My introduction to punk was pretty classic. It all started with my family’s vinyl collection, when an initial interest in the influences of the grunge and rock bands that made up the soundtrack of my childhood quickly turned into personal excursions into the music of The Dead Kennedys, The Ramones. , Sex Pistols and everything. if not punk or punk-adjacent that I could get my hands on.
However, one facet of my musical tastes has always been set in stone: I refused to like music made in Spanish. Trying as much as possible to blend into the hyper-saturated Americana that I mistakenly thought I had wondered about, I decided that all the Latin American rock music my parents were listening to – music that ranged from rock progressive by Sui Generis with alternative grooves. de Maná – was nothing but a cheap copy of the real deal. The “real deal”, of course, being the music that came from the US and UK.
In the tradition cited Canon punk, the holy trinity of punk releases are the Ramones’ eponymous album, “(I’m) Stranded” by the Saints, and The Damned’s EP, “New Rose”. Released in 1976, these three are considered the first releases of their kind. Even the most liberal estimates of the origins of punk believe that its first outings took place only a few years earlier, in the early 1970s.
These bands are all white. They are from Queens, New York; Brisbane, Australia; and London, England, respectively.
My view of punk, like that of the mainstream, was exactly what the holy trinity stood for. Punk, to me, was a space created by and for white, cisgender, straight men. Any other identity that had managed to find its way into the limelight – including women and racially marginalized groups – was an exception won in difficult battles against established gender norms.
Long before Johnny, Tommy, Joey and Dee Dee bought their instruments, punk garage band Los Saicos was already making punk music in Lima, Peru. It wasn’t just proto-punk like the music from the Velvet Underground or the Stooges either. It was punk: grungy, heavy, and sonically supercharged.
Started by four guys from Lince’s bourgeois neighborhood in Lima – Erwin Flores, Francisco Guevara, Roland “El Chapo” Carpio and César “Papi” Castrillón – Los Saicos shone across the Peruvian music scene for the brief year it existed as a group . During their short career, they released a total of 12 songs, but they were already very popular – playing on TV shows and touring clubs in Peru – even before they cut their first single.
Their most famous track, “Demolicíon” from 1965, is loud and gritty as guitarist Erwin Flores’ tense voice about wreaking havoc at a train station is punctuated by thundering cymbals from drummer Francisco Guevara and a guitar riff. unleashed for the entire three-minute song. The production is muddy and raw, allowing the band’s nascent punk fervor to take center stage. The single is arguably years ahead of anything happening in the US or UK, but it was a huge hit in Peru, earning the group a spot atop the national charts.
“El entro de los gatos” is quite another thing. While “Demolicíon” showed the band’s potential as they developed their punk sound, “El Entro” proclaimed that the process of inventing punk was over. “Are you telling me which song came before it?” »Flores demand about the song in an interview with Noisey. “It was an absolute invention…. I mean, it’s such a ridiculous thing that it’s been left out of music history. “
Voices which in “Demolicíon” were still somewhat melodic, are replaced in “El entro” by what can be described as nothing but a scream, Flores’ voice breaking under her own force. . The guitar riff, created by El Chapo, is incessant under layers of violent screams and animal screams until it transforms into a chaotic tangle of cymbal crackles and feedback. With “El Entro”, Los Saicos presented their fan base with a complete musical assault that no one had ever heard of before. Some reviews have gone as far as call it is “sonic vandalism”. It’s the perfect punk record and yet it came out way ahead of its time in 1965. Indeed, Los Saicos was the first of its kind.
Although revolutionary in Peru, the popularity of Los Saicos fell sharply outside of South America, in the supposed cradles of punk: the United Kingdom and the United States. In fact, they were (and continue to be) virtually unknown. Cole Alexander of the punk band The Black Lips again cited as “one of the best kept secrets”.
When I discovered “Demolicíion” and the secret of Los Saicos buried deep among other 7 inches in a dusty bin at my favorite local record store, it became my own little revolution. I had grown up believing in myself that there was no value in the music that represented my own Latinx identity outside of its proximity to the established mainstream, and yet here is this single that contained all the right components that made it the music of groups like the Ramones so renowned, and it was premiered over a decade earlier in a country bordering my parents’.
The Saicos weren’t the only punk band to explode onto Latin American airwaves in the years that followed. Despite being its creators, the movement did not end with their short recording career. Instead, Los Saicos spawned a burgeoning punk movement in Latin America that would find greater musical prowess, stronger political motivation, and growing audiences in the decades to come.
—Writer Sofia Andrade’s column “Demolicíon: Punk and Latinidad” explores the often overlooked Latinx roots of the punk scene. You can reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SofiaAndrade__.