Latin GRAMMY Award-winning Colombian stars Monsieur Periné perform songs from their new album Bolero Apocaliptico live in The Greene Space, hosted by Latino USA’s Marta Martinez!
The long-awaited new album was produced by 5-time GRAMMY Award-winner Rafa Sardina (Calle 13, Stevie Wonder). According to the band’s singer Catalina García and multi-instrumentalist Santiago Prieto, the bolero is one of our few protections against the chaos of the end times. Bolero Apocalíptico, the band’s fourth album, is an intoxicating affirmation of the power of love, packed with passion and occasional doses of irony and humor.
Bolero Apocalíptico arrives five years after Monsieur Periné’s last album, Encanto Tropical. The pandemic gave Catalina and Santiago more time to create without the pressure of finishing up on a production deadline. The band’s evolution from the Caja de Música (2015) to Encanto Tropical involved not only further exploring electronic ambience, but also experimenting with genres like Brazilian bossa nova and old school Puerto Rican salsa romántica. The duo have come a long way from their origins in the colonial town of Villa de Leyva, just outside of the Colombian capital of Bogotá, where they reimagined Django Reinhart-era jazz.
Working with new songwriters and guest vocalists like Natiruts, from Brazil, Anita Tijoux from Chile, and Guaynaá and Pedro Capó from Puerto Rico, Catalina and Santiago worked feverishly in a Bogotá studio with producer Rafa Sardina to edit down the over 50 songs they recorded to the 11 scintillating tracks onBolero Apocalíptico. “We were looking for a hybrid sound,” Santiago says. “We’ve always been very acoustic, but in this case, we wanted more to go to processing, to use production to create texture and tone, a sound something like between machine and human, but without losing everything human.”
The album kicks off with “Prométeme,” a wryly humorous song—like many on the album, written with Servando Primera and Yasmil Marrufo—that balances the fear of impending planetary ecological disaster with the promise of unconditional love. Her crooning ambivalence accented by 1930s-sounding acoustic guitar flourishes, Catalina asks her lover to make love to her to transcend the reality that the world is a contaminated sea of discarded plastic.
On “El Caudal,” a song that celebrates a forbidden love affair, the band takes an innovative turn to Caribbean polyrhythms, with the help of emerging pop-reggaetón singer Guaynaá. It begins as if Catalina’s soft intoning will carry the song, only to give way to a full-fledged salsa jam, straight from the 1990s with a hint of dembow pulse. “I was born in Cali and grew up in the 90s and the salsa romántica boom,” Catalina says. “Artists like Eddie Santiago, Frankie Ruiz, Jerry Rivera – we wanted to make another song with that aesthetic. With forbidden passion, something intense is going to happen and that’s why it’s called “The Flow.” Guaynaa gives it more Caribbean accent and the timbre of the salseros.”
The Brazilian groove is such a natural fit with their aesthetic that when you hear the reggae-dub/bossa nova fusion “Vem Par Mim,” you might desire an entire album of Monsieur Periné in Portuguese. Accompanied by Brazilian reggae stalwart Natiruts, Catalina’s vocals soar into a previously unexplored groove. “Bossa nova has these progressions that takes you into a classic romanticism, like classic Sinatra,” Garcia says. “I think being able to write in other languages, implies feeling in other languages like getting a little closer to feeling the message.”
With “La Pea,” the band immerses itself in joropo, a genre that characterizes the border regions between Colombia and Venezuela, though some might find a resonance with Mexican sound jarocho. Its irresistible rhythms are augmented by Venezuelan cuatros and Colombian tiples, folkloric stringed instruments, as Catalina’s vocals triumphantly find a way to heal a night of dangerous drinking. “I think as with our culture, with our most Andean popular music, which is this music with lots of strings and also, what you hear in the cantinas,” Catalina says. “We always talk about drunkenness, about drunks who forget you and healing this, love with bread, with liquor right? With this song we were looking for a little bit of unbridled aesthetics.”
Bolero Apocalíptico succeeds on so many dimensions—a further refining of musical adventurism, surfing the line between sincere emotions and sarcasm, and taking a political stance. “We had a commitment to say things that are a little more politically risky, taking positions in which we have been participants,” Santiago shares. “One of the love songs, ‘Tu y Yo’ (You and Me) talks about same-sex love.” “Cumbia Valiente,” which guest stars Chilean rapper Anita Tijoux, makes clear the need for commitment to rebellion against the powers that be.
“These are stories of love, self-love, love shared with another, the love of life, of struggle, of resistance, for the earth, for nature, for poetry,” Catalina says.
And it’s also the story of two intensely creative people keeping the band together and finding a way to, as Catalina observes, “understand the flow of masculine and feminine energy that is part of both of us. This album is a myth of creation, with two energies in tension, in seduction, telling the story of who we are.”
Credit: Photo provided by Latino USA
Marta Martinez is a senior producer at the radio show and podcast Latino USA. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, NPR, CNN, VICE, and Foreign Policy, among other media. She specializes in long-form journalism, covering gender, inequality, migration, and human rights.
She has reported on women migrants and reproductive rights in Colombia and Mexico, why straight women are marrying each other in Tanzania, and how the pandemic affected Latina domestic workers in the US. “She Migrates,” an audio documentary she co-produced, was awarded with a One World Media Award in 2022. Her investigation of the systemic problems of the US healthcare system was nominated for a Gabriel Garcia Márquez award in 2020.
She is an International Women’s Media Foundation, National Geographic, and European Journalism Centre grantee. She worked as a fact-checker for The New York Times and as a researcher for The New Yorker. She’s originally from Spain but has been living in New York for over a decade. She holds a master’s in journalism from New York University.