By the time the Bogota-based band Monsieur Periné bounced onstage to accept the 2015 Latin Grammy for Best New Artist, they had already established themselves as a jaunty brigade of theatrical vaudevillians, intent on channeling the rollicking charms of 1930s swing and Latin jazz into eager, chipper tunes for the present day. A carefree jubilance enlivened their first two albums and acquainted listeners with the bubbly vocalist Catalina García, the guitarist Nicolás Junca, and the multi-instrumentalist Santiago Prieto. The leaders of the nostalgic ensemble often appeared more interested in jiving to their own beat than chasing trends, like a bunch of quirky theater kids doing the Lindy hop on prom night.
For a moment, it seemed like mainstream Latin music might fully embrace the vintage sensibilities championed by Monsieur Periné. The night they won their Latin Grammy, acoustic indie darling Natalia Lafourcade had scored five trophies for her folksy, back-to-roots album Hasta La Raíz. But reggaeton had been hungrily staking its claim on Latin pop, and urban artists—including J Balvin and Maluma, also from Colombia—were taking over the global charts. After last year’s viral hit “Despacito” vaulted reggaeton higher onto the international stage, it was hard to pinpoint the next step for Monsieur Periné, an eccentric band that professed a love of esoteric musicians like Lucho Bermúdez, the Colombian composer known for infusing his country’s music with the resonance of big-band jazz, and Django Reinhardt, the self-taught Romani-French guitarist who pioneered “gypsy jazz” despite losing mobility in his left hand during a fire.
Luckily, Monsieur Periné had already been thinking about their trajectory. Their first album, the independently released Hecho a Mano, was their most overt nod to old-timey nightclub traditions. On it, they mixed Colombian rhythms with elements of swing that French bands, such as Paris Combo, had revived in the late ’90s. Monsieur Periné dubbed their music cocktail “suín a la colombiana,” or swing Colombian-style, performed with their brand of smiley perkiness. On their early songs, like “Sabor A Mi,” García’s vocals would ring out gleefully, as though she were beaming through each verse. At their live shows, the band would throw on rainbow-bright outfits that resembled traditional Colombian folk costumes—a constant wink to the fact that these were young musicians reinterpreting their romantic version of the past.
Monsieur Periné’s music attracted the producer Eduardo José Cabra, who, under the stage name Visitante, is one-half of the reggaeton duo Calle 13. Cabra produced the band’s 2015 release Caja De Musica, which includes songs with Rubén Albarrán, the lead singer of the decades-old Mexican rock band Café Tacuba, and Dominican breakout artist Vicente García, and pushed Monsieur Periné into poppier territory.
For their third album, the members of Monsieur Periné had a choice: They could return to more “suín a la colombiana” or continue with their pop evolution. On Encanto Tropical, which was released on May 18, they’ve chosen the latter path. The album is their first on a major label, Sony Music Latin, and boasts the band’s signature retro touch while also offering sleeker, more commercially minded production choices. When the first single, “Bailar Contigo,” came out in April, one could hear a shift toward the contemporary through a zippy synth line that punctuated the song’s subdued bossa nova melody. The throb of a tambor alegre mid-drum recalled the spirit of popular Afro-Colombian dance beats. More telling, perhaps, is that the track was co-written by “Despacito” producer Mauricio Rengifo.