Music Review: Los Pakines

Peruvians Los Pakines started in 1972 as a surfy instrumental group with their influences ranging from the local Lima instrumental combos like Los Destellos (the Flashes) to international instrumental purveyors the Shadows and the Ventures. A local record label owner enticed them to augment their instrumental sound with Peruvian cumbia - itself an infectious blend of Cuban guaracha and Colombian polyrhythms. Brothers José "Pepe" Torres Liza and Alejandro "Pakin" Torres Liza formed the group that remains active to this day. Alejandro composed many of their songs and played the timbales, while brother José "Pepe" provided the fluid lead guitar adorned with romantic flourishes. Alejandro's churning click-clack percussion establishes the solid rhythmic foundation for the interplay between the rhythmic and lead guitars. Their melodies go into some unexpected directions - sometimes turning corners unto entirely new melodies. 

In 2015 Infopesa (aka Industria Fonográfica Peruana S.A.) released this Los Pakines collection, which includes their first two 1973 albums, Los Pakines Y....."Pasto Azul" and Los Pakines, in their entirety.  Things get going on "Ramo de Rosas" (“Bouquet of Roses”) as the bucking percussion kicks in between the driving guitar sounds. Poppy’s “Ya, La, La, La” vocables are hinged upon serpentine guitars that coil through tangles of tropical psychedelia on “San Luis.” Reflecting local color and history, they even named a song after the Peruvian 18th-century entertainer Micaela Villegas, known as La Perricholi. “La Perricholi” is a joyous, exquisite, and percolating number from their debut album featuring the clicking sound of the guacharaca, a percussion instrument made from a small palm tree and known colloquially as a scraper.   They began to get harder and heavier on their second self-titled album as unison vocals are incorporated on “Tómalo o Déjalo” (“Take or Leave It”) and mirror the North American West Coast groups like El Chicano and Santana. On a similar wavelength, “Fue Una Mentira” (“It Was A Lie”) is a shimmering vocal tune featuring a liquidy guitar sound made possible by delay effects.   

The highly skilled Los Pakines had domestic success for decades and achieved international acclaim in the ‘70s & ‘80s.  Their songs, both simultaneously foreign and familiar, evoke distant coastal lands and cross-pollination as well as departures and landings. It is no surprise their records spread all over Latin America and are now being rediscovered. Their captivating sound helped create a golden musical era in Peru and their recordings continue to take flight 50 years later.  - Ted (Downtown)

Los Pakines on Freegal

Check out more staff music reviews.