Matt Geraghty and Afro-Andean Funk Release New Album, Sacred Leaf (Interview)

The title track ‘The Sacred Leaf’ features Peruvian vocalist Araceli Poma & Haitian producer/singer Manno Beats

Matt Geraghty and Afro-Andean Funk Release New Album, Sacred Leaf (Interview)

The title track ‘The Sacred Leaf’ features Peruvian vocalist Araceli Poma & Haitian producer/singer Manno Beats

Today Latin Grammy® nominated bassist, composer, producer Matt Geraghty and Peruvian vocalist Araceli Poma have released their debut album, ‘The Sacred Leaf’ by their band Afro-Andean Funk. The new album traces shamanism, indigenous Peruvian culture and human rights alongside the powerful healing coca leaf.

‘The Sacred Leaf’ mingles a broad spectrum of traditional and modern musical styles such as Afro-pop, huayno, electronica, drum and bass, funk, cumbia and hard rock. Lyrics on the album span across different languages like Spanish, Quechua and Haitian-Creole.

Bassist Geraghty met vocalist Araceli Poma in a recording studio in Lima, Peru in 2019 while she was invited to be part of a documentary Geraghty was producing called ‘The Warrior Women of Afro-Peruvian Music.’ Geraghty brought this music travel documentary series to Peru to seek out emerging artists and bring hidden cultural treasures greater international visibility.

Geraghty and team invited nine distinguished women singers and percussionists to be part of this historic recording and documentary, and from that moment on, Poma and Geraghty began to join forces. After two years of collaborating together and receiving a Latin Grammy® Nomination, a new band was born: Afro-Andean Funk.

Today’s release of ‘The Sacred Leaf’ breaks cultural barriers and unites around a new sound blending roots music of the Andes and the Afro-Peruvian scene with electronica, funk, rock and west African grooves.

Best known for his cross-cultural and inclusive music collaborations, Geraghty has produced 7 albums and 5 traveling music documentaries in NYC, New Orleans, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Peru uniting artists across countries and clans. 

Matt with his late-‘60s Fender Jazz Bass and Scout fretted acoustic-electric U-Bass by Kala. (Photo by Bill Wadman)

We sat down with Matt for some insight into the record:

How would you describe the band’s music and what about it makes it unique?

Afro-Andean Funk is a musical experience. It’s an experience because this album makes us travel through the sounds of shamanic chants, the music of the Andes played with native Afro-Peruvian instruments, and the styles of funk, rock, and jazz that I’ve always loved. On the other hand, the lyrics speak to a variety of themes—ritualistic experiences with ayahuasca, the healing power of the coca leaf, and the struggle of marginalized peoples.

Recording this album has been one of the most creatively satisfying experiences, especially because it’s like a child of my other project, Just Play, a platform that I founded in 2013 that has brought together more than 300 artists from the Americas to collaborate. In fact, thanks to Just Play, I went to investigate the Afro-Peruvian music scene in Lima, Peru in 2018 and it’s precisely there that I met the singer Araceli Poma, who formed Afro-Andean Funk with me.

Araceli sings in Spanish and Quechua, an endangered language. We feature electronic artist Grod, from Buenos Aires, and Haitian Creole star vocalist Manno Beats. So together we’ve created an original new music that aims to show how we are united across cultures a lot more than you might think.

What’s your concept for the role of the bass in the band’s music?

I wrote all of this music on bass so naturally the bass has a very specific protagonist lead role. While my main job is to drive the music forward and lay down the groove, I also wanted the bass to act as another voice or counterpoint in the music, which is what I explored on tracks like “The Sacred Leaf,” “Spirals of Vision,” and “Me Permito.” By composing only with bass and voice I wanted the bass to have a dual role in laying down the bass parts but also creating melodies and comping, normally covered by other instruments. It made Araceli and I truly stretch to think about the possibilities of starting with just groove and voice. It became an organic way to create ideas and was a logical first step towards crafting more sophisticated arrangements later.

What bassists influenced your approach on this music?

I think indirectly, Pedro Aznar and Richard Bona, who are both virtuosos that integrate singing into their performance. Also Bakithi Kumalo and Tony Levin. They’ll be some of the great iconic reference points for this album. I also find a lot of inspiration by the music that I see any given week here in New York City. Arooj Aftab, Marcus Miller, Joe Lovano, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Brian Blade, Joshua Redman, and Vox Sambou are just a few of the artists I’ve seen in the past couple weeks. I’m particularly interested and inspired by them because they are all sticking their necks out creatively and taking risks. There’s a lot to be influenced by, even if it doesn’t show up as a stylistic imprint in what you do.

What bass gear did you use on the record?

I’m grateful to have my late-’60s Fender Jazz bass that has been with me for 30 years. I played that instrument exclusively on all tracks. I rarely use the neck pickup. I feel like there’s more clarity and edge with the bridge pick-up, and that’s the sound I’ve always gone for since I bought the bass in 1993. It has D’Addario EPS165 ProSteels and I recorded it through my Rupert Neve Designs Active DI Box. For my solo moments I have an Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron Envelope Filter and a Visual Sound V1 H2O Liquid Chorus & Echo.

What’s next for the band?

We’re going to be performing in Portugal in October, and coming soon we will be announcing an album release event in New York City. Stay tuned and follow us @afroandeanfunk.

Chris Jisi   By: Chris Jisi

If you're enjoying this story, please support Bass Magazine by making a donation!
You won't find this content anywhere else, and we have so much more coming soon.
A donation will help us continue to bring the future of bass to you, our beloved readers. Thank you!