Let us be blunt: Ecuadorian music producer Nicola Cruz has offered one of the year's most gripping and unique efforts this young year so far with Siku. Searching deeply into cultures both native to his homeland and worldwide, Cruz crafted an emotional, complex blend of music for his sophomore, and breakthrough, record.

You haven't heard electronic music sound quite like this. I linked up with Cruz via email for a chat about his intoxicating concoction, delving into the many influences and concepts running through Siku, leaping past a bit of a language barrier to learn about the Andean origins of his music, and much more.


So, as a total outsider to your culture, as (I’d imagine) are many of your listeners, could you speak about your local tradition, whether it be Andean or anything else that’s important to you?

Ecuador, where I grew up, is a humble place. A country that’s fed by its grounds and nature. This region tells stories of migration and conquest, being a country that’s equally divided in coastal, jungle and andean regions. Tales and traditions combine mysticism of the pacific, amazon and andean mountains, merging lots of different etnias.

Again being an ignorant outsider, forgive me, but I think of Hinduism as being largely an Asian tradition, does it have an important place in your local culture, or is it something you more personally explored?

Not at all, in fact Hinduism could be quite far from South American practices in some way. However, we are not so different so different after all, it all comes from the same essence. That is what triggered this personal exploration of other cultures.

How have these things informed your music?

Well, getting to know other places, other cultures has deeply enriched my musical knowledge of course. Just the experience of hearing street musicians perform anywhere around while traveling, is very refreshing to my ears. Sometimes - it will be first introduction to many genres or instruments I haven’t had the chance to check out or see live before. That experience is one things that’s informed my music, but picture taking that experience to the studio with a local musician, and really having time to dig into harmonies, feelings, instrumentation; it’s quite special.

How has cosmology in particular spoke to you and your music?

I’ve always been an observer, living in a place like Ecuador where you can appreciate certain phenomena of planetary movement – it’s unavoidable not to be fascinated by astronomy. In fact, coming back to the traditions question, paying close attention to these calendars is a very important thing here. You might want to plant on the new moon…

On that note, would you consider your music to be mystical in origin? How so?

I do consider it to be mystical, as that is how I approach it. There’s this blend that I look for in music, where it’s neither happy nor sad. It’s right in this middle point where it resembles this colour of light when the day changes to night and vice versa here in the Ecuador. Those brief 10 minutes of change describe the feeling I search with my music. Transitionary.

Could you explain the origins and importance of the siku for those unfamiliar?

Siku is an Andean tradition, that celebrates inclusivity, we are different but complementary. It also alludes to the Andean wind instrument, played together as a troop.

So, one of the primary goals of Siku, from what I understand, is to not only take inspiration from your own local and historical culture, but from others worldwide. Were there any particular locations you looked to?

Exactly. In this case I think those places where Brazil, Japan, Portugal, Thailand, Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia.

On that note, you collaborated with artists worldwide, who are some you’d like to discuss? / How did you go about linking up with these differing voices? (You should totally collab with Park Jiha!)

Well there was a nice and spontaneous connection with all the collaborators. I met them along the road, in unusual situations. We had no idea we were going to compose a song, however few words were needed. All was connection through sound, Siku once again.

Would love to check out Park Jiha!

How did you go about melding the traditional instruments and aspects with current electronic ideas? It made for a brilliant blend.

Since I come from a traditional music production and engineering background, where you have the big studio and equipment, I’m used to recording lots of more ‘conventional’ instruments, therefore my approach to my music has always been blending these two worlds: the more conventional one, and the electronics / sound design.

How would you say this album is linked to Prender el Alma?

The same guy did both!:)

Contrarily, how do the two contrast/differ?

Prender el Alma explores opening up consciousness and identifying that awareness as a main difference for human beings.

Siku is more of a journey outside the individual, which convokes fire and drums, external manifestations.

How do you go about finding native/local music itself to use within your own recordings? Is this more from native instruments, rhythm, traditions - what has been most important on your journey?

I record a lot with local musicians, we’ve been around for a while so there’s a good disposition to work. On the other hand, if I want to sample something, I look for it in records, I love collecting and I feel sampling is huge part of electronic music.

What have you yourself been listening to?

Modular music, exotica, Balearic music, trance, and African music.

What was the last great book you read? Why did it speak to you?

Meditaciones de Marco Aurelio, recommended by a friend.

A nice dose of stoicism.

What are your hopes this year / with this album?

I just let it float freely.

Have you already begun working on your next piece of work? Either way, what new places would you like to take your music next?

New pieces on the way yes. I think I’ll make music on an island next.


Grab Siku over on Cruz's Bandcamp here!