Friday, January 14, 2011

All the Cumbias: P is for Peru

In the 60s and beyond, Cumbia travelled all over the Americas, but Peru fast became one of the most important cumbia nations. There, cumbia combined with Cuban music, tradtional Andean huayno, psycadelic rock, and surf sounds, among other influences, to make a sound that really is unlike any other. The accordion and horn parts were replaced by effect-laden guitars and Farfisa organs, and the chord progressions changed to reflect pentatonic Andean aesthetics.

In the late 60s, early 70s, the sound was cumbia peruana, and it mostly was being made by people in Lima and in the cities of the Amazon. Then, around the mid 70s, Andean influences became stronger and the music became known (somewhat derogatorily) as chicha, the name of a fermented corn drink from the sierras. Many of the new bands, like Los Shapis, were from the highlands, or the children of highland migrants to Lima.

On our shores, the greatest exponent of this music has been Olivier Conan, who runs a beautiful bar and music venue in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Barbes. Olivier was kind enough to curate a list of his “Top 7 Chicha Songs” for us. Without further ado:


Los Destellos – Elsa

"Enrique Delgado's Los Destellos is the grand daddy of all Peruvian Cumbia. Elsa, one of his better kown songs, is sung by Felix Martinez, whose own band, Los Girasoles is another peruvian cumbia great."

Manzanita - Arre caballito

"The other great guitarist responsible for giving Peruvian Cumbia its original, national identity. This is his most famous song."

Juaneco - Vacilando con ayahuasca

"The originators of the Amazonian sound. Guitarist Noe Fachin wrote this song under the influence of the indigenous hallucinogenic. He died a few years later in a plane crash, along with most of the band."

Los Mirlos -Sonido amazonico

"The other great Amazonian band, although they were based in Lima.  Their influence reached Colombia and Argentina. This song, however, was written by Los Wemblers, another great Amazonian band from Iquitos."

Grupo Celeste - Viento

"In the mid 70's, Victor Casahuaman's grupo Celeste introduced a harder, more rocking sound, which became the template most of Chicha bands used after him. With this song, he also introduced singer Chacalon, who went on to become el faraon de la chicha."

Los Hijos del Sol – CariƱito

"Angel Rosado's Los Hijos del Sol was often steeped in Andean folklore but they also liked to play with echo and tape slap-back. This song is now part of the repertoire of a lot of folkloric bands."

Los Shapis - -El Aguajal

"Probably the most successful  band of  the golden age of Chicha. El Aguajal, their first hit, is a traditional Huayno sang in a distinctive highland style, as opposed to the more tropical style of earlier bands. The video is taken from their beatles-like film, los Shapis en el mundo de los pobres."
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