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Colombian Band Monsieur Periné Knocking On Door to First Grammy

Image: Monseur Periné

The Colombian alternative band Monsieur Periné won a Latin Grammy in 2015 and is nominated for a Grammy this year. Courtesy Monsieur Periné

Since winning the 2015 Latin Grammy for Best New Artist, the Colombian alternative band Monsieur Periné has seen many doors open for the group and knocking on the door of a potential Grammy win.

In the past few days, the band has been playing in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. The group was scheduled to play Boston Sunday. The band of three, Santiago Sarabia, singer Catalina García and guitarist Nicolás Junca, have also been through the doors of National Public Radio, where they recorded a live session.

"This award helps lay the foundation of our future and has helped us gain confidence in what we do. It also rewards several years of work," said Sarabia.

Sarabia plays guitar, violin and charango, three instruments that represent the fusion of musical styles Monsieur Periné has mastered: swing, especially the minor swing style of Django Reinhardt, jazz and Latin-American music.

Working as indie artists, the three earned a gold record in their native Colombia for "Hecho a Mano" or "Handmade," their first album. They have baptized their music "suín a la colombiana" (swing Colombian style).

Monsieur Periné's second album, "Caja de Música" (Music Box), was nominated in 2015 for a Latin Grammy in the Album of the Year category won by Juan Luis Guerra's "Todo Tiene Su Hora."

And this year it is a nominee for a Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album competing against big names in the industry like Pitbull, Natalia Lafourcade, and another Colombian band: Bomba Estéreo.

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"The Grammy nod is already a win for us. It would be something historic for us and for Colombian bands, for our country's industry. Very few Colombian artists are nominated to the Grammy's and very few win. It would be incredible at least that a Colombian won. If it's us, it would be perfect, it would open even more doors, especially doors in the U.S., which is what we came to do on this tour."

Santiago describes their concerts as "tropical summer, the most alive and warm vibe possible." The Jan. 18 show at the New York venue S.O.B.'s was sold out and Santiago recounts how the people dancing and the very summery energy there made him forget he was in wintry New York.

He said he believes people love to dance to Monsieur Periné's tunes because of the African music roots in swing and Latin American rhythms.

"Swing is a style within jazz and jazz has an African root, it has rhythm and from the rhythm comes naturally dance. And that same root, it's present in Latin American music which has black, Hispanic and indigenous influences," Santiago said.

Both albums were produced independently and "Caja de Música" was licensed to Sony Music for two years. "We are convinced that in order to stay independent a very good idea is to be the owner of your own albums as much as possible. Off course that implies big investment, but it is the idea that we have so far for a third album," he said.

Santiago also talked about the evolution of the band's music from "Hecho a Mano" to "Caja de Música."

"For an artist the second album is very important in their career because it's the first reinvention that you have to do of yourself," he said.

For example, the name of the first album "Hecho a Mano" evokes the hardship the band experienced producing it, as Colombians say, "con las uñas", with bare hands, and also the manual labor of playing instruments with your hands, the human component of music, Santiago said.

For their second album they enlisted the help of award-winning producer Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13 and recorded for a month in his home-based recording studio in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"For us to have been able to concentrate solely on recording helped a lot. It helped not being in your own house with worries in your mind, and allowed us to dedicate ourselves to creativity without interruptions," Santiago said.

The collaboration the band had with two of the members of legendary Latin rock/Mexican band Café Tacvba in Monsieur Periné song "Cempasuchil" was a dream come true for them.

"We have loved Café Tacvba for a very long time. The song was composed by Joselo Rangel and is sung by Rubén Albarrán and our vocalist Catalina García," Santiago said. "It is a homage to Mexico and it is a great joy to have a band like them collaborating in one of our discs; having that seal in our music is incredible, as it was working with Dominican singer-songwriter Vicente García, one of our close friends, who collaborated in "Nuestra Canción," the song that opens the album," Santiago said.

For now, it's all a waiting game until Feb. 15, when the Grammy's are scheduled to be held in Los Angeles and when the band will know if the doors open even farther for their career.

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