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Chicha Libre

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Some absolutely awesome Chicha here from this Brooklyn based band covering Pop Classic in this style.

Their interpretations are staggeringly sublime, just check these out:

And who better to school us on Chicha than the Barbes Label:

Chicha started out in the late 60’s, in the oil-boom cities of the Peruvian Amazon. Cumbias Amazonicas, as they were first known, were loosely inspired by Colombian cumbias but incorporated the distinctive pentatonic scales of Andean melodies, some Cuban guajiras, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, wah-wah pedals, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers.

Chicha, which is named after a corn-based liquor favored by the Incas, quickly spread to Lima. It became the music of choice of the mostly indigenous new migrant population – mixing even further with rock, Andean folklore and Peruvian creole music.

Very much like Jamaican Ska or Congolese Soukous, Chicha is western-influenced indigenous music geared toward the new urban masses who wholly identified with the new hybrid . Chicha is at once raw and sophisticated!

Here’s a freebie Latino Rock track from this awesome band:

Chicha Libre plays a mixture of latin rhythms, surf and psychedelic pop inspired by Peruvian music from Lima and the Amazon. The Brooklyn collective is made up of French, American, Venezuelan and Mexican musicians who mix up covers of Peruvian Chicha with original compositions in French, Spanish and English, re-interpretation of 70’s pop classics as well as cumbia versions of pieces by likes of Satie, Love and Wagner.Chicha is originally the name of a corn-based liquor favored by the Incas in pre-colombian days.

Chicha is also the name of Peru’s particular brand of cumbia first made popular in the late 60’s by bands such as Los Destellos, Manzanita, Los Mirlos and Juaneco y su Combo. While loosely inspired by Colombian accordion-driven cumbias, chicha incorporated the distinctive pentatonic scales of Andean melodies, some Cuban son, and the sounds of surf guitars, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers; an oddly post-modern combination of western psychedelia, Cuban and Colombian rhythms, national melodies and idiosyncratic inventions which were close in spirit to the Congolese rumba of Franco or the pop syncretism of Os Mutantes.

While Chicha Libre’s repertoire has evolved somewhat from the Peruvian canon, the sound and approach are completely indebted to the Peruvian bands it originally emulated. Like them, they use surf guitar, organ sounds and latin percussion to play a mixture of borrowed and homegrown sounds. The borrowings are somewhat different – classical music and pop debris from 3 continents in Chicha Libre’s case – but the latin rhythms that form the basis of the music are both as close and as foreign to them as they were to the Shipibo Indians who first took up the electric guitar.

Chicha Libre has performed around the world, including Turkey, The UK, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, the US, Canada and, of course, Peru. They have showcased at WOMEX, in Copenhagen, and Globalfest, in NYC. They have played in Los angeles with guitarist Jose Carballo, of Chacalon y la Nueva Crema fame, in Lima with Los Shapis and in Berlin with Ranil, the legendary cumbiero from Iquitos. They have toured with cambodian psych-band Dengue Fever and shared the stage with bands as varied as Brazilian Girls, The Skatalites, Frente Cumbiero and the Orchestre Poly-rythmo de Cotonou.

Chicha Libre’s music has been featured in the TV show Weeds and a Simpsons 20th anniversary special in which they were asked to play the Simpsons theme “chicha” style alongside the likes of Red Hot Chili Pepper and ZZ Top. They have also scored a Vaclav Havel play which was performed at Colombia’s Miller theater in the author’s presence and two Charlie Chaplin films which they performed at NY’s prestigious Merkin Hall. Their first CD, Sonido Amazonico, is available from Barbès Records in North America, Crammed Disc in Europe and Random Records in South America. Their follow up Album, Canibalismo, is out on Crammed Discs/Barbès Records.

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