Label Spotlight: Masstropicas and the new comp “El Sonido de Tupac Amaru”!

When traveling into the jungle, it’s always a good idea to have a trusted guide, cuz, you know, there’re all sorts of snakes and quicksand and shit. Same goes for traveling into the musical jungle (watch out for those game-killing budget “World Music” CDs!) Our trusted guide in these journeys is the label Masstropicas and their main man Mike P, who’s never led us astray. This week we sat down with Mike P. to talk Peruvian cumbia and their latest–and very limited (500 hand-numbered)–release, El Sonido De Tupac Amaru. Welcome to the jungle!!!!

Tell us about Masstropicas. What inspired you to start the label?

Masstropicas is a collective of sorts not only do I come up with ideas for releases but I also present them to the bands with a collaborative attitude in hopes that they will be receptive. I was inspired to start Masstropicas because no one in North America was releasing Peruvian cumbia and I thought these re-issue’s deserve more than a CD and iTunes.

We reviewed the Ranil’s Jungle Party record, which is fantastic and got a lot of play in the LITA offices (it also made our top reissues of 2010 list). Was that the label’s first release?

No that was actually Masstropicas 4th release, the 3 that came before that were all pressed in very small quantities. Number one being a 45 by LOS CHAPILLACS from Arequipa, Peru. Number 2 being a 12″ from GREEN MANSIONS ( a band between a friend from Denmark and me) and number 3 being a cassette from EL HOMBRE ORQUESTA an amazing street musician from Lima, Peru who performs many cumbia songs and also does some salsa.

Both Ranil’s Jungle Party and El Sonido De Tupac Amaru are prime examples of Peruvian cumbia. Can you talk a bit about this style of music?

Peruvian cumbia much like Peruvian food is a true mix of styles ranging from Asian influence to indigenous Andean influence to American surf rock influence. You’ll find records in Peru that have styles printed next to the song titles, one will say cumbia-rock another will say cumbia-beat and another one will say cumbia-hyuano. It’s always been all over the place but it’s all cumbia Peruana and people outside of Peru who try to pinpoint it always seem to not have the best description.

Tell us about the El Sonido De Tupac Amaru compilation. How did you find these songs/artists?

All of these songs come from my travels in Peru at one point or another. Half of the songs are from 45s I dug down there and songs I heard through a radio station close to my wife’s family’s home called Radio Comas. I would tune in late at night and record radio shows that played cumbia and skim threw the tapes and if I heard something groovy I would ask around and play the song for people in hopes that I could get the name of the group. The compilation is also named after Tupac Amaru which is an avenue also close to where my wife’s family live and you can hear a lot of this music blaring from taxi’s, restaurants, and street vendors there.

Tell us about the re-mastering process. What was the source material that you had to work with? Vinyl? Master tapes? Who did the re-mastering/restoration?

95% of the source material is from vinyl and 5% being from master tapes. Unfortunately only a few labels kept master tapes in Peru and it’s very hard to come across smaller labels who do own master tapes. So we relied on the cleanest copies of the records that I own and trying to mix the sound with the songs on the compilation that come from the master tapes was quite a dilemma for Pepito Perez and Anres Tapia, the two guys who mastered El Sonido De Tupac Amaru along with Ranil’s Jungle Party.

And the packaging looks great! Really cool design and the bonus 7″ makes it even more special. Tell us a bit about the design/packaging.

El Sonido De Tupac Amaru and the Centeno 7″ were both designed by a close friend named Tunchi who is also apart of the street photography collective I’ve known him for many years prior to him designing things. It’s truly a collaborative effort with him as well, I trust him very much though, we also work with another photographer names FOKUS who will get us photo’s from old bands and also take newer photos if needed. El Sonido De Tupac Amaru comes with an 11″ x 22″ full color insert with tons of rare photos and along with that it comes with a double sided 11″ x 11″ insert with liner notes and additional art.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I keep those things under my hat until it’s 100% but we are going to Peru in May to record some bands from the Jungle!


For audio samples and to order El Sonido De Tupac Amaru (LP + 7″ | Tropic-06) click HERE!