Dengue Dengue Dengue – Rafael Pereira and Felipe Salmón – emerged onto the electronic music scene in 2010, creating waves through their distinct marrying of Latin American party beats with Afro-Peruvian traditions. Their latest drop, Fiebre, released last week, explores a darker shade of sound, pushing experimentation beyond the bounds of the ordinary into a deep groove of hybrid music. We catch up with the pair to discuss their new album, the endless possibilities offered by musical identity and creating a tradition that is their own.
Looking at your Spotify, I see that your first album came out in 2014. However, I’d like you to share with us more about how Dengue Dengue Dengue came to be. Where and how did you two meet, and when did you start thinking of yourselves as a musical duo?
We met around 2006 at the opening of a shop where I (Rafa) was DJing. Felipe came up to me and handed me a CD with his productions. At the time, we were in the process of forming an audio-visual collective that would serve as a platform to help each other do bigger projects. So in this collective – named Auxiliar –, we started collaborating in many different things.
One of them was Zolcan Breaker, Felipe’s solo project, where I was helping in the visual part. It was with this project that we went to Trimarchi Festival in Argentina and got inspired to start Dengue Dengue Dengue (in 2010) after seeing Chancha Via Circuito and El Remolón perform.
Your music explores world rhythms and is a layering together of different influences and musical traditions. How has your sound evolved throughout the years?
We have always been very curious to understand new rhythms, patterns, and metrics in music. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or what era it is from, it’s all part of a big puzzle, and you can navigate the endless possibilities that that knowledge offers you. The only problem is time, which you need to explore and understand various musical traditions. So the idea behind the project is to keep moving and exploring different paths and techniques.
We started focusing on the mixture of electronica, cumbia and dub for the first album, and then moved slowly into zouk, batida and Portuguese/Angolan sounds for the next EP. This led us to African music, always drawing parallels between those sounds and our local traditions from Peru. So for the third album, we went fully into Afro-Peruvian sound, working for the first time with live musicians on stage. And now, for the last two releases, we have been focusing more and more on polyrhythms.
So, you’re both originally from Peru, which is evidently where the majority of the influence for your music comes from. What is it about the Latin American style that propelled you to create the distinct sound of Dengue Dengue Dengue?
We both come from an electronic music background, but also, obviously, the Latin influence has been there from the beginning, so it’s just a matter of making these two worlds work together.
Your new EP, released last October 16th, is called Fiebre, which translates into English as ‘fever,’ which is a name that utterly encapsulates the whole spirit of the EP. Listening to it is an incredibly immersive experience. What are you hoping your listeners will get out of the album?
With every release, we hope to give listeners something new they were not expecting, a different shade of our sound. Something you can feel it’s still the Denge Dengue Dengue sound but pushed in a slightly different direction. It’s definitely a darker sound than other releases, so I think it fits well with the label.
Could you tell us a bit about the musical process – there are so many different elements to your songs, all of which amalgamate into an exciting and all-encompassing musical experience. What's the starting point?
The idea is to always find new ways to do things, that’s the whole idea behind the project – experimentation. So yes, for sure you discover some formulas on the way, but it’s about pushing those formulas and coming up with new ways to do things. So we treat each project differently, as a unique thing.
The tradition of Peruvian and Andean music stems from the share of sound as a sacred art, a ritual and source of communication. How do you think this holds up in the ways we experience music in a more modern sense?
Mmmm… There is definitely some music that we could categorize as ‘sacred,’ but I would say that most music we’re inspired by is festive. Cumbia and Afro-Peruvian are festive and translate very well into a modern party setup.
In these past years, there’s been a sort of wave of musicians, DJs and producers exploring traditional Andean and Latin American sounds through contemporary electronic music, from Nicola Cruz to El Búho, to Chancha Via Circuito or Lagartijeando. What can you tell us about this ‘movement,’ and how do you feel your music fits in it?
Yes, sometimes I find it funny or weird that some people put everyone in the same bag. Those guys are great, and they have crafted a very unique sound that has become very popular lately. They are innovators, so there is a big movement of downtempo producers coming after them. I would say that there is a side of Dengue that could fit into that sound, but most of our productions are in a complete different tempo and metric structure.
Whenever you perform, you wear these bright and intricate masks. Where did the idea for this performative element come from? Is there a significance to the specific designs of the masks you wear while performing?
We started using masks because we wanted to make a difference between Dengue Dengue Dengue and another project that we had at the time. Now it’s just our own tradition; we are not looking to resemble any specific culture, it’s just stuff that we like.
It’s clear your live performances are integral to the image and spirit of the band. It must have been a blow when live gigs were cancelled due to the recent and ongoing pandemic. How have you found the necessity to adapt to online performances?
Yes, it’s not something that we like very much, but every once in a while, it’s fun to do an online show.
Have you got any upcoming live streams or virtual shows to tune in to?
Last Saturday, Centro Fundacion Telefonica Lima hosted an online festival and we did a set.
Finally, what do you think the future will hold for live music? Is it hopeful, in your opinion?
We just have to adapt. It’s difficult to say what will happen… But in the end, we can always adapt, that’s the key.
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