Monsieur Periné Mixes Elegance with Butt-Shaking Rhythms

Catalina García (left) and Santiago Prieto of Monsieur Periné
Catalina García (left) and Santiago Prieto of Monsieur Periné Photo by Juan Retallack
How does a Colombian band that sings mainly in Spanish wind up with a French name?

"We were playing baptisms and weddings all over Colombia for four years," explains Monsieur Periné multi-instrumentalist Santiago Prieto. "We were mixing gypsy music with jazz, and all these people thought we were French. Out of that, we came up with a chiste (joke). We called ourselves Monsieur Periné. It sounded very elegant, but it's French for Mr. Ass."

Prieto is speaking to New Times via Zoom outside the band's studio in Bogotá. He looks relaxed, with plenty of green foliage surrounding him. But his band is about to embark on a very hectic couple of months, in the form of a North American tour that will wind its way around the continent before wrapping up in Miami on August 13. He's more than prepared for the adventure: Devoting his life to music is a dream the guitarist and violinist had since he was 12 years old.

"My parents had all these CDs of classical and Caribbean music; my big brother listened to rock en español," he says. But it was a movie that made him fall in love with music. "In Jurassic Park, there was a helicopter scene. When the John Williams score came on, it made me cry every time."

At 12, he asked his father for a violin; later came guitar lessons. By the time he was 18, he was studying music production and orchestration at the University of Bogotá. On a trip with college friends to a neighboring town, the roots of Monsieur Periné took hold.

"I saw Nicolás Junca, who I knew. Catalina [García] was hanging with his band. She wasn't even in a band. She was the girlfriend of the drummer," he explains. "We started singing together, and wow. Not only was she beautiful, but she also had a great voice and loved gypsy jazz music too. The first song we assembled was a bossa nova rhythm that was spontaneous."
The band's first gig was a surprise birthday party for Prieto's sister-in-law. One show led to another, and 15 years later, they're still going strong, preparing to release a fourth album.

"We worked with [Rafa Sardina], who worked with Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson," Prieto says. "He came to Colombia where we recorded 14 songs we're still in the process of mixing."

While he's mum on the album's potential title, Prieto shares that the work might be released in two parts. He also says fans will be able to hear at least a half-dozen songs from the upcoming record at the Miami Beach concert.

For Monsieur Periné, Miami has a special place in the band's heart, to the point where it serves as their home away from home. (Garcia spends most of her time in the city.)

"The first place we ever played outside Colombia was Miami," Prieto notes. "We played at a place I think was called Pax, under a bridge. We were nobodies. We were on our way to South by Southwest. A lot of Colombians came out to support us. Ever since, we've always had a loyal fanbase in Miami."

For those unfamiliar with Monsieur Periné, Prieto says to expect a combination of quantity and quality.

"We're a big band. We have seven musicians onstage. It's a cool mix of instruments. We have a horn section, percussion, drums, and bass. It's joy and dancing. Our music is a very happy mix of genres that is diverse and never boring. It's very sabroso, as we say — lots of flavor."

Monsieur Periné. 8 p.m. Saturday, August 13, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; Tickets cost $37.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland