The Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

For a global music style to catch on with statesiders, it helps if the name rolls off the tongue and the backstory emphasizes party credentials. With that in mind, say the word chicha (“CHEE-chuh”) three times. Easy, isn’t it? The regulars at the Brooklyn boîte Barbès—where the band Chicha Libre gigs every Monday—will tell you that the South American rock style is just as simple to digest, though perhaps complicated to explain given its mouthful of influences. Chicha is named after a fermented corn drink popular with revelers in Peru, but unlike indigenous Peruvian rhythms such as festejos, the rest of chicha’s components were imported by Lima jammers in the ’70s. No small wonder that the sounds on the fine new comp The Roots of Chicha suggest space-age bachelor-pad music: The Cuban-inspired congas, surfy guitar tremolos and Farfisa organ are equal parts garage band and lounge lizard.

The element that kicks the synthesis into overdrive, though, is the injection of cumbias from neighboring Colombia. It’s the thing that turned the work of long-lost Peruvian bands like Juaneco y Su Combo and Los Diablos Rojos (just two of six bands spread over the comp’s 17 tracks) into bouncy polka with funk around the edges, and morphs the latter-day thrust of Chicha Libre into something akin to a hoedown. Simply put, psychedelia has never sounded so sun-drenched and festive.

—K. Leander Williams

Various artists (Barbès)