Started by four friends from Lima with a shared passion for traditional Afro-Peruvian music and global DJ culture, Novalima stands in the common ground bridging past and future, uniting tradition and innovation.
From their humble start, file-sharing musical ideas and producing their first album in separate countries at the dawn of the internet, Novalima is now a live musical force revered worldwide for breaking boundaries and uniting seemingly irreconcilable genres, communities, and generations. They have created an inspiring movement and revolutionized the music scene in their native Peru by bridging a longstanding divide between the mainstream and the minority Afro-Peruvian community, who have struggled against discrimination and cultural dissolution for generations.
During their career, Novalima has garnered worldwide critical acclaim from mainstream (NPR, UK Guardian, Wall Street Journal, La Presse, Metro, Billboard) and underground media (Giant Step, Remezcla, Sounds & Colors, Nat Geo) alike, delivered legendary performances around the world at festivals such as Roskilde, WOMAD, Pirineos Sur, NYC Central Park, Montreal Jazz Festival and Chicago’s Millennium Park, earned a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album, and were featured in cult filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s hit Mexploitation movie Machete.
While their sound is futuristic and cutting-edge, the roots of Novalima’s music reach back hundreds of years. In a far-too familiar tale, African slaves were brought to Peru as early as the 1500s until the middle of the 19th Century, establishing an outpost of the African-Diaspora on the Pacific coast of South America. Over the years, the soul and rhythms of Africa melded with the melodies and instruments of Europe and the Andes. The result is rich musical repertoire that existed for generations on the periphery of Peruvian popular culture.
The founders of Novalima, Ramon Perez-Prieto, Grimaldo Del Solar, Rafael Morales, and Carlos Li Carrillo, became friends and started playing together in Lima during their high school years, playing a pivotal part in the 80s underground hardcore punk, and the 90s psychedelic/acid-rock scenes. As children of artists and intellectuals, Ramon, Grimaldo, Rafael and Carlos were well educated and well traveled, and while they listened to traditional Peruvian folk music regularly in family reunions and in the street, they relentlessly explored new sounds in Rock, Dub Reggae, Latin and Electronic Music, which became grounds for their own discovery.
During their early experimentations blending Afro-Peruvian sounds with electronica, the four founders were living in different parts of the world. From their homes in London, Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Lima, they emailed song ideas to each other. These long-distance recordings resulted in their 2002 debut album, the self-titled Novalima.
The reception to the album exceeded their wildest expectations, eventually reaching platinum sales status in Peru, and for their next album they invited more Afro-Peruvian musicians to join their recording sessions. The outcome was Afro, an album that was released worldwide in 2006 to tremendous acclaim and put Novalima on the international music map. The London Metro Evening Standard raved, “Novalima has more than succeeded in bringing the spirit and soul of Peruvian blues into the 21st century.” Afro held the #1 spot on the US College Music Journal Latin Alternative and New World Radio Charts for ten weeks combined.
Soon after Afro was released, the founders returned to Lima and invited top Afro-Peruvian musicians to join Novalima making it a true band, setting the groundwork for live musical creation and intensive global touring.
On their 2009 album Coba Coba, released on the acclaimed world music label Cumbancha, Novalima expanded the critically-acclaimed formula they developed and took their inspiring fusion in new and exciting directions by delving further into the African diaspora and bringing influences from reggae, dub, salsa, hip-hop, afrobeat and Cuban son. In anticipation of the band’s acclaimed 2009 US and European tour, they released Coba Coba Remixed, featuring exclusive remixes by top DJs and producers including Da Lata, Zeb, Faze Action, Seiji, Boozou Bajou, Haaksman, and more. At the same time, a stunning music video for the band’s song “Coba Guarango” was featured on the homepage of YouTube and quickly amassed well over 100,000 plays in 24 hours.
After two years of constant touring, the band gathered in their home studio in Lima to record and mix the album Karimba that took Novalima’s sound into new places. They introduced both new sounds and traditional rhythms like the Panalivio, Zamacueca, Ingá and Tondero, while maintaining their distinctive afro and dub sound. Their reputation at home allowed them to work with the top traditional musicians in the city, inviting vocalists Pepe Vasquez, Rosita Guzman, and Sofia Buitron as well as guitarists Roberto Arguedas and Felix Casaverde (former guitarist of Chabuca Granda), in addition to members of the live band.
Karimba was released on ESL Music (Thievery Corporation) and garnered astounding accolades from NPR, Giant Step, Nat Geo Music and more, while also topping the iTunes World Music Chart and cracking the Top 10 Billboard World Music Chart. After the release, Novalima embarked on a worldwide tour that took them to stages in USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Latin American throughout 2012 – 2014.
During extensive touring in 2014, Novalima recorded a new album, Planetario released on Wonderwheel Recordings on June 16th 2015. This new album had a strong connection to Colombia created through a remarkable recording session in Bogota organized by members of La-33 including Sidestepper vocalist Eka Muñoz, Pernett and La Mamba Negra. The album also brings in artists from around the world such as Marc de Clive Lowe (UK/NZ) and Kumar (Cuban rapper based in BCN). To promote this release on summer 2015, Novalima embarked on it´s biggest US Tour that included more than 40 shows in well known stages, followed by an extensive European Tour on 2016.
Taking a year off from touring during 2017, Novalima went back in the studio to explore and experiment with new sounds from Peru. This time around, the influences came not only from its African heritage but also from the exploration of ancient sounds, languages and instruments from the Andes and the Amazon. On this album called Ch’usay (Voyage in Quechua, the native language of the Inkas) released in September 2018 by Wonderwheel Recordings, Novalima goes one step further to enrich their sound by collaborating with new generations of local artists from the Peruvian music scene.
During the 2020-2021 lockdown, Novalima went back in the studio to experiment with new sounds from Peru and the world for their upcoming album. This time around, the influences came not only from their African heritage but also from traditional African grooves and instruments and the diverse diaspora around the world. On this new album Novalima goes one step further by exploring the new generation of artists around the world who reinterpret their African heritage.