Peliroja: The Sound of the City

By: José Manuel Simián

In 2012, New Orleans legend Dr. John teamed up with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach to record Locked Down—an album that gave a new edge to his music by blending it with Ethiopian funk and Afrobeat without destroying its unique identity. In 2014, New York City musician Jacob Plasse attempted a similar feat with his band Peliroja and Latin music: mixing salsa, bachata, bolero and boogaloo with funk and Afrobeat to produce a sound that is closer to the actual sound of New York City than perhaps any other album in recent memory.

The success of Injusticia, Peliroja’s debut album, may come from the fact that Peliroja is formed by musicians that come from bands that have been exploring an array of old-school genres with unqualified success: Plasse’s own Los Hacheros salsa outfit, the Cuban-roots ensemble Pedrito Martínez Group and retro-soul masters the Daptones.

But Injusticia provides something more than just virtuosity and impeccable taste: its 11 tracks carry a sense of urgency that’s not always present in genre-blending roots outfit. Part of that merit belongs to singer Jainardo Batistas, who infuses the socially charged lyrics of tracks like “Injusticia” (inspired by the killing of Trayvon Martin), “Mal Carrusel” (about domestic abuse) or “Ciudad de Nadie” (a more vague critique to the lack of social awareness in urbanites) with equal doses of street swagger, frailty and desperation. But Batistas is not working alone: the songwriting is flawless, the genre-mixing arrangements are brilliant, and the grooves are almost impossibly tight.

Trust us on this one: if you’re going to add one Latin roots album to your collection this year, make it Injusticia. You’ll keep playing it over and over again, discovering new layers and things to like in every turn.

LOGISTICS: Injusticia by Peliroja, available now

José Manuel Simián is the Executive Editor of Manero. He used to be a lawyer and is probably listening to Bob Dylan as you read this.