Son Peruchos' John Redlin talks local Latin music
Son Peruchos is a Des Moines band that plays a fusion of Andean, South American, Latin and Caribbean music. In this episode of Sound in Color, IPR’s Cece Mitchell interviews Son Peruchos member John Redlin about the band’s history, style, and the Latin American music scene in Iowa.
CECE MITCHELL: So, first and foremost, can you tell me a little bit about the role you play in your band?
JOHN REDLIN: Yes, my role has been primarily the bass player. But, I've been able to do a lot of the marketing and some of the cross-cultural initiatives to find additional opportunities to play across Central Iowa and beyond. I've done a lot of fun things to get Son Peruchos shows at other spaces outside of even just Latin festivals. So it's, it's been, I would say, a dual role with playing music, but also working somewhat as, I guess you could call me the marketing coordinator or something like that.
CECE: I read a description online on your Facebook page that says that the music Son Peruchos plays is kind of a fusion of Andean and South American music with traditional instruments, and also some modern sounds thrown in there a bit. Can you tell me a little bit more about that musical style?
JOHN: So, it’s primary Latin music, but it's a little different than a Latin music group that might just focus on playing one style, such as salsa or Colombia, or bachata. We do play all of those styles, but we're able to incorporate some of the traditional sounds with some of the flutes, for example, like the zampoña and the quena to bring in more of an Andean sound, which can be then incorporated with the more modern musica tropicale. So, it's a specific style that we really enjoy, and our goal with this is really to maintain some of this Latin folk music that sometimes you don't really get to hear, especially across the Midwest. Part of the reason we're really into that is because this is a very diverse group within even the members that make up this group. We have a couple countries even within the group represented. Even though we have the group called Son Peruchos, which would mean they are Peruvian, we also have members from Mexico, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, as well as the U.S.
It’s primary Latin music, but it's a little different than a Latin music group that might just focus on playing one style, such as salsa or Colombia, or bachata. We do play all of those styles, but we're able to incorporate some of the traditional sounds with some of the flutes, for example, like the zampoña and the quena to bring in more of an Andean sound, which can be then incorporated with the more modern musica tropicale.
CECE: How did you guys get started playing together?
JOHN: Well, a lot of it just became...it was formed between the friendship I've had with Michael Nuñez back in 2017. It went before that when I first relocated to Des Moines, Iowa back in 2015, and during that time, Michael Nuñez and his brother, Jimmy Nuñez, who are basically the two frontmen of this group, were already playing music. They came from a musical background. When they were young kids, they even played this specific kind of Andean music across the U.S., and they were born into a family of musicians.
But at that specific time in 2017, they were interested in starting more of a folk music group here in Des Moines where they wanted to incorporate other styles. And at that point, I was just getting into music a little bit in the Des Moines scene, starting to work, play music at open mics and things like that. So really, through the friendship, we've been able to grow this, and now there's nine members. So really, we have gone from about four people to nine people and really just grown so much musically, it's really a family. So really, I would say that it's become a thing, like the level it is now due to our friendship and willingness to collaborate. And part of that is in a city like Des Moines, that really has been possible. So that really has been a blessing and speaks well of Central Iowa and beyond. For this specific kind of music that you might not really hear in this area, I think that it's a kind of music that the first time someone hears it, they might really be surprised and generally, a lot of people get kind of hooked because it is so different.
We try to keep it creative, and always, really are playing multiple styles. So we always come with something different. We do some songs in English as well. We'll do songs, for example, like we may cover the Beatles, “Hey Jude” or “Yesterday,” but we'll do that with the flute. So we'll play that instrumentally. So, a lot of what we do is we have specific songs and specific genres that we might play in different spaces. We also play a lot of private parties. And one of the blessings for us is that even with the pandemic, we're able to continue being pretty active and play events that were outside and socially distanced events. So we really didn't have to be on too long of a hiatus, which was good, so we could continue to grow musically. I can't say the same for a lot of bands across the country and especially in Iowa. So definitely, there's a market for this kind of music, and I feel like we are in a great state and city to be producing this kind of music.
CECE: What's your favorite gig that you've played with the band?
JOHN: That is a great question. I could give you a couple; it might be hard to say my favorite. I can give you some really good memorable ones, though, if that's okay.
In 2019, we got to play at the Iowa State Fair, so that was a big deal. A little bit about my background, too. I'm actually not from the state of Iowa, so this has been just overall quite a dream for me. I work as a Spanish interpreter, so I'm very active in the Hispanic community.
One of my favorite times of the year is definitely Latin Heritage Month, and this past month in September, we kept very busy and played a total of 10 gigs that had to do with Latin heritage. I really enjoyed playing across Iowa. We also got to go to Nebraska, and those were some memorable gigs because we got to really get to know some of these communities as we were there. One of the festivals we did a couple years ago was at West Liberty. That was really interesting, because that is the only town in Iowa that actually has a Latino majority. It's a town of about 3000 people, but it's about 52 percent Hispanic. We got to play there and had a great experience and the community loved it. And it was just so cool to be able to go across Iowa and really be embraced. It's very interesting being someone who is not from the culture and to be embraced as well and show people that we are promoting the diversity and the inclusion and unity within our group as well.
CECE: Wow, you guys have really been playing this past month. That's awesome. What would you want someone that's never heard of Son Peruchos to know about your band and the traditional Latin music scene around here?
JOHN: I would say that the main takeaway would just be the diversity that is present in the Latin American music and art. I think that sometimes there's somewhat of a misconception that when people think just maybe Mexico or just mariachi or even just salsa in general, which both styles are amazing, I love both of those styles. But, I'd love for people to see that across Latin America and across just one particular country like Peru, for example, there's many rhythms. And that is a reflection of the variety of people and cultures within one specific area. So, I just would want people to be open-minded and realize that there's much more than maybe meets the eye.
CECE: Is there anything else you'd like listeners to know or anything exciting coming up for the band?
JOHN: Well, let's see, we have...I'm excited about an opportunity that we're in the process of with Iowa Public Radio, can't probably say too much, but maybe something in the works for next year. I won't say anything more, but that's something exciting. And yes, we're gonna continue to be playing around Des Moines. We have a First Friday gig that we do every first Friday in downtown Des Moines at a space called the Gas Lamp. So that's something to look out for if you're in Des Moines, and that's just downtown. So that's something that we always enjoy. But overall, I just look forward to continue to collaborate and play music with my brothers.
CECE: John Redlin, thank you so much for being here today and talking a little bit about the local Latin music scene with me.
JOHN: Thank you so much.
CECE: Son Peruchos is a local Iowa band and you can find them on Facebook. I'm Cece Mitchell, and this has been Sound in Color on Iowa Public Radio's Studio One All Access.