Why you should care
Because gypsy swing is fun, and it’s back. But better. From Bogotá.
“I spent one whole year trying to convince the other band members we should dress up,” says Catalina García, lead singer for Monsieur Periné.
“But finally I got them to do it,” she told OZY, after Colombian designer Alejandra Rivas insisted that they all needed costumes.
Now, when the Bogotá. -based quartet performs, its outfits are eccentric and just as hard to define as its music. One minute it’s a poppy, bouncy, jazzy rhythm carrying lyrics in French, and the next, it’s slow, serene, passionate and all in Spanish.
Monsieur Periné calls its sound Suin a la Colombiana, or Colombian Swing, but García insists that it’s more about fusing “gypsy swing — the kind of swing you’d find played around Europe in the 1930s — with classical Latin American genres” like Colombian cumbia and Mexican bolero.
The music reflects the eclectic character of the group.
Strings player Santiago Prieto, guitarist Nicolas Junca and classically trained winds musician Camilo Parra are all professionally trained. When they invited García to sing with them, they knew it was a contrast. It was intentional.
García says she has no formal musical background. “For me, something comes to me and I just write it out and there, it’s done. But the other guys are more scientific about the music. … They want to listen and tweak and change things.”
Monsieur Periné wants to explore Latin American folk and reinterpret it with a swingy sound.
The tension between García and the rest is what makes their sound, she says. The members of Monsieur Periné grew up listening to music through the Internet, where Brazilian pop was just as interesting and accessible as swing from the 1930s.
Latin American artists and musicians have historically looked to Europe for influence, but Monsieur Periné doesn’t just want to grab and mix genres from other parts of the world. It wants to explore Latin American folk and reinterpret it with a swingy sound. And it’s not trying to flit off to New York or London either. Band members are excited to be part of the Bogotá. scene, which García says “has completely transformed in the last several years.”(The band does tour in Europe, though.)
Now they’ve changing up the band’s roster, adding Argentine Alejandro Giuliani on drum set, Adinda Meertins of the Netherlands on string bass and Colombian Miguel Guerra on traditional percussion, García says.
“We’re really looking to mature our sound with this next album,” Prieto says of the album due out in March.
It was just five years ago that Monsieur Periné was a handful of college kids playing gigs at bars and parties for $150 a night when a friend who produced music insisted that he record them.
So they did — in a closet. These days, they have plenty of space to play. See for yourself: