Dengue Dengue Dengue!, Peru’s seminal tropical bass group and chief collaborators in the local music scene, gained worldwide recognition in the last several years for their progressive sound, remarkable audiovisual performances, and emerging status as an international icon of the electronically inspired roots revival movement.
This past weekend, in Houston, they headlined the Wonky Power organized Summer Bash, which took place at Walter’s Downtown. Local icons FLCON FCKER and Gio Chamba performed, along with Jerk and Bombón‘s Navo.
Dengue Dengue Dengue! is composed of Felipe Salmon and Rafael Pereira, who produce, DJ, and mastermind the group’s visual design. Nadia Escalante joins the duo’s live performances to complement their sound with stunning visuals, which elevate the experience to a synesthetic production.
In an exclusive interview, the group answered questions regarding major influences of their sound and style, and a few insights they’ve picked up from globe trotting.
ON HOW LONG VJ SIXTA HAS PRODUCED VISUALS
Nadia: With them, since the project began. So for four or five years, since the beginning of their project. Myself, for ten years.
We have a collective back in Lima called Colectivo Auxiliar. We used to do some installations. In the beginning I used to just join my other partners. Just watching, and then I liked it. Then I got my first computer.
In the beginning, I tried to imitate some stuff I saw. But then, I don’t know – I just picked some different ingredients, and it’s like – magic. Haha, and chopping, and putting stuff, and taking out. I never know what the result is going to be. It depends on the music. What I hear is what I try to… cook! And then I share!
Note: Nadia’s independent project is known as VJ Sixta.
ON CLOTHING BRAND
Nadia: And I have my dress!
Photo from the LAMA Clothing Co Instagram.
ON THE THREE BIGGEST INFLUENCES IN THE DENGUE DENGUE DENGUE! SOUND
Felipe: It’s hard because we can think about a lot of influences. Just like Nadia was talking about a while ago. It’s always like, at first you try to copy something you like, but then you just find out you can do something different – just go for it.
So, I don’t know, our main influence is experimental/electronic from the nineties, but as well some of Peruvian cumbia, and some Colombian cumbia as well. Just music from the world, all the way around. I don’t know if I can say only three- maybe it’s like two hundred.
But, for example, cumbia-wise, I can say maybe Los Wembler’s de Iquitos. it’s a band from Iqutios, it’s in the jungle. But maybe part electronic music. For example, Rafa and Nadia and I like a lot of this nineties stuff from London and UK, like Aphex Twin. Like instrumental hip-hop, or EDM stuff. Yeah, I think that’s the main influence.
Rafael: I think he said mainly what we like as a whole, but I think – as he said, there are many little things from all over. For example, lately we’ve been listening a lot to stuff from Portugal and Angola. [Genres] like Kuduro, Zouk, and Tarracho. So yeah, I think we’re always looking for something different, something new, you know.
Nadia: Who would have know that in Europe they have so much influence of African music? We were in France a couple of years ago… We were lucky because was this exhibition in the museum of black culture, from everywhere – like Africa, South America, Central America….
Rafael: It was so, so amazing.
Felipe: You had sound samples, you had headphones all the time…
Nadia: And they explain the history…
Felipe: It was so cool. You can see a lot of videos and audio of different instruments.
Nadia: I think that’s a good point, also. For example, for me it was so clear – the influence of other types of culture.
Felipe: And you just realize that everything comes from Africa.
Nadia: *smiles* Si!
Nadia: Well, everything comes from the aliens, but then Africa! And then Japan! *laughs*
ON THE GROUP’S LAST VISIT TO JAPAN
Felipe: Just once, for four days. It was short. But it was really impressive. I don’t know, you just go into a store and suddenly it’s a robot talking to you. A tiny robot, offering you some cellphone or something. So advanced, it’s crazy.
Rafael: The energy is really clean and nice. The people are really polite, everywhere.
ON WHAT THEY WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE IN HOUSTON, THROUGH THEIR ART
Felipe: I just hope it grows more. Like, more people – this kind of roots revival thing.
Nadia: What it is to be from everywhere. We are from Lima, but our grandparents were from other parts of the world. We are a little bit of everything. And the places we’ve been going. I’m talking about myself, for me visually, and I know that also for them musically speaking, everything you pick up on the way it becomes yourself and that’s what you’re sharing every time you go somewhere else. Giving and taking.
ON HOW LONG THE GROUP HAS PERFORMED TOGETHER
Rafael: Maybe five years. We have a collective with… more friends. And with them, we throw parties, kind of like a festival. It’s called Trifasico – it means something like three ways. Like, a three-way plug because… We do it in this building, it used to be a sweatshop. It’s not abandoned but they’re not using it anymore, so we make a party on three floors.
For example, we are making one next month. It’s three floors – so one, it’s tropical bass, like stuff we’re doing. The other one is more house, like UK base. And the other one is experimental, like noise or whatever. Could be anything actually, in that room.
ON PREFERRED ARTISTS FROM EACH OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED GENRES
Rafael: Pita. Or maybe Fennesz. He’s warm – you know, because actually with that kind of music normally it’s very rough. And it’s really difficult to take. But there are people that do it really nicely and softly and has soul, you know. So, he has soul. For House; I think Axel Boman. They’re all from Sweden, him and his group. They do like, this really slow House music.
ON TROPICAL BASS AND WHETHER DENGUE DENGUE DENGUE! FALLS INTO THAT GENRE
Rafael: Yeah, kind of. We, like tonight, we played more of that kind of stuff but it depends on where we are actually. Because if we’re playing somewhere in Europe where people can take some other kind of beat, we’ll do more other stuff. So, here there is a lot of Latin crew, so we play more cumbia than we usually do. We love it, and I think we like to adapt to the audience.
ON WHAT THEY PLAYED IN JAPAN
Rafael: We played like cumbia a lot, in the beginning, and then we played footwork. Some really up-tempo stuff. It’s difficult to explain, but – footwork, it’s in 160 bpm, and the cumbia we play at the beginning of the set is like 80 bpm. It’s double – so you can be playing footwork and then go down to cumbia for a little bit and then go up to footwork. We actually did that in the show at the very end, we played a couple of tracks like that. We usually don’t do that too much because people cannot take it – it’s too hardcore for people to be dancing to for an hour!
Thank you to Dengue Dengue Dengue!, who graciously lent their time to this interview, and thank you as well to the collaborations that took place through Wonky Power Records to make their appearance in Houston possible. The artistry on display Saturday night was refreshing to witness; it spoke to the evolution of culture.