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394 / Alejandro Cohen / Proyeccion Folklorica Mix

Dear Luaka Bop, we have a whole new genre of music for you that you would love and honestly we had no clue about it either. It apparently is called Proyeccion Folklórica (Folkloric Projection) and stems from Argentina in the ’60s. We know a Argentinian chap called Alejandro Cohen who is part of the Dublab crew in Los Angeles and he loves it so much he made us a two hour mix of it and did a whole write up. Here’s what he says…

“Proyeccion Folklórica (Folkloric Projection) is a genre that developed in Argentina in the 1960s. Its popularity continued through the ’90s, with its heyday between the late ’70s and mid ’80s. The genre is primarily based on the reinterpretation of Argentinian Folk music by artists coming from Jazz, Progressive Rock, and Fusion backgrounds. Such artists also collaborated with traditional Argentinian folk musicians, and these collaborations led to a continuous expansion of the genre.

My discovery of Proyeccion Folklórica comes from a number of trips I took to my home country of Argentina. I moved to Los Angeles in 1996 and, over the course of the years, I came to appreciate much of the Argentinian music that, for whatever reason, I never embraced while living there. During each visit to Buenos Aires I started buying mostly ’60s psych records, but, after those got too expensive, I started buying records from the ’80s New Wave/Post-Punk era. Soon enough, the same thing happened; the 80s gained appreciation in the used vinyl market, and I had to move on to a new genre. Then came the time when I picked up a record by a band called Membrillar. The album was cheap and the artwork looked interesting, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I was also intrigued by the instruments that were used on the record, as described on the back cover: a combination of flutes, traditional percussion, electric guitars, synthesizers and Roland 808 drum machines. When I asked the owner of the store about Membrillar, he said the band belonged to a long-forgotten and short-lived “sort-of-a-genre-thing” known as Proyección Folklórica. According to him, it was music made by musicians for musicians, largely fueled by two labels: Ciclo 3 and Melopea. Both labels are still in existence, and owned by Lito Vitale and Litto Nebbia, respectively. These two musicians are well established and very well known in Argentina. Without their seal of approval and their financial and artistic support, most of the records presented in this mix would’ve never been produced.

To understand the context around this music, it is important to understand the background of both Vitale and Nebbia themselves. Lito Vitale came from a family of musicians. Considered a virtuoso at an early age, he first attained critical and commercial success in his own right through M.I.A. (Independent Associated Musicians), and later as a solo artist, releasing a series of records that included influences from Fusion, Progressive Rock, New Age and Contemporary/Minimal music. Ciclo 3 was, first and foremost, a platform for his music, as the label was, and still is, co-owned by the Vitale family. The family also used the label to release the music from their circle of friends and other family members. In contrast, Litto Nebbia comes from an earlier generation. Considered one of the pioneers of Argentine rock, Nebbia broke new ground with the ’60s rock band Los Gatos, and continued on a successful path as a solo artist. His countless collaborations and projects range from Beat to Psychedelic and Folk music. Eventually Nebbia also embraced local and traditional genres from Argentina, such as Tango and Folklore, which made him a constant reference in the history of Argentina’s music.

As time passed, a number of Argentinian musicians, including Litto Nebbia, who were influenced by the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and were focused on rock music in the ’60s, began to play a wider variety of music. They started discovering and embracing, through experimentation, the traditional and indigenous music from the north of Argentina and other regions of the country outside of Buenos Aires. Of course, because of their backgrounds, any new directions they took contained touches of the Progressive Rock, Jazz and Fusion sounds that were coming from the US and Europe at the time. There are early examples that preceded this era that trace back to the ’60s. One notable example is the rendition of “El Cóndor Pasa” by Paul Simon with the band Urubamba (who later went on to become Los Incas), which blends traditional music from Perú with a pop approach. Other early examples of what went on to become Proyeccion Folklórica include the music of Arco Iris, Leon Gieco and even Almendra.

Because the genre was primarily instrumental, and thus considered “apolitical,” it was able to survive and develop through the repressive rule of the military dictatorship that ran Argentina through the 70s until 1983. Of course, many of the musicians behind these productions where by no means apolitical, and in fact many, if not all, where vehemently opposed to the military government’s repression and censorship. In the case of the Vitale family and their label Ciclo 3, their image was, for the most part, of a purely family endeavor that was aloof to politics. This, one could argue, allowed the genre to develop and flourish freely in a country where Rock and Folk musicians where persecuted and censored.

The arrival of democracy made groups like M.I.A. (headed by Lito Vitale) and Anacruza, among many others, a favorite of the new democratic government. Bands that were identified with Proyección Folklórica were regularly featured and invited to perform at the state-owned TV channel (ATC) and dozens of government sponsored festivals that happened all over the country. In the first two years of democracy, there was a positive and hopeful tone in the lyrics of some of these records, representing youth while embracing tradition. Of course, with a wide acceptance from the government came a backlash. The music released by Ciclo 3, Melopea and similar labels was seen by many, especially those coming from Rock, Pop, Punk and New Wave backgrounds, as pretentious, boring, or just plain not cool. Musicians like Fito Paez publicly denounced such music as passé. Because Proyección Folklórica was a genre that became part of Argentina’s institutionalized culture, it was therefore never appreciated for its groundbreaking nature. The times were simply not with them.

Despite the backlash, Proyección Folklórica proved hardy, and such rejection had little to no effect on the genre. For most musicians participating in these records, the music represented a place for exploration, and, since none of the bands went on to gain major commercial success, many simply continued on producing records under different aliases and playing with like-minded musicians on side projects. In fact, groups such as Alfombra Mágica and La Posta continued to work within, and develop, the genre through the 1990s. When I spoke with Gustavo Mossi from the band Membrillar, he fondly remembered the Proyección Folklórica-period of his career as a moment of experimentation where the possibilities were endless. Perhaps this sound, this genre, represents one of those few moments in the second half of the 20th century were Argentine musicians were able to briefly put aside their quest to imitate trends coming from the United States and Europe, and could, unwittingly, find their own voice.”

Love always and enjoy the music,

Test Pressing.

Alejandro Cohen, Proyeccion Folklorica, Test Pressing, Argentina, Genre, 1960s, Dublab, Mix

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