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On 'Siete Raíces,' Dengue Dengue Dengue Fuses Techno And Tradition

Felipe Salmon and Rafael Pereira make up the Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue.
Courtesy of the artist
Felipe Salmon and Rafael Pereira make up the Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue.

Rafael Pereira and Felipe Salmon, who make up the Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue, create electronic music inspired in part by time-honored Latin American styles. Their approach is all about building layers upon layers.

First, there's the band's name: Dengue is a slang term that can refer to getting fired up for a party, but it's also a traditional Cuban rhythm. Pereira and Salmon say it basically sounds like mambo, but with a high-pitched percussion sound made by striking a car wheel with a metal beater.

But Dengue Dengue Dengue's music synthesizes other influences, too. Salmon and Pereira say their sound is grounded in Peru's version of the traditional Latin style cumbia. They're also influenced by criollo music, which was born centuries ago when African slaves in the southern part of Lima fused their instruments and rhythms with Spanish sounds.

"Dubcharaca," a track from Dengue Dengue Dengue's new album LaSiete Raíces, is a great example of the layers that constitute the duo's music. Even the song's title reflects the ideal of fusion.

"It's a combination of different genres," Salmon says. "One is called dub, and the other is called guacharaca. It's a rhythm that comes from Colombia."

What do lovers of more traditional musical styles have to say about Dengue Dengue Dengue's reworking of familiar sounds?

"There are definitely people that are really happy that this is happening, and there's also the purists that don't want this happening," Pereira says. But he also says that established Peruvian cumbia bands seem to like Dengue Dengue Dengue's remixes. "It's nice if they understand what we're doing and approve it."

"Yeah, they'd normally say, 'Qué loco,'" Salmon says. Or: "It's crazy."

Salmon and Pereira recently walked NPR's Ari Shapiro through the layers that make up their sound on Siete Raíces. Hear the full conversation at the audio link above.

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