tropical psychedelia

Conjunto Papa Upa

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A Retro Futuristic Afro-Caribbean Psychedelic Rhythm Machine. A joyous-sounding assault that takes you on a psychedelic journey with a possessed voodoo priest piloting a half-broken 1970’s Caribbean space ship, departing from the hot Venezuelan beach of Camuri Chico in order to land somewhere on the African continent along the borders between Angola and the Congo.

Conjunto Papa Upa is, first and foremost, the name of a grinding, pulsating, Amsterdam-based psychedelic dance band, which soars through the traditions of Latin music culture, incorporating Salsa, Afro-Latin and Caribbean rhythms. “Papa Upa” is also both a tune by the Cuban music legend and mambo innovator Arsenio Rodríguez and the name of a Venezuelan chewing gum that rotted kid’s teeth in previous decades.

This band sees Alex pursuing his musical heritage, the sounds of his Caracas youth, blaring from car radios, street parties, supermarkets, buses, his neighbour’s yard; the omnipresence of music in a big Latin city that powers the people of poorer neighbourhoods, who don’t have the luxury of aural privacy…

With Conjunto Papa Upa “groove is on top of the hierarchy”. There are no overblown psychedelic breakdowns, extended guitar solos or emotional sonatas; the band is all about rhythm, finding new ways to make legs, asses and arms move, and keeping the tension high. It is for this reason Papa Upa has touches of Brazilian and Angolan sounds too.

The astonishing thing is the band’s gritty sound (frenetic percussion, guitar, organ and bass) combines familiar elements people know and like in a way they have never heard (but will instantly freak out to): African and Caribbean rhythms, psychedelia, surf, samba, old school salsa, funk and sarcastic lyrics that cleverly portrait the complexity of the current socio-political situation in Venezuela.

The end result is an irresistibly danceable meld that manages to be vintage and futuristic, both scary and fun at the same time.

Their second album, Fruta Madura, will be released in July 2024 on Music With Soul Records. What the experts are saying: 

“Alex (Figueira) dove into this work with a brutal cohesion between lyrics and synths. Timbre poetry, sound poetry (you name it). And that, superimposed on his always impeccable percussive base, confirms the title of “avant-garde visionary of our beautiful Latin music”.” – EBLIS ALVAREZ (MERIDIAN BROTHERS)

“Papa Upa’s infectious quirkiness is a balm against boredom. A mature album, but without an expiration date”. – GLADYS PALMERA

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Francis de Souza



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