Flor Bromley is a bilingual singer-songwriter of Peruvian ancestry currently based in New York. Her latest album Pachamama is an extraordinary piece of work, featuring twelve intriguing songs which pay tribute to both Mother Earth and the artist's Indigenous roots. Now, I'm no expert when it comes to Peruvian folk music, but I do understand how the music makes me feel. The richness of the sound, the glorious melodies, the wonderful themes, and the crystal clarity of the vocals are very impressive. The music leaves the listener revelling in a sea of melody, sure to brighten up the darkest of days.
The album opens with the title track "Pachamama", which is superbly sung throughout, and cleverly harnesses an interesting fusion of instrumentation, providing additional texture to the overall sound. The song also features the very talented Wendy Sulca on vocals, whose dulcet tones add further resonance to the song. It is essentially a song of gratitude, where the artist expresses her love of the earth through the simple everyday things we sometimes take for granted. All in all a charming song, which succeeds in reminding the listener how we are all connected here on 'Sweet Mother Earth'.
"Drop of Water" features a highly melodic delivery, but it is the lyrics which are the real standout. Here, the artist herself embodies this drop of water, and narrates the ensuing adventures in the first person. In essence, she becomes a minuscule part of the rain cycle, where the process of convection, succeeds because 'we make a connection'. All you teachers out there looking for an innovative way to teach the water cycle should take heed. Not only, does the melody inspire the senses, the lyric really hits the mark. The song also features a lively violin, which floats around the song serenading this heroic water drop with delicacy and finesse.
"The Ocean" represents a tribute to the majestic beauty of the ocean, which is summed up in all its magnificent glory as being 'full of wonder'. Here, the artist reminds us that when you live on a planet as vulnerable as ours, there are 'so many ways you can help.' These include, the importance of conserving water, caring for the animals and keeping the beaches clean. The song is similarly rich in texture, featuring an array of sounds which float around in sympathy to the sprightly melody of the track. The song also features additional vocals courtesy of Laurie Berkner, whose sublime voice complements the track superbly.
"Mango's Tango" features what sound like a violin, a double bass and an accordion, combining to create a superb tango vibe. The song essentially emphasises how we need to 'be who we are', always try and be kind, and accept our differences. Despite the complexity of the arrangement, the music is quite fluid throughout, and flows like gentle water into a cool stream. The melody is superb, and the rich production and absorbing lyrics result in a song of considerable impact. Again, I don't claim to be an expert when it comes to this genre of music, but the sumptuous blend of instrumentation stirred up in me a myriad of memories, including foreign holidays, rich exotic places and cultures beyond my comprehension.
"Peas and Carrots" clearly benefits from the input of Saul Paul an American rapper from Houston, Texas. You can hear his influence all over this song, which succeeds in combining folk music with rap, and does so with an eclectic combination of sounds that are quite amazing. The song also finds space for the Peruvian composer Daniel Alomia Robles to crash the party, adding further mystique to the track. Lyrically, the song is more light hearted-than some of the other songs, and clearly benefits from the clash of musical approaches on display here.
"Totora Horse" has a rich country vibe, and achieves this with the assistance of Justin Lansing, who also happens to be one half of the fabulous Okee Dokee Brothers. The song bounces along in fine style, featuring some nimble guitar playing, a lively fiddle and a tasteful rhythm section. The chorus is brimming with pop sensibility, and is as catchy as anything you're ever likely to hear. The message is equally uplifting encouraging the listener to keep trying, because essentially, 'if you never try you'll never know', and if you feel the fear then 'let it go'. Well, I'll certainly second that emotion.
"Mother Nature" is essentially a celebration of our amazing planet that is succinctly described as 'full of beauty'. It also features a spoken voice, which describes the variety of delights in a world where 'Mother Nature is full of fun'. I love this song because it is so catchy; it's a real foot tapper, that is sure to brighten up your day. Some of the descriptive verse is superb, with the artist reflecting on how 'the wind caresses my face' and 'nature is balance and grace'. Interestingly, the energy of the sun and the moon are eloquently described as having a transforming effect, an idea which further cements the transformative impact of the song.
"Nusta Tika" has a cool funky vibe, courtesy of a lively fiddle, some sublime drumming and a sparse baseline which hits all the right notes.The song tells the story of an Incan Princess who needs to save her Father and is assisted in doing so by some mystical creatures. Here the protagonist is encouraged to 'run and run', and the shift in tempo during the chorus reflects the imminent threat of the situation. Immediately following the chorus the fiddle picks up the pace, before we are treated to a brief interlude of musical dexterity of what sounds like a banjo. The chorus reminded me a little of the Irish band the Corrs, with its uplifting melody and penetrating vocal delivery.
Arguably the most ambitious track on the album is the highly experimental "Condor, Puma, Snake," a song which reflects the spiritual importance of animals in Peruvian history and does so in fine style. According to the Inca Trilogy, these aforementioned animals represent the three stages of Inca life. The condor representing the Heavens, the puma the earth and the snake the underworld. As a result, the song is broken into three distinct sections, featuring lucid descriptions of life from the individual perspective of each animal. The vocal delivery somehow captures the sound of each animal providing further authenticity to the track. All in all an outstanding piece of music, which sounds unlike anything I have ever heard. Simply amazing!
"Let's Move It" has something of a French feel, and features an accordion and some sprightly percussion sprinkled throughout the track. The Gallic music on display, conjured up memories for me of a French holiday I embarked on as a young boy, where I encountered buskers on the streets for the first time. If only you could bottle that happiness. The lyrics represent a call to action to get moving, as we are advised to shake our head, bend our knees, and perhaps most importantly enjoy our 'sunny day'. In short, this is a great dance song for the kids, and all you teachers out there should again take note. If you are looking for an upbeat song with an exotic twist, that is guaranteed to get the kids moving then look no further.
"Luz" is a gentle ballad; sung almost entirely in Spanish so I am at something of a loss as to its lyrical content. However, the mood of the song suggests that the artist is serenading a young child, perhaps with the intent of providing comfort and hope for the future. The song features the most beautiful melody you are ever likely to hear, and is a wonderful way to finish the album. The lead vocal is interspersed with the voice of a child, which adds an exquisite drop of innocence to the song. The acoustic guitar is played with considerable expertise, and provides the perfect soundtrack to the vocals which penetrate the space provided with breathtaking clarity.
Listening to this album opens your eyes to a whole new cultural experience, evokes memories of days gone by, and builds bridges between the past and the future. As mentioned earlier, it's not the kind of music I am particularly familiar with, but I am certainly glad I persevered as I did, because the album had a considerable impact on me. The music penetrates the psyche to such an extent that you can almost picture the splendid grandeur of the Amazonian forests in all their pristine beauty. Whether you listen to the album in English or Spanish the effect is the same. The music transports you to far off places of mystery and imagination, offering a cathartic cleansing of the senses. All in all a magnificent piece of work, inspiring, thought-provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Flor Bromley is an artist of extraordinary imagination, and has created here something of a musical masterpiece. I highly recommend it.
Flor Bromley - never turn your back on Mother Earth.