Infopesa: Back to the future with vinyl

Agnes Rivera

The powerhouse record company responsible for shaking up Peru’s music scene in the 70’s and 80’s is back on the scene, thanks to the man with the Midas touch and his son.

Go ahead, call it a comeback.

Vinyl has come full circle as the once seemingly outdated music format is now on the tip of the tongue of music aficionados and what collectors prefer. For nearly a decade now, media giants like Rolling Stone magazine have been throwing around the phrase “vinyl revival” to describe the resurgence. In 2014 Wall Street Journal granted the title of Biggest Music Comeback to vinyl records.

While the argument of vinyl’s resurrection being merely a trend continues to play like a broken record, Infopesa, one of the most influential record labels in Peru during the ’70s and ’80s, has been too busy dusting off classics to notice.

In 1971, Infopesa (Industria Fonográfica Peruana) was founded by Alberto Maraví, the first Peruvian to bring salsa music to the Andean nation and a pioneer in the golden era of Peruvian music. While he was at it, the entrepreneur built an impressive international network of friends – and he has photos to prove it. Black and white photos show the legendary music producer next to a wide variety of creatives, spanning from Fania Records founder Jerry Masucci to jazz singer and pianist, Nat King Cole. With Infopesa, the first Peruvian label to reach Billboard’s Latin Charts, Maraví built a large and varied catalogue that has since become renowned worldwide. Despite the fact that seemingly everything Alberto touched became a hit, Infopesa suffered a setback when, in 1989, a bomb set by terrorists erupted just outside of the company’s central Lima establishment, damaging pressing machines, vinyls, and the recording studio.

Fast forward some thirty years later and those black and white photos now surround the desk of Juan Ricardo Maraví, Alberto’s son and the youthful push behind the label’s reappearance.

(Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

It’s Juan that welcomes Living in Peru into Infopesa’s new home, a tucked away office building in the district of Jesús Maria. Juan assures us that his father, the man so many claimed to have the Midas touch, is still very much involved. The father-son duo are working together to bridge generations, young and old, and bring classics from national bands back to the forefront. Juan and his father, who is now in his eighties (“I don’t know why I’m so young,” jokes Juan), work together to select the tracks for each re-released album; the memories and experience brought by Alberto compliments his son’s knowledge of digital streaming and an eye for innovation.

“My main concern is to reintroduce the catalogue of music to new and younger audiences,” says Juan. The packaging has been updated by contemporary designers such as YES and each booklet full of content (information and archived photos of the bands, musicians and singers) to act as a crash-course for newbies.

By digitalizing all of the music Infopesa is preserving classics that helped shape what Latin music, especially Peruvian, is today. After all, as Juan notes, “all the new stuff is influenced by the past.”

(Photo: Erick Andia/Living in Peru)

The other on-going project of Infopesa is a large recording studio, just completed last year.

“There’s a lack of support for artists here in Peru to record in a professional way,” notes Juan.

For this, Infopesa wants to offer a space for national acts of any genre to record. Stepping inside the beautiful studio, Living in Peru met Infopesa’s secret weapon, Pablo Rodriquez, who knows how to work with all the machinery, new and old.

Since 2012 classic albums have been made available in CD format from the likes of cumbia rock instrumental band Los Pakines, Peruvian pop-rock group Los Pasteles Verdes, bolero idol Iván Cruz and more. Unlike other companies who rip from the vinyl, Infopesa uses the master tapes to digitalize onto a CD format, providing a clear sound. As well, Infopesa participates on music sites and apps such as Deezer, i-Tunes, and Spotify.

“For two weeks Los Pakines were on the home page of i-Tunes next to [contemporary artists] Florence and the Machine,” says Juan, delighted at the positive on-line response.

Although he grew up surrounded by the music his father helped create and bring to Peru, Juan admits his interest in Infopesa from a business aspect didn’t emerge until after he finished school. Now, devoting countless hours strapped in gloves and a mask while digging through dusty records, he’s fully committed.

“My dad comes from a time when record labels were a big thing…and that’s what we want to rebuild, this image of Infopesa as a company of classic Peruvian music.”

While Infopesa’s CD’s are widely available, the reissued vinyls will be exclusively sold at PUNA. Every second week of the month you can expect to find a new selection of classics as well as rarities for sale at the eclectic boutique store located in Barranco, Lima. Dig out your boom box: cassette tapes are also available.

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