Afrodita’s Divine CommandsBy: Marcelo Báez
It’s been many years since Afrodita put out a studio record (their last LP, La Reina Del Palenke, was released back in 2008), but now the Mexican-Chilean duo is back with a double CD. Mensajeros De La Diosa finds Karin and Ima exploring not just cumbia—their forte—but also dub, electro and even vintage pop ballads. Yes, those are a lot of hats to try on. So is Afrodita’s comeback worth your time? Let’s see.
Some backstory: last decade, when Afrodita first popped up in the underground music scene, many people felt conflicted by them. These white-looking kids (“güeros”), why were they dressed like Aztec warriors? And their songs? Could they be taken seriously if their compositions focused on the Virgin Mary (“Virgencita”), Tego Calderón (“El Master del Reggaeton”), old ice cream parlors (“Daness 33”), or mixing Raffaella Carra with doing coke? Many figured Afrodita’s overall shtick was nothing more than misplaced hipster irony.
But as it turns out, especially now that Afrodita seems to be sticking to its initial aesthetic—they’re still rocking the Aztec getups—some performers are not trying to be ironic but, instead, they feel no shame in letting others know what they’re really into. For many purists, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Of course, that’s their problem, not Afrodita’s, but—just like any all-inclusive project—Afrodita does have to worry about being good at whatever genre they try their hand at. In that regard, Mensajeros de la Diosa both fails and excels.
First, allow me to map out the double record: the first one is called Amor, which is the softer, ballad-heavy offering, while the second one, the party one, is called Cumbia. To be technically clear, many songs on Mensajeros de la Diosa have been previously released, and some, such as “Suavecito,” “Modelito” and “Mil Campanas” are covers (Laura León, Kraftwerk, Alaska y Dinarama, respectively). These records also have a few interludes and poems in between songs. Still, the chunk of songs is new, and it shows Afrodita has been busy working on music, not just putting it together and formally releasing it.
At the core of the project is Ima and Karin’s fascination with pre-Columbian, mystic and even Middle Eastern powers, a fascination that may have reached a peak. With the exception of some of the covers, almost every song on Mensajeros speaks of divine beings, the occult or the otherworldly—and the great album cover fits the bill.
On Cumbia, Afrodita mostly treads on familiar territory—funky, catchy and party-oriented cumbias. The two exceptions to that tonic are “Shabadum,” a respectable reggae-dub experiment, and “Trivolution,” a house-ier dance track. Former Afrodita fans will find plenty to like on Cumbia, but Amor might prove a little more challenging. “Acéptalo,” for example, could pass for a leftover song from one of Emmanuel’s Manuel Alejandro–produced records, while some others, like the repetitive “Belly Dance,” should have been shelved.
A quality that sets Afrodita apart from their colleagues is their willingness to experiment with well-forgotten styles and genres. “Flores Para Ti,” for example, is a ballad that takes a cue from Los Ángeles Negros or, possibly, Los Pasteles Verdes, while “Nada Más” takes its cues from Motown-ish pop.
Mensajeros De La Diosa isn’t entirely solid but, thank God (either yours or one of Afrodita’s many deities) for the fact that it contains enough good songs to merit its purchase. This independent band is still producing very unique and entertaining pop, unlike other lauded entertainers, so, ground control, open up and receive Afrodita’s divine directives.