Cult Classic: El Polen-Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

When El Polen was formed by brothers Juan Luis and Raul Pereira in 1969, little did anyone realise that their new band would become one of the most important and influential in the history of Peruvian music. That was until El Polen released their genre-melting debut album Cholo in 1972 where they fuse Andean music, folk and psychedelia. This new genre-melting was ambitious and groundbreaking and would influence a new generation of bands in the future. By then, El Polen had come a long way in just three short years.

The El Polen story began three years earlier in 1969 when brothers Juan Luis and Raul Pereira decided to form a new band. They had decided that their new band would head in a new direction and make music that was different to their previous band. By then, the Pereira brothers realised that Peruvian music was about to change.

By 1969, the first wave of new Peruvian  bands were combing beat music and surf sounds, which they played at Matinales, where concerts that took place on a  Sunday morning. These concerts were always popular, and so were the bands that took to the stage. However, the music was starting to sound tired and like yesterday’s sound. What Peruvian music needed was a revolution.

Juan Luis Pereira was part of the burgeoning hippy movement and realised this, he and his brother Raul formed El Polen, and set about reinventing music in the new Peru. It was a very different country since 1968, and it was an exciting time for the Pereira brothers as they started their new band.

Peru was transformed in 1968, when a nationalist government was established by Juan Velasco Alvarado. This brought to an end the oligarchic state, which had previously ruled Peru. Suddenly, many people started to migrate from the country to the city, seeking a new life in the new Peru. 

This coincided with new Andean singers and bands playing concerts in a coliseum located on the outskirts of a city. Many within the audience were those who had migrated from the country to the city, and they enjoyed the concerts that they attended.

Meanwhile, their was an upsurge of interest in Andean music, and sales of new recordings increased. The Andean sound which had first been recorded and promoted by Jose Maria Arguedas by the late-forties was growing in popularity. Soon,  new bands were being formed and Andean sound became more popular than ever and the Peruvian musical industry expanded. However, Juan Luis and Raul Pereira had their own plans for Peruvian music.

As the sixties, gave way to the seventies, Juan Luis and Raul Pereira realised that the fusion of beat music and surf sounds many bands had been playing was yesterday’s sound and no longer as popular as it had once been. It was time for Peruvian music to change. The Pereira decided to fuse the sound of today with some of the music that they had heard growing up. 

This included classical music, Peruvian waltzes and huaynos which had influenced and moulded the Pereira brothers in their formative years. So did Andean folklore music which would become part of El Polen’s sound. They were about to combine Andean music, folk psychedelia and rock, and this new genre-melting was  groundbreaking. Nobody had ever tried this before and the members of El Polen were about to become musical pioneers.

By then, the members of El Polen had been on a journey which would help them improve as musicians and spiritually. El Polen had traveled to Cusco, where they learned more about Andean instruments and musical traditions. This was they saw as part of their continuing musical education, and having gathered new knowledge, El Polen began the next part of this two-part journey.

It took El Polen to Santa Eulalia high in the mountains above Lima, where they examined their burgeoning spirituality. After this, the members of El Polen were ready to change Peruvian music forevermore.

By then, the hippy movement had exploded in popularity as Peruvian music fans embraced psychedelia and sought altered states of consciousness. With the new hippy generation enjoying and embracing the new, alternative lifestyle and psychedelic music El Polen had a captive audience.

The members of El Polen had much in common with the people who they hoped would embrace their music. They had lived in a community, and shared many of the same values and beliefs. El Polen also hoped that the new hippy generation would embrace their music.

When El Polen took to the stage, they sought to eliminate the boundaries between rock and huayno. To do this, they deployed acoustic guitars, a cello, mandolin, percussion and quenas, as they combined Andean music, folk rock and psychedelia. This proved popular, and soon, El Polen was at the forefront of a new musical movement that was blossoming in Peru. 

Given their popularity, it was only a matter of time before El Polen came to the attention of one of the Peruvian record companies. Virrey won the signature of El Polen who soon, began work on their debut album.

Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

For their debut album, El Polen was asked to write the soundtrack to the film Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido), which was based on the life of the famous Peruvian Soccer Player Hugo Sotil.

For Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido), El Polen wrote six new tracks, and covered Cholito Pantalion Bianco which was written by singer and songwriter Luis Abanto Morales. These seven tracks were recorded by the six members of El Polen.

As recording of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) began, El Polen’s lineup featured guitarist Juan Luis Pereira and his brother Raul who played guitar and took charge of the vocals. They were joined by cellist Juan Sebastián Montesinos, violinist Fernando Silva, percussionist Ernesto Pinto and Carlos Martínez who played mandolin. As Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) took shape the six members of El Polen had no idea that they were about to make musical history.

Prior to the release of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) critics had their say on El Polen’s debut album. While El Polen’s debut album was well received and hailed as an ambitious and exciting release, it was only later that critics realised the importance of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

It was a game-changer of an album, and Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) proved not just to be innovative, but also influential. El Polen paved the way for other bands to fuse Andean music and rock and would influence several generations of bands and musicians.

Nowadays, Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) is regarded as a landmark album in the history of Peruvian music. That is no surprise as El Polen was the first band to fuse traditional Andean music with folk and psychedelia and rock. They were also the first group to combine traditional Andean instruments with Western instruments. 

This they do effectively from the opening bars of the near twelve-minute epic La Flora (tema De Cholo). It showcases El Polen’s considerable musical skills as they seamlessly combine disparate musical genres on what’s a  tantalising taste of a truly talented group. So too does upbeat and joyous Cholito Pantalion Bianco. 

Quite different is  the dramatic, cinematic and emotive Paisajes De Quenas which features traditional Peruvian instruments. They combine with the swirling strings as the cello and violin combine during the evocative and irresistible Valicha. 

Sitting Dreaming is genre-melting lysergic track that has obviously been influenced by Western psychedelia. There’s even a nod to The Beatles midway through the track, which is one of the highlights of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido). Tondero is another carefully crafted, genre-melting track where elements of classical music, folk, psychedelia and rock combine as Raúl Pereira delivers soul-baring vocal. Closing El Polen’s debut album is Secuencias De Organillo Y Poliphon, which is a short track where plink plonk sounds are part of track that is both cinematic and psychedelic and close the album on a high. 

Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) was a groundbreaking album that featured genre-melting music from musical pioneers El Polen. They had spent the best part of three years honing their sound and were more than ready to record an album. 

Led by the Pereira brothers they recorded what was a landmark album where they fuse traditional Andean music with classical music, folk, psychedelia and rock. This had never been done before, and the members of El Polen were pioneers who were breaking new ground.

Soon, many bands would follow in their footsteps, during the next few years. However, nowadays, El Polen and their debut album Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) is regarded as a turning point for Peruvian music.  They had changed music forevermore and revolutionised Peruvian music in the process.

Sadly, El Polen only released one more album during the seventies, Fuera De La Ciudad in 1973, which was another innovative, landmark album. Just two years later, El Polen split-up in 1975, and  that was the last that was heard of the band for twenty-one years.

In 1996, El Polen made a comeback, and three years later, self-released their third album Signos E Instrumentos. Sadly, not long after releasing their first album in twenty-six years El Polen split-up once again.

Fifteen years later, in 2014, there was an El Polen reunion, as they rolled back the years. Sadly, that was the last that was heard from one of the most important groups in the history of modern Peruvian music.

El Polen certainly made their mark on Peruvian music during the six-year period between 1969 and 1975. This began when they released their genre-melting landmark debut album Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) in 1972, and followed this up with another classic album Fuera De La Ciudad which are El Polen’s finest releases.

Cult Classic: El Polen-Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

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