not often that a single release gets to kick-start a full-on revival of a
largely lost musical form, but such was the case with Barbes Records’ 2007
collection The Roots of Chicha. Largely dormant (and all but unknown to
the outside world) since it’s hey-day in Peru in the late 60s and 1970s, the
remarkable musical melting pot of chicha was given a lease on life and an
outpouring of universal acclaim thanks to Barbes Records’ Olivier Conan and his
passion for chicha.
you’re not already in the know, chicha is a Peruvian hybrid of South American
cumbias and other dance musics, native Andean and Amazonian music and
Afro-Cuban grooves, all filtered through the pipeline of American psychedelic
and surf music that wrapped around the word like a tie-dyed octopus in the
1960s and 70s. Hugely popular with the Peruvian working class and largely
eschewed by the upper classes and musical establishment of the time, chicha was
some of the most joyful, good-time music ever produced and provided the
soundtrack to who knows how many house parties, street dances and dance hall
blowouts of the time.
Records has done us all a big favor by issuing The Roots of Chicha 2,
which collects 11 bands and 16 tracks recorded between 1968 and 1981. The only
hold-over from Vol. 1 is chicha pioneers Los Destellos, featuring the legendary
guitar player Enrique Delgado, generally credited as being the grandfather of
chicha. Their track “Cumbia del Desierto” could serve as a chicha primer:
tightly constructed and perfectly syncopated, it creates instant atmosphere as
Delgado’s guitar skips, weaves and curls around a slippery, percussion
heavy beat. Elsewhere Manzanita y su Conjunto weigh with in w/three tracks,
including the spooky “Agua”and “Paga la Cuenta Sinverguenza” that features one
of the rare instances of a female vocal, and Los Wembler’s de Iquios provide
two numbers. Los Walkers, Los Illusionistas, Ranil y su Conjunto, the notorious
Chacalon ya la Nueva Crema and the rest all contribute top-shelf numbers.
Really, everything is completely outstanding, including the wonderful,
photo-studded liner notes and the bight orange cover, and you’d be hard pressed
to find a more vibrant, uplifting and danceable collection of songs anywhere.
DOWNLOAD: “Cumbia del Desierto,”
“Auga,” “Siboney,” “El Diablo,” “Lamento del Yacuruna,” CARL HANNI