Various Artists

The Roots of Chicha 2: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru

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Chicha started in the '60s when the Indian population of the Peruvian Amazon discovered the Columbian pop music known as cumbia and American rock & roll. With cheap electric instruments, Peru's Amazon Indians started dance bands that blended the cumbia, with a beat that sounds a bit like ska, Andean folk tunes, and their own indigenous music. When the Indians moved to Lima, they brought chicha with them. Like Afro-Peruvian music, chicha was shunned by "polite" society and it didn't gain an international profile until Olivier Conan, owner of Barbés Records, discovered the music on a trip to Peru in 2006. He found bootleg chicha cassettes on the streets and finally tracked down the master tapes of several chicha labels that had gone bankrupt. He put out a compilation of tunes called Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru and started his own chicha band, Chicha Libre. Chicha isn't going to rule the world anytime soon, but the music caused a sensation in world music circles and Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru was praised by The New York Times, BBC, and other international publications. The Roots of Chicha, Vol. 2 continues to explore this hitherto unknown genre with 16 more mind-bending rave-ups cut between 1968 and 1981. The tunes are played on cheap, treble-heavy electric guitar using every effect then known with Tex-Mex-style Farfisa organs adding their psychedelic mayhem to rhythms based on indigenous styles that were unknown outside the Amazon. Los Destellos, led by guitarists Enrigue Delgado and Fernando Quiroz, added Cuban rhythms, classical music, surf, rock, and more to their chicha to create a highly influential style. "Constelación" shows off their dual-guitar style and some nice timbale work from an uncredited percussionist. "La Pastorcita" sounds closer to Mexican cumbia. It sports a catchy vocal hook and more intricate fretwork. Compay Quinto played in a style that sounds like Cuban surf rock. "El Diablo" was a big hit in 1976, probably due to the insanely catchy guitar work of bandleader Pancho Acousta. The band still performs to this day. "La Colegiala," by Los Illusionistas, may be familiar to American listeners because Nescafé used the tune for its commercials during the ‘80s. Its blend of chicha and Cuban rhythms mimics the popping of an electric percolator. Ranil y Su Conjunto Tropical also brings Cuban and other Caribbean flavors to chicha; "Mala Mujer" has a jazzy Cuban feel highlighted by wild percussion accents. The reverb-heavy sound of Los Shapis recalls early American rock. The band brought Andean folk music to the mix and was the first band to call the music chicha. "El Aquajal" is based on an Andean rhythm called huyano and the vocals are full of the ululating improvisations common to mountain music. Conan provides more info on the bands and chicha in general in the 24-page booklet enclosed in the package. The fact that an American liked chicha has led to a revival of the style in hipper Peruvian nightspots, although young Peruvians now call the music Peruvian cumbia. Even today, chicha is considered the music of the slums.

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