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DJ Shaki to transport Williamstown museumgoers to the psychedelic mountains of Peru at Clark event Saturday

Ausangate.jpg
Edubucher
/
Wikimedia
Nevado Ausangate in Cuzco, Peru. The highest mountain in the Cordillera Vilcanota.

A New Haven, Connecticut DJ is bringing the psychedelic sounds of Peru into the galleries of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts this weekend.

DJ Shaki – also known as Rick Omonte – is coming to the Clark in collaboration with North Adams’ Belltower Records to celebrate the opening of the museum’s new exhibit “Meander” by Tauba Auerbach and Yuji Agematsu.

“July is very important in the mountains, in the central Sierra of Peru," Omonte told WAMC. "And there's a lot of festivals that have to do with agriculture, and a lot of this music is played. So I decided I wanted to kind of embark on a little adventure and play some of these records for different folks.”

Omonte, whose father is Peruvian, digs into his crate of rare folkloric records as DJ Shaki, introducing new audiences to some of the country’s most enduring musical styles.

“Huayno is a very popular style of folk music from Peru, and it's based on kind of a stress two, like a dun, dun dun, dun, dun dun, dun, dun dun," Omonte explained. "And that's sort of almost like a heartbeat, and I think that that's not by accident, because a lot of huaynos are very sentimental, and very beautiful and a little bit melancholy. Early on, in the very early days huaynos were sometimes political. You know, our little town needs a bridge or a new road. But as time goes on, you know, sort of social aspect kind of crept in to be, like, I have bad luck, I'm an orphan, or, you know, my parents abandoned me or my lover is a cheater, or I'm a cheater, I drink too much, you know, they kind of morph into those kinds of topics. Another style of music, sort of the one that sort of spoke to me first, is a style that kind of has a lot of names, but a sort of common name for it is santiago, and that's more of a four on the floor. That's like a dun dun dun dun dun dun dun, and the chord structure is a one chord kind of drone. It's almost like a dance party type of vibe if you go to a Santiago concert. It's crazy. A band will play an hour long or something, no breaks between songs, and it's just like dun dun dun dun with like a one chord structure. It's almost like a drone it to me, it reminds me everything, of other indigenous cultures throughout the Americas to stuff like Suicide or Spaceman 3 or something, just because of the sheer droney aspect to it.”

While Omonte has released his own compilations of deep cut Peruvian music, one of his favorite labels doing similar work comes right out of Berkshire County. Pittsfield’s own Mike Piggott runs Masstropicas, a lovingly curated dive into the folk music of Peru. The label’s first release in 2008 – a single by Los Chapillacs, a band from the southern city of Arequipa – caught Omonte’s ear and led him to Piggott, who he now credits as a mentor.

“It's funny because there's so many awesome reissue labels that are very popular right now, Analog Africa, these kind of labels, and they're awesome, but to me, it blows my mind because the Masstropicas catalog is untouchable," Omonte told WAMC. "He released so much street-level chicha, like, such real deal, the cumbia, chicha from Peru that people listen to in the city, in the heart of Lima, on the highways out of town, and it's like, nobody has come close to releasing that stuff again. Like, his ear was so tuned in. Every single one of those comps and releases he put out is absolutely essential.”

Parallel to Omonte’s work as DJ Shaki is his role as bassist in the psychedelic rock acts Mountain Movers and Headroom. He says there’s plenty of connective tissue between the two.

“A lot of indigenous music is sort of psychedelic sounding to ears that are not accustomed to it, or just the fact that a lot of sort of indigenous music or really raw music is sort of sometimes meant to induce a trance or meant to induce a feeling, and a lot of times that's through repetition or through one chord structure or very minimal, atonal sounds and things like that," Omonte said. "Not that far off from what every psychedelic rock band right now is trying to mimic or recreate.”

On Saturday, DJ Shaki will spin inside the Lunder Center at Stone Hill at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts starting at 3:30.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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