Chicha Libre / The Roots Of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias
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The Roots Of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru

Chicha Libre
ˇSonido cdrootsico!
both: Barbčs Records (

If globalization has any virtues, the ability to travel back in audible time and space may be one of the most enlightening. The oil boom that transformed the Peruvian cdroots beginning in the late 1960s generated massive social displacement, horrific work conditions, unbridled ecological damage, and the consumption of plenty of chicha (the indigenous Andean corn liquor). If the musical consequences were predictable, the mash-up sonic results were unique, recalling the cultural history of other regional working-class musics like ska, bachata, and kaiso.

The transistor radio's spread, labor migration, and the predatory drive for primitive capitalist accumulation also brought Colombian cumbias into a hybrid head-on with Peruvian criollo music, Afro-Cuban rhythms, airy pentatonic Andean tunes, northern psychedelia, Dick Dale surf guitars, tinny portable keyboards, and sundry electronic effects. The Roots Of Chicha presents 17 tropical bastard wonders by six of the era's most prolific cdrootsian chicha bands. Consider Los Destellos' Para Elisa for a mind-bending cumbia-fication of Beethoven's Für Elise, and Los Diablos Rojos' Sácalo, Sácalo, a frenetic guaracha that takes La Bamba through quantum leaps-the latter are still cracking some four decades later.

Lest the faithful mourn, any word of chicha's passing is happily premature, thanks not least to Barbčs Records (the house that brought forth Hazmat Modine) and Chicha Libre, gringo Brooklyn's contemporary shout-out to chicha antigua (roots chicha), purveyed via quirky instrumentation like the Venezuelan cuatro, a vintage Hohner Electravox (whose accordion-like appearance belies its purely electronic organ-like sound), and beaucoup Latin percussion. For good measure, ˇSonido cdrootsico! begins with the same eponymous Los Mirlos classic that opens Roots of Chicha, tapping the Farfisa-Moog-percussion groove that rocked the Peruvian cdroots way back when (although Los Mirlos, too, remain active today). From there, with Primavera en la selva (spring in the jungle) they launch into a nearly unrecognizable minor-key read of Vivaldi's analogous theme from The Four Seasons, parallel sonic surgery on Ravel's Pavane, and a smoky bolero interpretation of Satie's Gnossienne No. 1. Chicha Libre adds numerous original compositions, extending the chicha spirit to transnational audiences, with a good deal of wry amusement and eccentric revelation along the way. - Michael Stone

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