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Dengue Dengue Dengue!’s Cosmic Cumbia

In Music
IT'S A TRIP: Tropical bass duo Dengue Dengue Dengue! hail from Lima, Peru, but their rhythms are positively cosmic.

IT'S A TRIP: Tropical bass duo Dengue Dengue Dengue! hail from Lima, Peru, but their rhythms are positively cosmic.

“IF WE COULD make people smell and taste the show, we would,” says Rafael Pereira, one half of Lima, Peru-based tropical bass duo, Dengue Dengue Dengue!

He’s referring to his and his partner, Felipe Salmon’s, dance parties, where the rhythms and instruments of divergent musical traditions intersect in exciting ways. Cumbia’s joyful, tropical rhythms, the surf rock-informed Peruvian genre—“chicha”—and the wild, click-clack of indigenous Amazonian drumming are all sealed together by the subsonic thud of Western bass music.

As it is, Pereira and Salmon haven’t figured out how to tickle the olfactory senses of their listeners with sound, but they do use their backgrounds in graphic design to heighten the experience of each Dengue Dengue Dengue! show. Using audio-visual mapping, they craft complex laser light compositions, which are inspired by aliens, space ships and the humid, leafy jungle for which their native land is known.

After scoring some favorable press from the likes of Vice’s electronic music channel, Thump, Dengue Dengue Dengue! are embarking on a world tour to promote their forthcoming LP, Siete Raices, tentatively set for an April release. Their first trip to the U.S. will take them to 12 venues in 20 days and will include a Sonido Clash-produced set at The Continental Bar on March 10.

In press photographs and on stage, the pair always wear masks, which resemble something a shaman might don in preparation for an ayahuasca-fueled ritual. The neon, geometric face coverings enhance the trance-like effect their music can have. Pereira and Salmon often hand out masks to the crowd, inviting their fans into the fold of their psychedelic tribal dance party.

In a way, Dengue Dengue Dengue! are 21st-century shamen, guiding their audience on a spiritual journey through light and sound. Pereira explains that he and Salmon like to begin their performances with a beat that is easy to dance to. However, once things start heating up, he says they like to get “weird”—breaking with traditional rhythm structures and challenging the audience.

“We push the limits of what we are doing,” he says, explaining that the duo keep a close eye on the crowd, pulling back when things get too out-there and pushing forward when people seem at ease again. The ultimate goal, he says, is to allow the audience to get lost in the music—the same way one might become enveloped within a psychedelic experience: “You can be dancing for an hour, and you won’t notice.”

Dengue Dengue Dengue! plays on Mar 10, 9pm, $6-$10 at The Continental Bar, San Jose.

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