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CANCAMUSA’S BUENA ONDA | Using Rhythm to Combine Worlds

CANCAMUSA’S BUENA ONDA | Using Rhythm to Combine Worlds

Cancamusa has been shaping her sound from a very young age. The Chilean-born drummer and singer has been heavily influenced by traditional music from her childhood, as well as classic rock from the '70s and more. In fact, you’ll find elements of music from her past still inspiring sounds she creates today. When she’s not drumming alongside fellow Chilean singer/songwriter Mon Laferte, Cancamusa has her own budding solo career as an electronic music artist. Her setup has evolved over the years from a traditional drum kit to a hybrid setup and, as she points out, it will continue to grow to support her own unique soundscape. Here’s more from the artist herself, talking to us about her music career and a detailed run-through of her gear list.

What kind of music did you begin playing when you first started playing the drums?

I started playing drums at age 14. On one hand, I began playing '70s rock and psychedelic music. On the other hand, I grew up listening to my grandfather playing accordion, which meant internalizing the cueca (Chilean traditional music) at a very early age. I attended an art school in the south of Chile. At that time, my music teacher asked me to participate in a play which included the performance of the Los Jaivas album Alturas de Machu Pichu. A mix between progressive and folk music.

Back then, I knew nothing about music theory, so I began creating my own way of writing music to learn each part. In that specific play, I learned to play live with other musicians, I understood the importance in music velocity, and also began discovering the diversity in Latin American rhythms. Gabriel Parra, Los Jaivas’ drummer had a very unique way of playing the 6/8 (typical Chilean measure) and other South American rhythms. He took these drumming elements and popularized them through a more modern approach. Today, his rhythmic expression has become part of Chile's musical culture.

How have your musical tastes evolved or changed over the years?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed sitting down and contemplating music. Listening to '70s psychedelic and experimental music. Later, I became more aware of the importance of melody and composition. As I grew up, I became more involved in trip hop and dream pop. In parallel to that, I became interested in Latin folk music, its history and fusion with African music, jazz and indigenous roots. Today, the music I’m making has to do more with electronic elements, hip-hop and dream pop.”

I feel my musical taste hasn't changed much, since there are (for me) essential elements in music that I've always liked. I enjoy a vast variety of music styles. The thing I've always liked the most is the fusion of genres and the original sounds that come from that. Perhaps, nowadays, I see music in more simple and minimal ways. I'm attracted to loops, repetition and trance music. Sound design is the most important thing to me.

Cancamusa and her Roland SPD-SX Trigger Pad.

What styles and genres do you infuse into your playing?

Right now I’m playing next to Mon Laferte. My job there is different from my solo act, but in a way, it makes me reconnect with my early influences. Plenty of ballads, rock, Latin rhythms and fusion. She has an amazing and powerful voice and I must respond to that energy with an equal thrust. I love the fact that there’s a great deal of improvisation, but within reason. Kind of like a musical. On the other hand, my music is more of mixture of wide sonic atmospheres from '70s and tight hip-hop beats from the '80s and '90s.

Who are some drummers that inspire and influence you?

John Bonham, I think, is the drummer that has influenced me the most. Being the fire that ignited Led Zeppelin with his gigantic drum sound. I’ve always admired his unique identity and sonic experimentation. Phil Collins is also very important to me because the first song I ever played was his. His great quality as a drummer/composer has been an enormous example for me.

Also, Jojo Mayer has blown my mind with his modern sound approach. The first time I listened to him, I felt drumming was evolving in a way completely new to me and that there was a parallel language filled with experimentation linked to machines and technology. I was a teenager when my friends showed me his material and it opened my mind to whole different sonic scene. Questlove caught my ear through his detailed and subtle organic groove. I find his sound exquisite. I vibrate with his every beat and fill.

Are there any current or contemporary drummers that inspire you? 

Yes, I really like how Julien Barbagallo performs live alongside Tame Impala.

How has your setup evolved over the years?

I started out with a traditional setup: two rack toms, one floor tom and two cymbals. This last setup is the one I use with my Chilean band Amanitas. Perhaps it’s time to change it, but I also enjoy a big drum sound next to synth-driven atmospheres. I also played next to Chilean pop star Javiera Mena. With her I switched from playing a percussion set, cymbals and timbaleta, to a whole drum set because she needed a more substantial drum presence. We also added pads, and a SPD-SX with a kick and snare trigger.

Cancamusa and her Gretsch USA Custom kit.

Will you continue to change your setup?

Of course I will. I love trying new sounds and technology. My set is evolving according to my musical needs as a solo performer. I don’t see myself as only a drummer. Therefore, my needs as a composer also influence my drumming. I play according to my singing, and I think that’s why I’ve grown fond of loops. The more repetitive and constant, the more freedom to improvise melodies. To me, it’s just the perfect scenario for creation. I like processed drums, filtered, adding effects on fills, and have those fills carry the energy in my lyrics.”

I’m also really into Foley and being able to treat music as a movie scene, having images and events popping out as I close my eyes. Therefore it’s very fun to trigger effects and samples while hitting a pad with my drum stick. I guess my setup will always be guided by my need to have the sound that I want as quickly as possible. In a live set I like to combine both worlds. Traditional drum setups mixed with pads and triggers. For me, these are tools that give me endless possibilities. I love the idea of triggering the sound that I need from a kick pedal.

What is your current setup?

My current setup for Mon Laferte is: 

For my upcoming solo act, we’re working alongside Roland on a hybrid setup consisting of a basic drum kit (bass, snare and hi-hat), RT-30K kick trigger, Roland KT-10 Kick Drum Control Pedal, multiple Roland RT-30 snare triggers, an SPD-SX and a TM-6 PRO trigger module.

Check out more from Cancamusa on Spotify:

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