Coba Coba

Milagros Guerrero is the obvious star to emerge from Afro-Peruvian group Novalima, with her little-doll voice that sounds good both in song and rap form. Guerrero does indeed rap on "Ruperta/Puede Ser," the fourth track of Novalima's new album Coba Coba. It's an exhibit A of the current "fusion" trend in Latin music, which has produced artists like Omar Sosa, Ojos de Brujo, and the hip-hop group Ozomatli. Like its counterparts, Novalima is besotted with centuries-old traditions, but also drawn toward contemporary styles of production. (It released the dance spinoff, Coba Coba Remixed, in mid-June.) Guerrero is a newcomer to the group (which formed as a quartet in 2001), but she's largely responsible for shaping its sound. She puts the sheen on what would otherwise be a well-done but not-quite-extraordinary musical experiment.

The members of Novalima (who now number nine, with the addition of Guerrero and several percussionists) pride themselves for having revived an indigenous form of music that apparently doesn't get enough play on their home turf. What's more interesting, though, is the composition of their band, which combines every kind of Latin percussion instrument you could think of (from congas to cowbells to timbales) with modern DJ equipment. No surprise, then, that their songs tend to be rhythmically complex. "Libertá" is anchored by a syncopated bass line that blurs out towards the end, at which point producer Grimaldo del Solar throws in some echo and reverb. (Thus, it starts off as a Latin dance number and turns into a woozy dub song). "Se Me Van," is even more enigmatic, with a rhythmic template that seems to be based more on interjections (from the vast ensemble of drum instruments) than on any specific pattern. The only problem with such intricacies is that they make the album sound programmed and technological. It took a talented singer to breathe life into those tracks. (Cumbancha)


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