Photo: Eric Foss

Awaiting Peña, a collection of new Afro-Peruvian music: An Interview with Eric Foss of Secret Stash Records

By | 10 October, 2010

Peña, a collection of Afro-Peruvian standards recorded in April of this year, is the work of Cory Wong and Eric Foss, owners of Minneapolis’ Secret Stash Records. The record features a collection of well-known Peruvian musicians, unknown street musicians and Wong himself.  The name Peña refers to the meeting places where musicians would meet to play each other songs, a tradition that took place in the early days of Afro-Peruvian music. You can listen to a sample from the album HERE.

How did the idea start for Pena?
It definitely started with Andres Prado for Cory and I. We used to go watch Andres at a little club called the Artists Quarters. He would do jazz sets and he always had this Peruvian influence with his jazz, but every now and again he would pull out his nylon guitar and play Afro-Peruvian, and being fairly moved by it. Earlier this year we sat down with a notebook and a pen and decided what we wanted to do this year. We made a big list but no matter what we came up with the Afro-Peruvian thing was at the top of the list, but we didn’t know how to do it, there is no Peruvian tradition up here, and we realised that the only way to do it would be to go down there, and three weeks later, we left, it happened real quick.

Did you have some contacts in Peru for when you arrived?
The only contact we had set up was Andres, and to be completely honest, Andres didn’t really connect us with any of the musicians who ended up on the record. A lot of it was contacts we made, in the first few days of being there. There was two ways of getting players, through hardcore networking and trying to speak to the most connected people in the genre, and that got us about half of the players. The other half were players we met on the street. There’s this guy Javier Choy, unbelievable over-the-top guitar player, and we met him in a music shop and we told him what we were doing and he started playing, and we thought we have to record you playing.

So how did the recording work? Did everyone record as one or are there lots of different ensembles?
It’s like a big revolving door. There’s three or four tracks of a quartet that we found, two or three of a duo we found and then a couple of solo tracks. Stylistically it’s all 100% Afro-Peruvian.

Who chose the songs?
A combination of Cory and the musicians we worked with chose the songs. Our whole idea was just to track what happened. We just asked the musicians for their favourite Afro-Peruvian songs. Our role is to capture what they do best, and share it with people.

How long were you in Peru?
We were down there for 7 days, that was it. I can almost guarantee you’ll never see anything like it where there’s so much pride in the culture and the music that as soon as you say “I’m from somewhere else miles away and I want to record your music and share it and take it away” and people would say “whatever you want, let’s do it”. We didn’t have a studio so we were just recording in people’s houses, or in schools, or in people’s offices, anywhere we could get in, just because they wanted to share this music with outsiders so badly.

Do you have any plans for another volume?
Well, we’re doing the Peruvian funk record in November, and the Pena record obviously, and I already have enough tunes for a record of classic Afro-Peruvian tunes that will probably come out in November too. While we down there we recorded like 50 tracks so if this goes well we could easily release another record.

You recorded 50 tracks? In 7 days?
Yeah. 7 days. Actually while we were down there by day three or four we were sweating. We didn’t get any tracking done until day four or five because all that time we were setting up contacts. The days we recorded were very exhausting.

More info:
Secret Stash Records
Buy Pena at Amazon


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