Nicola Cruz Looks to Traditional Ecuadorian Music to Make Innovative Techno
Photo Courtesy of Charco
Techno, by definition, is futurist music — a forward-pushing technological soundtrack for the fast pace of life in today's postindustrial globalized society, ever advancing toward a sci-fi vision of the future.
But in Latin America, a new vanguard of artists uses electronic music to instead look back at the pre-industrial past, rediscovering the indigenous music traditions of the region.
Among them is Nicola Cruz, an illustrious young producer exploring the folk music wealth of his native Ecuador and reinterpreting it through the lens of contemporary electronica and dub techno.
"I've always listened to lots of music from around the world, and that is key to my musical nutrition," Cruz explains. "Traditions are my main source of inspiration, and translating all these kinds of stories from the South American native cosmology, especially from Ecuador, is essential to what I do.
"Very influential is the work of Uña Ramos, Luzmila Carpio, and Enrique Males, for example, who have brought great color to South American music and a vivid representation of the Andean tradition."
These influences played a considerable role in shaping Cruz's critically acclaimed 2015 debut album, Prender el Alma, which blends traditional song and native instrumentation with modern electronic arrangements into a self-styled hybrid sound he has dubbed "Andes-step."
"Prender el Alma explores different places in South America, mainly Ecuador," he explains. "It was done in collaboration with many artists I admire."
For all of his work's traditional folk leanings, though, Cruz is still ostensibly an electronic dance music producer for whom cutting-edge sound design tools and techniques are stock-in-trade.
"I'm not classically trained but contemporarily trained," he says of his formative musical education. "I started studying music while young, playing the drums, and after that, I had a chance to go to school for audio production. So my work is a balance between recording, sound design, electronics, and recorded instruments."
And as with any electronic dance music artist, remixing is par for the course with Cruz, which is why he was bound to follow up Prender el Alma with a properly commissioned remix album. With a dozen up-and-coming Latin American producers handpicked by Cruz to rework the album's original material, Prender el Alma Remixed makes for a singular document of the region's unique homegrown electronica flavors.
"I decided to curate [Prender El Alma Remixed] as I like the idea of a modern interpretation," he explains. "I've been following the work of all these musicians for quite some time, and it seemed right to invite them to do their own unique version of the songs. I trust them fully and, in a way, their aesthetics are similar to mine."
In support of the remix album's release this summer, Cruz has embarked on his first U.S. tour, including a Miami debut performance at the Bar at 1306 this Friday.
"I'm very excited," he says. "I'd love to play much of the music that's been influencing me lately, and of course my own stuff, where I always include new unedited songs. Let's expect to have a nice communion."
Nicola Cruz. Presented by Bespoke Music. 10 p.m. Friday, July 29, at the Bar at 1306 Miami, 1306 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-377-2277; 1306miami.com. Admission is free before midnight with RSVP via eventbrite.com.
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