Album Review: Conjunto Papa Upa – Libre Para Amar [Names You Can Trust; March 2020]

conjunto papa upa libre para amar cover

Add some much needed colour to your life with the debut album from Conjunto Papa Upa. Based in Amsterdam, they have gained a reputation in their scene for their vibrant sound. Released on 20th March 2020 through the New York indie label Names You Can Trust, Libre Para Amar is an amalgamation of various Tropical and psychedelic tendencies.

The sound is a testament to the rich cultural diversity of both Venezuela, where the group’s founder Alex Figueira (percussionist and vocalist on this album, and a previous member of Fumaça Preta) comes from, and Amsterdam, with other members – Gerardo Rosales (Venezuelan, percussion), Jarno Van Es (Dutch, organ, synths), Randy Winterdal (Curaçaoan, bass) and Miguel Petruccelli (Uruguayan, guitar) – mirroring this.

The first tune, “Bate Quebrao”, wastes no time in setting the agenda – to dance and have a good time – producing itchy feet as the guiros scratch away. The cumbia-flavoured title track follows, smoothing out the initial edges served previously.

“Los Envidiosos” moves us along the coastline as we shed some vulnerability, before “El Secreto Del Metalero” throws you into a rave as the friction builds between the buzzing synths, clambering percussion and pitch-affected vocals.

A highlight that could prove tantalising for those in great need of human contact, “Pa’ Choroni” simmers with sensual singing from both Figueria and a guest female vocalist that are so seductive that they (almost) give the late Donna Summer a run for her money.

As a finale “La Arrugona” works as a slow burner, eventually shifting gears and key in its last breathing moments, bolstered by playful chanting that pleads for an encore as if you were witnessing the shenanigans live. It also sums up Libre Para Amar in a nutshell – both instantly gratifying and non-pretentious in its approach to dance music without being lazy and lacking in ambition.

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