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Interview with Monsieur Periné

Monsieur Perine
Juan Retallack
Sony Music
Monsieur Periné

The Colombian duo’s Bolero Apocalíptico mixes love and humor with the perils of climate change.

For several years, my ears and senses have been upended by the grooves coming out of Colombia. It started with hearing the band Bomba Estereo whose upbeat, take-no-prisoners song “So Yo” was suddenly everywhere — NPR's music rotation, a Tiny Desk concert and local public radio station WNRN placing it on playlists, too — helped propel the band to new heights.

Then I came across the big band Ondatropica, which got together when two music producers happened to meet outside of a record shop on the streets of Bogota, each carrying an armful of albums. They discovered both loved certain sounds and decided to pull a bunch of session musicians together, create a band and put out an amazing record.

Now, the duo Monsieur Periné have landed on my digital turntable. The band, led by singer Catalina Garcia and multi-instrumentalist Santiago Prieto, have just released their first album in five years: Bolero Apocaliptico. It’s filled with so much incredible grooves, with nods to old style, Django Reinhardt jazz to salsa and cumbia to fusions of reggae and Brazilian bossa nova. It’s a record that I think will stand the test of time and be revisited over and over again.

Underneath those grooves are messages sung by Garcia, who sings Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese, of same-sex love, like in the song "Tú Y Yo,” — which tells the tale of two female lovers — to tracks like “Prométeme” that mix sarcasm and love and the effects that climate change is having in Bogota and around the world.

Loosely translated, Garcia sings, “That we will continue together when the world has ended/When river water reaches the polluted sea/Swimming in plastic, but by your side.”

I spoke with Monsieur Periné when the East Coast was covered by heavy smoke drifting down from Canada. We talked about how they balance writing about love and climate change without preaching, how they cultivate their sound and how the pandemic influenced Bolero Apocaliptico.

Garcia said working their new record was “like going to therapy … the feeling, the energy we had to transform, the process was a time to heal ... making music was a time for joy.”

After listening to their new record, and speaking with them, I think we can all use a little more joy.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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