Born in the rolling hills of northern England but found his musical home in the forests of Latin America. His music blends together the rhythms, mythologies and melodies of his adopted continent with the sound of waterfalls, birdsongs, crackling leaves and a modern electronic aesthetic. The result is a dreamy, deep, melodic journey that entrances as much through headphones as it does on the dancefloor.
Robin has released music on Wonderwheel Recordings, ZZK Records and Antartek and collaborated with producers and musicians like Luzmila Carpio, Lucas Santanna, Chancha Via Circuito, Mercedes Nasta, Lagartijeando, Matanza and Barrio Lindo.
He also co-runs global artists collective Shika Shika and coodinated the non-profit album “A Guide to the Birdsong of South America”. Currently based in Paris, France he has played or lived in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Seoul, Amsterdam, Glasgow and more.
Robin Perkins, aka El Búho. On Indie.
Hey Robin! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these few questions!
So, can you tell us a bit more how it all started for you; why Latin America folkloric music and cumbia mixed with electronic beats? What was crucial that made you dive into this new genre movement?
I have always been fascinated with Latin America since I was a little kid (I even had Amazon wallpaper in my bedroom!) and used to flick through these old books with photos of the continent or trace imaginary adventures through my dad’s atlas! I ended up studying Hispanic Studies, focussing on Latin America (culture, language, history, literature etc.) and as part of that I spent a year living in Buenos Aires. At the same time I was one of the co-founders of the university Hispanic Society and we threw these silly but incredibly fun themed parties playing Latin American music, showing films, hosting bands…That’s where it started then in Buenos Aires well..it just blew my mind.
I was exposed to the ZZK parties, some of the pioneers of the kind of digital cumbia / electronic folk sound – I used to go every week with my flatmates. That combined with a few months travelling on buses from Buenos Aires up to the border between Ecuador and Colombia via Chile, Bolivia and Peru was enough to turn me into a true Latin American fanatic!
It is just the depth and variety of the music, the culture, the landscape that is so inspiring. From the Andes mountains to the Amazon rainforest, the afro-caribbean influences down to the wilderness of Patagonia and Ushuaia. Endless inspiration.
All your mixes are heavily influenced by natural sounds… Suppose that nature is an integral part of your artistic (and personal) identity?
Yes! That’s the second part. I grew up in a family of nature lovers, my mum worked for a local nature conservation organisation and my dad was a Geography lecturer at Manchester University. We would spend our holidays birdwatching, camping, exploring nature, walking in the hills.. I was privileged to grow up in this environment and soaked it all up I guess!
I ended up, perhaps inevitably, working in the same area for Greenpeace, starting as an intern then working for 7 years in Amsterdam, Mexico City and Paris and with the organisation globally. Music is always a representation of your reality or your identity so it was inevitable that I would incorporate this idea of organic or natural sounds, textures or even this idea of musical activism.
I also read about your Greenpeace experience. Can you tell us a bit about the biggest challenges the world is facing when it comes to environmental issues you learnt about while working with them?
Well, where to begin? To me, after all those years at Greenpeace the biggest lesson I learnt was that we spend a lot of time focussing on issues on the surface (plastic pollution, toxic chemicals, mining companies) when the biggest threat and the underlying problem is a system that is geared towards endless growth on a finite planet, inevitably leading to extreme resource extraction, environmental destruction and the disappearance of rights so we can have a “better” quality of life based on having more stuff.
If we really want to tackle the defining issues of our time like climate change, we need to rethink how we live and interact with each other because clearly, we can’t carry on like this without going extinct.
Plans for the future? Maybe some new material coming out soon? 🙂
Lots of exciting things planned. I have just finished an album called Ramas which will feature 19 collaborative tracks with a selection of my favourite artists and friends from all over the world. I also just finished an EP of music inspired by natural soundscapes and in April next we will release A Guide to the Birdsong Volume II focussed on Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean – an album that challenges music producers to create a track inspired by the song of an endangered bird from their region with all proceeds going to local organisations working to protect these species and their habitat.
A few artists/songs/mixes you are listening to right now?
Silent Season, a beautiful label from Vancouver releasing lots of nature inspired electronic music. Our latest crowd-sourced compilation on our collective Shika Shika called Cosmofania and a lot of lullabies as I just had my first child! A boy called Georges, boy Georges 😉
- Camino de Flores (December 2018, Shika Shika)
- Balance LP (November 2017, Wonderwheel Recordings)
- Tamoanchan EP (July 2017, Shika Shika)
- Cenotes EP (November 2015, Wonderwheel Recordings)
- History of Colour – History of Colour EP (December 2014, ZZK Records)
- Y (October 2012, Meles Meles)
- A Guide to the Birds of South America EP (September 2012, Self-Released)
Photos kindly provided by Robin – © El Búho