Buh Records: the experimental music scene in Peru

Sunday, October 23, 2011 § 0

Buh Records: the experimental music scene in Peru

Manuel Vigo
September 22, 2011

Buh Records is an independent music label operating out of Lima, Peru. Luis Alvarado founded Buh Records in 2004. Since then, the label has focused on publishing experimental, psychedelic, industrial and noise music in limited edition CDs. Buh has distributed music from Peru, Italy, Spain and Japan, to name a few countries.

Recently, Luis completed a documentary about the experimental/noise scene in Lima: “Ruido Vulgar: Extremos sonoros en Lima” ('Vulgar Noise: Extreme Sounds in Lima'.)

Last week, I sat down with Luis at a café in Miraflores for an interview. Surrounded by the noise of passing busses - and Bryan Adams emanating from a nearby radio - we talked about the origins of Buh Records, the challenges of running an experimental music label and the future releases he has planed.

How did Buh Records start?

I started with concerts and things like that in 2000, more or less. I started a music magazine, called Autobus in 2004 or so. I launched Buh Records at the same time. It was an indie rock/alternative/underground magazine, and we had two issues at the time. I launched Buh Records to give away a CD with each magazine.

I did a couple compilation albums, with some indie stuff; it’s what was out there at the time.

The first record we put out was “Vamos a ser felices” (‘We’re going to be happy’); it was a compilation album with some lo-fi bands and others.

What was Buh’s aim from the start?

The idea of the label was to connect the local scene to the international experimental scene. With Internet and Facebook, this isn’t so difficult to access. It’s easy to do a split CD (a cd containing more than one artist) release these days.

A product’s quality is measured in its capacity to dialogue with other music scenes from abroad. I’m very interested in creating these links. I’ve done a lot of splits, with people from Japan, Spain, Italy. We’ve made these so people here find out about the things happening abroad, and people abroad can find out about our local scene.

Have you had any difficulties distributing music?

I distribute a lot through alternative stores. Clothing stores like La Pulga. I sell a lot through record fairs. Because these are CD-Rs it’s not like I can sell them in places like Phantom, Wong or Crisol. But then again, those aren’t the places I’m interested in reaching, because they’re not the places people go to look for this.

Are you worried about trying to reach a bigger audience, or do you think they’ll just arrive on their own terms?

I’m also a poet, and I always compare the poetry world to the experimental music world. You can’t pretend it’s something that is consumed massively; no one reads poetry. But I think that from a very small space you can do some big transformations, and I think poetry has always been like this.

I’m interested in leaving something like ‘germs’ behind and ‘infecting’ people. I know that when someone goes to one of my shows, they are aware that they’re going to something different.

Has Buh had a good reception?

Yes. I sell a lot online. There is a store in Italy that buys a lot of CDs. Last time they bought like 40 CDs. Several stores in New York sell our records. There is a store that specializes in noise and experimental music, American Tapes maybe; I can’t remember the name right now. I have a friend who lives there, so he drops off the CDs there.

We get some good reviews from abroad. It’s worked really well. It’s not like it’s made me a millionaire or anything, on the contrary I don’t think it has represented a significant source of income so far but it’s very rewarding.

I’ve noticed Buh Records doesn’t sell any MP3’s.

I’ve had several discussions about this. Sometimes I’ll send some mp3’s to some friends who live abroad.

I’m very interested in re-evaluating the physical product. I feel mp3’s have their pros and cons, but I don’t really believe in ‘net-labels.’ I believe more in record labels that are willing to lose a little more.

It has to hurt.

Yes, I can’t really trust it. It’s too easy, so generally there aren’t high standards. There are some ‘net-labels’ that do have high-standards and that I like, I can’t really generalize.

What I’m trying to say is that I really like artists that make an effort to make a physical release, you can tell the difference.

I read somewhere that one of your goals is to do a compilation album on vinyl. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It’s every record label’s dream. The problem is getting the vinyl shipped to Peru. I have a cost estimate and it didn’t seem too impossible. I plan on doing it for Buh Records’ 10-year anniversary, in 2014.

Tell us a little about Buh Fest.

It’s a music festival, from the label. A lot of people go. People know that they’re in for something very radical. People get to know each other; I sell some CDs. It’s a really cool environment. It’s growing pretty fast.

Sometimes someone stops by from abroad and I just organize something similar. In October a musician called Francisco Lopez is coming here. He’s from Spain, he does noise and industrial music. So I’m organizing something for that.

You’ve also done a documentary film on the experimental/noise scene in Lima.

Yes, it’s called “Ruido Vulgar: Extremos sonoros en Lima” ('Vulgar Noise: Extreme Sounds in Lima.') We filmed it in HD. It took two years to make. I studied audiovisual communication in college, and I’ve always wanted to do something related to that. I’ve always liked documenting things; so making a documentary just seemed like a logical conclusion.

There’s been a lot of noise in Lima, since the 80s, so I thought it would be interesting to do a genealogy of things no one had seen before; noise artists since 1988. It’s like a lost genealogy. I’ve interviewed everyone.

The official screening will be on October 9, in the Centro Cultural España.

What’s in store for the future of Buh Records?

I want to do more professional releases. I want to release more things. Make things work better. Get some more income to be able to do certain things. Do some 45’s on vinyl.

There are a lot of projects I have going on. Right now I’m working on a very important release, a compilation album of Spanish industrial/noise, with the most important artists from Spain from the 80s and today.

There will be more releases of artists from Mexico, Puerto Rico, some stuff from the U.S., a compilation from Argentina, a sound poetry compilation from Brazil. There’s a lot of stuff, but it will take some time.


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