The Man Who Changed Fusion Forever
Latin folk and electronics are no strangers to one another at this point. The past decade has seen fusion between cumbia and techno, champeta and ghettotech, merengue and house, and everywhere in between. The depths of the internet have cropped up producers from all over the world, popularizing the hybrid genres in places like Europe and the United States, with labels like Mad Decent being one of many enormous, mainstream proponents.
But way before there was Diplo, before there was Bomba Estereo or Choc Quib Town, there was Colombia’s afro-donning, self-admitted geek producer Pernett. Over four albums (and a fifth on the way) Pernett has been innovating electro Latin fusion since the very beginning, and his fanbase has been rallying for him since. He recently won our Artist of the Week contest, so we asked him all about his inspirations, his nickname “the magician,” and his nerdy alter ego.
Congrats on the decisive win, Pernett. Seems like your fans turned out en masse to deliver the win. What do you think it is about your music that resonates with them?
I think that, more than anything, we are promoting a new idea in traditional music. This has given us very diverse and tons of public support.
Which musicians have influenced you? Whose music made you decide to make and play music?
A lot of musicians, from Joe Arroyo to Jean Michelle Jarre through Bjork to the salsa classics and other Caribbean rhythms, like merengue and soca. A lot of musica has propelled me to do what I do — techno music during the 90s were a decisive factor in my passion for sound, and I wanted to do something like KLF Latino — something very danceable and with advanced sounds.
We love your cover of New World Order’s “Blue Monday” with Quantic and Lido Pimienta. How’d that collabo come about?
Well first I tried to do the version solo. Later I invited Quantic — we’re neighbors — to add accordion, and he replaced some of the synth lines with the accordion. Later I thought about voice. I wanted a sweet voice that would contrast the lyrics of the song and that’s when Lido Pimienta appeared with her unmatched voice.
If you could collaborate with anyone—living or from another era—who would it be and why?
I would love to do a collaboration with Rita Indiana for my new album. I love her work. Also I would like to do a collaboration with a classic in Latin music, like Ruben Blades or Juan Luis Guerra. They have always been important points of reference during production because they demonstrate the balance that there ought to be between the musical and the commercial.
Seems like there’s a neo-folkloric renaissance within Colombia happening in the past few years with the music of bands like Systema Solar, Chocquibtown, and Bomba Estereo being played all over. What are your thoughts on it and where does your music fit within this resurgence?
I think it was the right time, and it’s also something that’s expanding across the internet and slowly reaching more places. The sound really is very old in Colombia, but now that there’s more of us, it’s getting increasingly known in other countries.
In “Cumbia Continental” (“Continental Cumbia”) you sing about places as far as Shanghai and Japan dancing to cumbia, and in the past few years, it has exploded in popularity and spread beyond its borders to other continents. Why do you think cumbia’s caught on as it has?
I think that — aside from the neofolkloric boom – what’s helped us a lot is the fact that there’s cumbia in Argentina and Mexico too, and that at the end of it all, we’re all connected. This has strengthened the movement and refined it.
Your instrumental “El Baile del Guevatronik” (“Guevatronik’s Dance”) samples the original Pac-Man. First off, what’s Guevatronik mean? Secondly, if you could make a videogame for the song, what would it be like?
Well ‘guevatronik’ is an information geek addicted to video games, especially Pac Man (which is my favorite video game). He’s Pernett’s alter ego, because I’m passionate about technology. The Guevatronik game would be to make Guevatronik get up from his seat and dance, it’d be kind of like a Cumbia Hero.
Your last album was called El Mago (The Magician) and it also seems to be your nickname. What’s the story, Mago?
Well, actually the nickname came with the disk, and basically I was looking to make a more balanced album than my other ones. I wanted to make a more universal product, so I thought about Fantasia, from Walt Disney.
If you had a superpower what would it be?
Super power…like a super hero? I would be La Bacanería, the good vibes hero.
What are you currently working on? What’s in the works?
Well I’m working on my fifth album, which is called Cumbia Computer. I already have a few collaborations, one with Fauna y Mono Azul from ZZk, and another from Andrea Echeverri. I would love to invite more. The album has been produced so far in home studios.
Photo Courtesy of Pernett