Miguel Flores-Primitivo (1983) Sounds Essentials Collection Volume 2-Vinyl.

Label: Buh Records.

Many words have been used to describe avant-garde musician Miguel Flores is his native Peru. This includes brave and determined, after learning to walk again after an accident just as he was making a breakthrough with the rock group Pax. Miguel Flores has been described as a humble and thoughtful, despite all he’s achieved during a long and illustrious career. He’s also been described as a proud man, especially of his Andean roots. Some critics have described Miguel Flores an artist with a larger than life personality. However, everyone who has followed Miguel Flores’ musical career will agree that he’s one of the legends of the Peruvian music. Sadly, though, outside of Peru, Miguel Flores is not as well known as he should be.  

Fortunately, Lima-based Buh Records have recently released Primitivo (1983) Sounds Essentials Collection Volume 2 on vinyl. This is an opportunity to discover three of Miguel Flores’ most ambitious recordings. He was commissioned by choreographer Luciana Proaño to write the score for her new contemporary performance of Mitos Y Mujeres. To do this, put together a band who could record a genre-melting score that fused folklore, free jazz and psychedelia with ashaninka chants, tribal music and electronics. It was a truly groundbreaking musical experiment which sadly, hasn’t been heard for over thirty years. That is until it was released as part of Buh Records’ Sounds Essentials Collection. It’s a welcome addition to this occasional series and a reminder of a remarkable man and musician.

Miguel Flores was born, and grew up in Lima, Peru, and was fortunate to attend the prestigious Markham College. This venerable institution was founded by British expatriates and since then, scholars receive a mixture of British and Peruvian education at what’s often been referred to as the Eton of the Andes. However, life at Markham College wasn’t always easy for Miguel Flores.

With Markham College was the most prestigious school in Lima, it was where the Peruvian elite and the many expatriates living and working in Peru sent their children. While Miguel Flores was readily accepted by his American, Australian, British and Canadian classmates and made many friends, he struggled to gain the acceptance of the children of the Peruvian elite. Sadly, the problem was that he wasn’t from the same social class and had a different skin colour. This sometimes made life tough during his time at Markham College.

Despite this, Miguel Flores was a gifted scholar who regularly received top grades as he studied towards the Peruvian national curriculum and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education program from the University of Cambridge. Markham College was preparing leaders, and doubtless the tutors were shocked when Miguel Flores started to play the drums.

It won him the respect of fellow students and soon, his popularity was growing. Especially when he announced that he was forming a band. This was something that students did in schools and colleges all over the world. However, very few of these student bands were “discovered.” Miguel Flores’ band had a sound that was of the moment, and there was a reason for that.

Many of Miguel Flores’ American and British classmates had copies of all the latest albums, and he was able to listen to them. He heard the all British Invasion groups and the music that the American bands were making. This influenced the music that Miguel Flores’ band was making. The band enjoyed a degree of success locally and Miguel Flores’ and his popularity and stature rose at Markham College. However, it was after leaving Markham College that his musical career began in earnest.

In 1969, Miguel Flores was one of the founded of the Peruvian rock band Pax. They released their debut album Pax (May God And Your Will Land You And Your Soul Miles Away From Evil) on Sono Music in 1970. It found Pax combining psychedelic rock and progressive rock on what was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album.

Having released their debut album, Pax released Resurrection Of The Sun as their debut single. This they hoped would build on the success of their album.

Within a couple of years, Pax was one of the most successful Peruvian rock bands, and it looked as if they were going to enjoy a long and illustrious career. Sadly, tragedy struck for Miguel Flores.

He was involved in an accident, and was so badly hurt that he had to relearn how to walk again. For Miguel Flores this was a massive blow personally and professionally. Pax looked as if they were about to become one of the biggest Peruvian rock groups, and he was robbed of the opportunity to be part of this. However, Miguel Flores was determined to make good use of the free time he had as learned how to walk again.

During his convalescence, Miguel Flores took the opportunity to learn how to write music. This he knew would open up all sort of opportunities in the future. Miguel Flores who had been playing drums since his early teens also decided that he wanted to learn how to play other instruments. This allowed him to broaden his musical horizons.

After learning how to walk again after the accident, Miguel Flores changed direction musically and moved away from Pax’s hard rocking sound. Instead, Miguel Flores founded a new group Ave Acustica in 1974, and they began playing experimental fusion. The concept of combining traditional Peruvian music with experimental music was seen as bold and ambitious.

By then, there was a resurgence of interested in folk music, which was being promoted across Peru a result of Juan Velasco Alvarado’s nationalistic policies. Meanwhile,the appearance of the Talleres de la Canción Popular in 1974, which headed by Celso Garrido Lecca played an important factor in the founding of a new generation of folk groups. However, Miguel Flores was already moving beyond folk music as he continued to push musical boundaries. 

Folk music was only one part of what Miguel Flores was trying to achieve during his sound experiments. He had also embraced free jazz as he created ambitious and genre-melting music. However, not everyone embraced Miguel Flores’ sound experiments. Some critics believed some of the constituent parts didn’t belong in a sonic experiment. They were seen as part of Peru’s cultural heritage, and not something that should be experimented with. However, what they failed to realise was that Miguel Flores was a musical pioneer whose raison d’être was to push musical boundaries and create music that was ambitious, bold and innovative. 

Over the next couple of years, Miguel Flores’ continued to move in new directions musically. He started composing and producing music for theatre groups, documentaries and choreographers. It seemed that new opportunities were opening up for Miguel Flores.

Especially when a Japanese theatre group which had been funded by the Japanese foundation, arrived in Peru. They were due to perform in Peru, which was how they discovered Miguel Flores. He was asked by the theatre company to travel to Japan to work on a new project. This was something of a coup as the theatre group could’ve chosen any one of a number of composers. However, it was Miguel Flores they wanted, and he left Peru and headed to Japan.

Miguel Flores worked on the new theatre production, and his new patrons were so impressed with his work that they asked him to stay. This was the opportunity of a lifetime as Miguel Flores was being offered what was a prestigious role that wasn’t just lucrative, but brought with it fame and artistic recognition. It was an offer that could’ve transformed Miguel Flores’ career. However, after much soul-searching Miguel Flores turned down the opportunity and returned to Peru where he had work to do.

When he returned to Peru in 1980, Miguel Flores brought with him a little part of Japan. During what was a relatively short period Miguel Flores spent in Japan, its art, culture and music had influenced him. This he would introduce to the Peruvian people he would come into contact with. Mostly though, Miguel Flores was keen to introduce the Peruvian people to their own art, culture and music. He wanted to educate the Peruvian people about their cultural heritage. This was all very well, but Miguel Flores had to earn a living.

Fortunately, Miguel Flores was commissioned by Peruvian choreographer Luciana Proaño to write the score for her new contemporary performance of Mitos Y Mujeres. To do this, Miguel Flores called upon some of the most talented musicians that he knew.

This included Arturo de la Cruz, Aberlardo Oquend, Corina Bartra and Manuel Miranda. They recorded a genre-melting score that fused folklore, free jazz and psychedelia with ashaninka chants, tribal music and electronics. It was truly groundbreaking recording that became Primitivo and was a fusion of experimental and neofolklorical music where Miguel Flores.

Primitivo opened with Pachacuti which is a twelve-and-a-half minute four-part suite. It opens with the abstract creation of the universe where fourteen guitars combined. This recording was then played backwards, resulting in array of plink plonk, droning, percussive and crystalline sounds assail the listener during this ambitious piece. After the creation of the universe, Miguel Flores documents the pre-Columbian empires of ancient Peru as they formed, and wars troubled the new land. To do this, he uses the basic rhythm of the Peruvian Andes the huayno. However, rather than flowing the off beat means that the sounds clash which grab the listener’s attention and force them to listen and reflect on important part of Peruvian history. The third part of the suite features the final conflict, and the arrival of the Spaniards. Miguel Flores uses a rhumba beat to signify this. Closing the suite was the urban music of the day. This veers between  experimental to what’s akin to a joyous call to dance. 

When Miguel Flores wrote the second piece, Iranpabanto, it was inspired by the  Ashaninka myths from the Peruvian Amazon region. The music is based on the sounds they attribute to a thunderbolt and this repeats itself throughout a track that lasts the best part of twenty-one minutes.  Here, Miguel Flores play percussion and was joined by saxophonist Manuel Miranda who also played siku, Abelardo Oquendo on electric guitar and Arturo de la Cruz synths. They play their part in the sound and success of this ambitious soundscape, which features field recordings of Ashaninka chants, wind instruments and later, lengthy sultry saxophone solo. All this us part of an epic tracks which is variously atmospheric, dramatic, haunting,  otherworldly, sultry, jazz-tinged, percussive and beautiful. Seamlessly, musical genres melt into one during a cinematic epic that is rich in imagery and features a musical pioneer at the peak of his powers.

Primitivo closes with Taki Onqoy, which was the name of religious movement in Peru. Its origins can be traced to between 1560 and 1570 when it became the first organised movement to react to the Spanish presence in the Tawantinsuyu. The leaders told the Peruvian people to forget about Christian gods and Spanish habits and free themselves from the shackles of suffering. They were also told that death and illness was the punishments that awaited those that abandoned or replaced the ancient and now forgotten deities, the Huacas. Taki Onqoy’s followers were told to return to how life had been before the arrival of the Spanish, during the days of the Huacas. During this part of Miguel Flores’ score, saxophonist and flautist Manuel Miranda accompanies Corina Bartra. Miguel Flores had written most of the lyrics, but left room for Corina Bartra to improvise. This does, before Manuel Miranda’s saxophone and flute bring to a close another ambitious, innovative and thought-provoking track.   

Thirty-five years after Miguel Flores recorded Primitivo in 1983, this groundbreaking, genre-melting score has been reissued on vinyl by Lima-based Buh Records as part of their Sounds Essentials Collection. It’s a welcome reissue.

Originally, Primitivo (1983) Sounds Essentials Collection Volume 2 was released as a limited edition CD, but quickly sold out. Buoyed by the success of the CD version of Primitivo (1983) Sounds Essentials Collection Volume 2, a vinyl version has just been released and is the perfect opportunity to discover three of Miguel Flores’ most ambitious recordings. 

He was commissioned by choreographer Luciana Proaño to write the score for her new contemporary performance of Mitos Y Mujeres. Miguel Flores and his band recorded a truly ambitious genre-melting score where he fused folklore, free jazz and psychedelia with ashaninka chants, tribal music and electronics. It was a truly groundbreaking musical experiment which sadly, hasn’t been heard for over thirty years. That is until it was released as part of Buh Records’ Sounds Essentials Collection. Primitivo (1983) Sounds Essentials Collection Volume 2 a welcome addition to this occasional series and a reminder of a remarkable man and musician…Miguel Flores.

Miguel Flores-Primitivo (1983) Sounds Essentials Collection Volume 2-Vinyl.

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