Various Artists – Cumbia Beat Vol. 1

January 01, 1970

(Vampi
Soul)

 

www.vampisoul.com

 

The
plethora of re-issues and re-issue labels in the last 10 + years has made clear
one truth that had previously been well known to record collectors, DJs and the
musically adventurous but largely off the radar of the world at large: the
explosion of rock & roll in the 1960s was truly world-wide, affecting
virtually every corner of the planet. From Thai, Russian and Australian surf
bands to Mexican, Cambodian and Turkish psychedelic acts, whatever spark The
Beatles struck set off a conflagration that ignited youth culture in a
universal flame. 

 

South
America got it bad, with Brazil, Columbia, Argentina, Chile, and other
countries instantly producing 100s (or more likely 1000) of acts mixing up
garage rock and psychedelic music with their own local and regional music and
whatever they were hearing on the radio from neighboring countries. Seemingly
overnight thousands of kids grabbed electric guitars and Farfisa organs and
jumped into the fray.

 

One
such hybrid that came out of Peru,
chicha, has been experiencing a well-deserved renaissance of recognition in a
the last few years. The roots of chicha go back to the 50s and the abundance of
orchestras and combos that came out of Columbia and Peru, playing successive
waves of mambo, guaguanco, merengue, cha cha cha and cumbia, eventually
blending in Afro-Cuban grooves, ska and rocksteady from Jamaica, various other
Carribbean blends and American soul, R&B, jazz and rock& roll. 

 

Although
a couple of tracks on Cumbia Beat Vol. 1  date back to 1966, including Los Demonios de
Corocochay’s “La Chicera” (named after a local liquor, it gave the new music
it’s moniker), chicha really took off in 1968 in an explosion of psychedelic
clothes, hair and culture, and especially the wide and varied use of the
electric guitar. The guitar – fuzzed out, wah wahed, reverbed, rapidly picked
and strummed, ubiquitous – and the use of organ and other amplified instruments
of rock & roll mixed and matched with all of the other available sounds of
the era became the calling card of chicha. The guitars on Cumbia Beat Vol. 1 are a guitar lovers dream and fun to track the influences of, including the
clean, precise picking of  jazz, the tremolo and reverb-drenched leads of
surf music, the dirtier fuzz of garage rock and psychedelia, and the shimmering
tones of African highlife. When mixed with the percussion heavy, surging
rhythms of cumbia and regional Andean musics, chicha became an instant dance
music phenomenon, picked up largely by the working classes in Peru, but also listened to across
class and geographical boundaries. 

 

Vampi
Soul’s double CD, 25 track collection Cumbia Beat Vol 1 is a sexy,
expansive companion to Barbes Records earlier Roots of Chicha CD from
2007. Featuring key tracks from chicha acts like Los Destellos (featuring the
pioneering chicha guitar player Enrique Delgado Montes), Los Beta 5, Silvestre
Montez y sus Guantanameros, Los Orientales de Paramonga, Manzinita y su
Conjunto, Los Mirlos and several others, it’s an impressive collection.
Energetic, guitar driven rave-ups like “Guajira Sicodelica” by innovators Los
Destellos, “Lobos al Escape” by Los Orientales de Paramonga and “La Jorobita”
by Los Beta 5 will be real eye openers to anyone unfamiliar with amazing
vitality of chicha. Los Beltons “Cumbia Pop” sounds like a Latin American Link
Wray. The tastefully psychedelic freakout of “Lamento de un Galax” by Los Galax
could only come from Peru,
from chicha. Every song is a ringer, there’s no filler.  Of special note
are Santiago Alfaro and Alfredo Villar’s wonderful, comprehensive liner notes
that puts chicha in it’s musical, cultural and political context. It’s also
beautifully packaged, with an eye-catching collection of band photos and album
cover art and an appropriately psychedelic cover. 

 

You
should listen closely. This is some of the most perfectly syncopated music ever
produced, and there’s incredible sophistication in the syncopation. It really
gets its groove on. The twenty-five tracks here are some of the most joyous,
positive music I’ve ever heard, and if some part of this music doesn’t get some
part of your body started you might have a problem. I hear there’s more. 

 

DOWNLOAD: “La Chichera,” “Lobos al
Escape,” “Guajira Sicodelica,” “Cumbia Pop,” 21 others. CARL HANNI

 

 

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