Record Review: Novalima – Karimba (2012, ESL Music)

‘Karimba’ is a fusion of black rhythms with modern electronic music. While they have an edge in their sound, akin to their kuduro peers, Novalima’s music is much more organic and tuneful. Stunning Afro-latin voices and percussions are infused in eclectic electronic music arrangements as appropriated by the minor periphery for the major streets and clubs of the world.

Genre: New World / World Fusion / Rootstep

Country: Peru

Artist Website:
Label: ESL Music

World music, ever-evolving and multifaceted as it is, has been changing sight once again, this time more flamboyant and scantily guised aptly for a carnival or a midday street dance in a vibrant, colourful neighbourhood somewhere in the global South. That is appealing to curious eyes as well as to those raised with bass-prone music.  Musicians from the developing world have been infiltrating Western electronic music, adapting it to the local reality. In the current heyday of bass music, indigenous beats are revamped and amplified. From kuduro’s hard dance craze (Buraka Som Sistema, Batida etc.) to black beat electronic tribalism (Ngoma Collective, Makossa  & Megablast etc.), world music surfaces darker, more underground and maybe more ‘real’.

It is no longer the sole privilege of accomplished musicians from the Global South to enter the international music arena or provide ‘food’ with their music for electronic music producers in Europe and elsewhere. Nor is Jamaica any longer the sole developing country that exports alternative modern music. Urban centres, like Luanda, are fusing sounds breaking conventional categories of Western/folk/world genres. Modern western musical forms are not used to merely modernize or overpower a local musical style; modern music is appropriated, redefined locally and at the same time exposed to global audiences. It is not a tutor/pupil relationship, rather a crosspollination.

Novalima from Lima, Peru is a group that easily falls in this modern, alternative reincarnation of world music. Their sound is primarily latin of Afro-Peruvian descent interpreted from a modern electronic perspective. Their sound is both carnivalesque and tribalesque, earthly yet ecstatic. The black beats of the Afro-Peruvian minority are persisting, loud and fierce, reclaiming their existence, as they shout against injustice, marginalization and an unspeakable colonial past.

What we are actually listening on ‘Karimba’ is the result of continuous exploration of the music of black community of Peru and new modern sounds. Their numerous collaborations with local artists as well as innovative producers (like Toni Economides affiliated with Broken Beat music – 4 Hero etc.) have granted them a wider ‘sense’ of sounds and the required prowess and flexibility to move effectively between styles to bring about exciting music rather than a mess of sounds. They already have built experience with a string of successful releases like 2006’s ‘Afro’ and 2009’s world-wide celebrated ‘Coba Coba’.

‘Karimba’ marks a step towards harder beats, more pronounced bass and an overall darker mood that is still playful, tuneful and utterly festive. This time the sound is informed by their dubstep-techno propelled Kuduro peers, but retains a harmonic, organic arrangement. The electronic side of the music is also more eclectic than aggressive, leaning towards dub, broken beat , Ninja Tune artists and lounge outfits.

There are enough great moments in the album like the soulful latin vocals over the hard, snap beats and tribal drums of ‘Diablo’, the dubbing substrate and bass of ‘Malivio Son’ and ‘Zarambe’, which sounds like a beat-injected version of Thievery Corporation (‘Babylon’ era). ‘Luna Ciega’ features subbass explosions on street samba while ‘A Panar Algodon’ is funky enough to draw paralles to Afro-beat.  Sometimes it is like listening to Buena Vista Social Club with heavy beats. There are memorable melodies, hooks marke by astonishing performances of the singers.

The indigenous beats of the black diaspora are uniting artists from places as distant as Angola, Jamaica and now Peru under the banner of ‘new world’, bass-driven, dance music. We like to use the term ‘Rootstep’ to stigmatize the merging of tradition and innovation that manifests through diffusion and appropriation of tools/methods/ideas in diverse ways. Rootstep portrays a world of vibrancy.

Novalima – Festejo:


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