Chicha Libre
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Chicha Libre


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The best kept secret in music


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Sonido Amazonico! Barbès Records



Chicha is the name of a corn-based liquor favored by the Incas in pre-colombian days. Chicha is also the name of a South American music craze which started out in the early 70's in the Peruvian Amazon.

Cumbias Amazonicas, as they were first called, were loosely inspired by Colombian accordion-driven cumbias but incorporated the distinctive pentatonic scales of Andean melodies, some Cuban son, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers.

Bands such as Los Mirlos, Juaneco y su Combo and Eusebio y su Banjo were playing an oddly post-modern combination of western psychedelia, Cuban and Colombian rhythms, national melodies and idiosyncratic inventions which were close in spirit to both the Congolese rumba of Franco and the pop syncretism of Os Mutantes.

The music was so fresh, so exciting and its appeal so effortlessly universal that it still seems strange that it never managed to find an international audience. Chicha Libre was started as a way to pay tribute to the music. The group includes musicians associated with the Brooklyn barbès scene (which is co owned by two of the musicians in the band: Olivier Conan and VIncent Douglas) and includes Keyboardist Joshua Camp, who is one half of lit-rock group One Ring Zero and plays an antiquated accordion/organ hybrid manufactured by Hohner called the Electravox; Olivier Conan (who also play with Las Rubias del Norte) on Cuatro and vocals; Bassist Nicholas Cudahy whose former band, Combustible Edison, knew a thing or two about pop syncretism; Guitarist Vincent Douglas (of bands Bébé Eiffel & The Humphries) and veteran percussionists Greg Burrows and Timothy Quigley who have played with way too many people from too many cultures to start name-dropping.

While Chicha Libre’s repertoire has evolved somewhat from the Amazonian canon, the sound and approach are completely indebted to the Amazonian bands it originally emulated. Like them, they use surf guitar, organ sounds and latin percussion to play a mixture of borrowed and homegrown sounds. The borrowings are somewhat different - classical music and pop debris from 3 continents in Chicha Libre's case – but the latin rhythms that form the basis of the music are both as close and as foreign to them as they were to the Shipibo Indians who first took up the electric guitar.