The tribal music of our time

South American duo Lulacruza explore the intersection of folk music and electronica

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Courtesy of Lulacruza

Anthropologists debate the exact reason why humans created music — Darwin believed music was produced as sexual enticement; others say it was a way to strengthen the bonds of a community.

But the origin of music feels inconsequential when we find ourselves in its inimitable embrace — when we turn on the radio and a song sends us into a momentary temporal flux; when we feel inexplicably linked to the stranger next to us at a concert; when a rhythm moves us seemingly against our will.

Within these feelings, one thing is certain: music is more than entertainment. It is from this fundamental belief that South American duo Lulacruza creates its music.

On its face, their work blends Spanish-language vocals, natural sounds and traditional South American instruments with contemporary electronic manipulation — but such a technical description belies the depth of the music. At the heart of Lulacruza’s music is a transcendental message about the nature of humanity — their sound evokes shamanic chants, imploring us to give into the rhythm of not just music, but the rhythm of nature, so that we might remember what we have forgotten.

“The way I see it, we all have a crystal inside of us — like a crystal of memory. And certain things touch that crystal and reawaken the memories… the memories that we are water; that we depend on each other for survival, that we also come from the stars,” says Colombian-born Alejandra Ortiz, singer and multi-instrumentalist for Lulacruza. “Nature is sacred and we are also sacred as nature. I feel that certain people, certain places and certain music work to awaken the crystal that is inside of everything and everyone.”

Helping Ortiz awaken sleeping souls is Argentine musician Luis Maurette, who acts as the group’s producer and, like Ortiz, is a multi-instrumentalist. The two met in 2005 while both were studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Maurette was in his last semester of school, working on a program that organized sound based on the flight patterns of birds. One day in a computer lab on campus, Ortiz saw Maurette working and, fascinated, she approached him.

“I was so happy because I was coming from the other side, working with drums and tuning forks and planetary tunings, and he was coming from the work of techno and electronic music, but it was the same principle of organizing sounds according to nature and not according to the laws of man,” Ortiz says.

They were both interested in ritual music and sounds of indigenous peoples, but perhaps most importantly they were interested in what Ortiz calls “the tribal music of our time” — electronica.

“We started exchanging a lot of music and talking a lot before we played [together]. And then all these songs started coming through me, and I had this clear message that I had to make music with him.”

Message received: Ortiz eventually moved to California where Maurette was pursuing a master’s degree.

“And that was 10 years ago,” she says. “And we’ve been making music since then.”

Over the past decade, Ortiz and Maurette have produced five full-length albums of original work, each one exploring the intersections of nature, technology and indigenous folklore. This past March, the band stepped their avant-garde game up with a nine-song visual album, Esperando el Tsunami (Waiting for the Tsunami). Directed by globetrotting French filmmaker Vincent Moon (perhaps best known for his innovative music videos for Arcade Fire, REM and Mogwai), the album follows Lulacruza across remote regions of Colombia as they search for the roots of local music (think: a Spanish-language version of Bela Fleck’s Throw Down Your Heart).

In May the duo released what Ortiz calls their most intimate album to date, Orcas, a collection of songs about the vulnerability of falling in love: with yourself, with someone else, with traditions, with the land you call home.

Ortiz says that this album, as with all of their work, is meant to be experienced, not just heard.

“It’s something that can be felt with the body. We work to do that — to have the bass hit your heart and create rumbles that move stuff in your uterus and things that flow down into the earth and bird calls that make a higher vortex in the body resonate,” Ortiz says. “I feel people receive it with their whole bodies, so when there’s a big sound system it can really be felt and transformational experiences happen because it’s received with the body … Many times people don’t understand the lyrics and there are a few good stories of people who make it halfway through the concert and realize they don’t speak Spanish … but they were tuning into the vibration.”

ON THE BILL: Lalacruza — with David Last. 8 p.m. Thursday Aug. 6, Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place, 2027 13th St., 303-449-0120. Tickets are $10-$15 on a sliding scale, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1863444.

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