira from the label to find out more about Random Is Not Whatever as well as the current music scene in Bolivia. You will also find a compilation of music from the label at the bottom of this page, which would make the perfect accompaniment to reading this interview! Here it comes…

Could you introduce Random Is Not Whatever? What is it you guys do? What is your aim?

J.Zamora: Random Is Not Whatever is an independent record label founded in 2009 having as it’s principle goal the congregation, production, publishing and promotion of material by Bolivian artists.

André De Oliveira: Yes, it was created principally because of the lack of music labels in our environment, that inspired us to create a space for new young independent artists and the expansion of their work.

JZ: One of the important things of Random Is Not Whatever is that it’s not just about one style of music, since we have a variety of artists that do different things, the public we target is pretty wide, so what we hope for is that the Bolivian audience gets involved with us therefore the community grows and we prepare a somewhat ‘solid’ ground for future musicians and artists alike.

That would be for the local audience, now we as a net label only want for international people to listen us, give it a try and download what they like, that’s why chance is an important fact for us; we never know who’s gonna listen our music (you for instance).

Where are you based, and where are the artists on the label based?

JZ: The label’s office and studio is in La Paz, and the majority of acts are from here but some friends that belong to many of the bands migrated from other cities.

ADO: There are also artists from Cochabamba, Sucre and Op3rador a Venezuelan artist who has lived in Bolivia for several years now.

JZ: Although we can’t tell what’s the next move for anyone. One day they’re here, next one they’re emailing you from another country.

Would you say there is a healthy music scene in La Paz?

ADO: I think the music scene in La Paz is very poor. That is because there are not enough music labels, music stores, venues, and most important, there is not enough support from the government and people for the artists in our city.

There’s a big tendency in young artists of making “tributes” to famous bands, and worst of all, most of the clubs where bands play, give more importance to “tribute bands” because of the profit they earn. This problem also includes the public.

JZ: Also there has been for a long time now a creative deadlock in our society, musically speaking, the bigger artists still produce the same sound from their early works, that influence new bands in the same way that they have been influenced for two decades, then you ask where these guys record their stuff and nowhere else than in the same studio that everyone does so next thing you realise is that you have the same drum sound in almost every popular record you can get, it’s crazy, a lot of musicians do not explore with their sound, it gives the impression that they’ve never questioned themselves if there can be anything more besides what they do.

And as you find those sad facts you also have wonderful music that’s being composed from other friends that seek to expand the Bolivian culture, that would be the case of the Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos (OEIN) an orchestra of native instruments founded thirty years ago by the Bolivian composer Cergio Prudencio and to this day they have grown enormously, with good musical programs for the people of the suburbs, they get kids from 5 to 18 years old introduced to native and contemporary music written for those instruments! A lot of my friends are instructors, composers or members of the orchestra and you can clearly see how musical knowledge both international and native get’s mixed by young people of different social status and races – it’s incredible and beautiful.

There are also a couple of really good bands, the problem with all these great projects is that the music doesn’t reach the people, the independent music lacks distribution and promotion and the few releases that you find are very expensive for the market, so how can we expect the culture to grow when we charge $10 for a CD, piracy offers people entertainment it’s clear what their choice is gonna be.

We need to charge as minimum as possible, keep it as DIY as we can, giving away the music for people to have it.

Are there are many other net labels such as yourself in Bolivia? Any others you’d recommend?

ADO: There are a few that I know of. I recommend Neurotrance and San Pedro Estudios, both electronic music labels.

JZ: I would like to mention Entropia Records, a more punk, noisy, experimental label, great sounds, they always find a way to surprise you, they have very original ideas.

Are there many good venues where bands can play in La Paz?

JZ: Unfortunately there aren’t, the city has about three real venues, not including theatres, but none of them have either the physical space nor the right acoustic for a band to play, it’s a shame, now we are trying to get alternative spaces and so far we found 2, but we’re still in the negotiation process.

ADO: Even the best venues that do have these requirements don’t have the knowledge of how to treat the artists.

What do you think are the main influences for the bands on Random Is Not Whatever? Are there many Bolivian influences, or influences from Peru or Argentina or Brazil? Or is there a lot more international influence?

JZ: We have all sorts of influences, of course Bolivian music is one of them, especially native music and folk rhythms, for example: sicureadas, cuecas, bailecitos, morenadas, moceñadas, etc. Another big influence for us are Afro polyrhythms, call it Bolivian, Peruvian, Cuban or Brazilian – it plays a big part in the music that is made by certain bands.

International influences I would say are the core of all the bands in Random Is Not Whatever, everyone listens to all sort of international music from classical to jazz to disco music or even some new indie band from New Zealand.

ADO: I believe that it depends on the artist, there are different influences on each one. I would say that Random Is Not Whatever is a mix of international and Latin American influences.

How many people are behind Random Is Not Whatever?

JZ: We are about 30 people behind the label, that includes graphic designers, technicians, photographers, one chef, one accountant, two VJs and a production crew for the parties.

ADO: And getting bigger!

Are any of these people in any of the bands?

JZ: Yeah, actually some of them play an important role for us ’cause they multitask a lot, helping in different areas of the label, like DJing at a party or filling up the place of some band member that couldn’t be there, it’s good to have a lot of musicians that also are friends between them, it makes things easier for everyone to work.

ADO: That includes both of us.

Do you have an interesting fact about Bolivian music that nobody knows?

JZ: Marvin Sandi was an obscure Bolivian composer from Potosí, he was from the the late 50s-early 60s. He was also a philosopher, and thanks to his existential dilemmas he committed suicide in Madrid when he was 32, his whole oeuvre consists of eleven pieces exclusively for piano in different styles.

I would say he is my favorite Bolivian composer, he is without a doubt an international artist that actually sounds Bolivian and you can recognise it as such, all of his works are amazing, but since he died so young he is not a well known composer here but definitely is universally value for his music.

I was introduced to him by my former piano teacher and friend Grace Rodriguez. Actually she played his whole catalogue at a contemporary music festival in Cochabamba and it was recorded though only she and I have copies of that concert. I’ve been warned by her not to leak the music but believe me I’m about to do it!

You can check out the latest releases and news from Random Is Not Whatever at randomisnotwhatever.com. If you want to skip straight to the music check out their Soundcloud page: soundcloud.com/randomwhatever

Here is a compilation of music made by Random Is Not Whatever, featuring the diverse array of artists on the label, and which was released in July this year:
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/961134″ height=”200″]

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