The Roots of CHICHA
November 5, 2007 9:34 PM   Subscribe

THE ROOTS OF CHICHA: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru "Borrowing the well-known cumbia rhythm from their Amazonian neighbor Colombia, enterprising Peruvian musicians grafted it on to indigenous styles with emerging rock ‘n’ roll from the United States. These cumbias amazonicas migrated to the capital of Lima and their music became known as chicha (named after a fermented corn drink made for centuries and drunk by the working class). The music compiled on The Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru is truly transcendent: instantly hummable melodies getting down with surf-rock wah-wah pedals, farfisa organs, moog synthesizers, and dirty electric guitars, all the while delivered with a raw sensuality and enthusiasm."
posted by vronsky (30 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
posted by vronsky at 9:39 PM on November 5, 2007

This is so goddamned cool.
posted by padraigin at 10:03 PM on November 5, 2007

Anybody else into Traffic Sound?

Who isn't?!?!?

(actually, a bit of an exaggeration. a friend went through a phase of collecting all kinds of weird & wonderful psychedelic bands for a while. Traffic Sound is a very familiar name, but I doubt i'd be able to pick them if i heard them...)
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:05 PM on November 5, 2007

Thanks for this vronsky, I was just getting out of my Afro-funk fixation and looking for something new, and Bam. Here it is!
posted by dhruva at 10:22 PM on November 5, 2007

A friend of my family founded an orphanage in Peru, a converted jungle lodge a few hours upriver from Iquitos, and I used to spend my summers there helping them get it going, and bringing clothes and supplies from the states. Weekends though I would go into Iquitos or occasionally fly to Lima. One thing I can say about Peruvian music, which almost always involves the pan flute, it only gets better after a few glasses of Pisco, or chicha or, ahem, some of the other local delicacies.
posted by vronsky at 10:50 PM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wow, thank you for posting this. I just spent the last three years working in various parts of rural Panama and the word 'chicha' there refers to sweetened fruit juices. The campesinos like to ferment them to make 'chicha fuerte'. It's so pervasive in small towns that the word is almost unescapable to anyone who gets off the beaten path. Heck, my dog is named Chicha.

Anyway, I am a lover of psychedelic music and a variety of 'tipico' music styles from central and south america too, so this really tops the cake.
posted by esome at 10:51 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by lumensimus at 11:38 PM on November 5, 2007

more on "chicha" via the now sadly defunct lit/culture blog Cup of Chicha

besides being my last name, is a South American drink of formented corn with many regional variations. One of the simplest and most appealing recipes I found online was for chicha morada, a "purple corn drink":


1 lb dried purple corn kernels
-and cobs
4 qt cold water
2 sticks cinnamon
6 whole cloves
2 star anise
1 pinches nutmeg
3/4 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
1 c fresh orange juice


Cover the corn with water in a large kettle. Add the cinnamon and cloves and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover the kettle and simmer 40 to 50 minutes, or until the corn has softened. Strain the liquid into another pot and discard the corn and spices. Dissolve the sugar into the hot liquid. Add the lemon and orange juices and taste for sweetness. Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve the drink, garnish with sliced fruit.

Chicha can also refer to an oriental tobacco pipe, or hookah. In Spain, it’s used to denote intellectual substance. Depending on where you are, Chicha is also a musical genre, a Disney character, a tropical wood, a grated coconut, an archeological site, a village, a nickname for a beloved, and a state of intoxication.
posted by vronsky at 11:42 PM on November 5, 2007

Anyway, I am a lover of psychedelic music and a variety of 'tipico' music styles from central and south america too, so this really tops the cake.

I assume you're already familiar with the Tropicália movement from Brazil, then?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:09 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Chicha can also refer to [...] a nickname for a beloved

Only if you want to be really corny, though.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:10 AM on November 6, 2007

Me gusta!
posted by algreer at 12:11 AM on November 6, 2007

Great stuff vronsky.

Here's one of my favourites from Juaneco: Ya se murió mi abuelo. All very amazonian, eating suri and drinking masato (which is similar to fermented chicha but made of manioc).
posted by nomis at 12:29 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Making bad puns Ubu?

that's a paddlin!
posted by vronsky at 12:32 AM on November 6, 2007

I'm such a dumbass I had no idea a cumbia was a rhythm until about five minutes ago. This would be in spite of owning Mingus's Cumbia and Jazz Fusion since, dunno, 1980 or so. Like with all the percussion and all that, and spending hours yacking with the tenor player on that disc.

Dumb as a rock sometimes.
posted by Wolof at 2:04 AM on November 6, 2007

oh! and there i was thinking, "ok, i can hear the jazz fusion, but the record company must have left kumbayah off this release & forgotten to change the sleeve..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:33 AM on November 6, 2007

Great wake-up music.

posted by Kattullus at 4:29 AM on November 6, 2007

WFMU, as expected, is all over this.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:39 AM on November 6, 2007

see also los mirlos



why is this suddenly cool?
posted by geos at 5:17 AM on November 6, 2007

Sweet. I'm downloading "Roots of Chicha" from emusic right now. Ah, the joy of legal mp3s.
posted by hupp at 5:26 AM on November 6, 2007

Although probably not as good as the homemade stuff, Chicha morada is bottled and can sometimes be found at your local grocer
posted by destro at 6:45 AM on November 6, 2007

Man, the music in that Youtube link is just mind-numbing. Almost makes me want to drink some corn booze.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:07 AM on November 6, 2007

Nice post, thankee.

Can we get some MP3 links? Another Traffic Sound fan here BTW.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:36 AM on November 6, 2007

The "peru" link has an mp3 stinky.
posted by vronsky at 9:27 AM on November 6, 2007

Great stuff!!

I've had a long fascination with the cumbia rhythm. I don't think its been used enough.
posted by vacapinta at 9:33 AM on November 6, 2007

Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru

My peabrain is completely blown. Latin cowboy on the finca surf music. The world is weird and wonderful. Love these cross-cultural mash-ups. Or in this case corn mash mash-up.

When I was a kid visiting Guatemala for the summer, I was told by The Grown-ups that chicha was made by women chewing the corn and spitting it into a bowl, where it fermented. My stomach rebelled at the thought of googling it before, to check out the truth..but your post inspired me to have the strength. Yup, urg. In fact the Spanish name comes from their word for "to spit" ("chichal").

Awesome, fascinating and surprising post.
posted by nickyskye at 10:45 AM on November 6, 2007

Chicha de Manzana ('apple') in Chile is made by women chewing and spitting up chewed apples, then letting them ferment.
posted by signal at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2007

yeh, i think enzymes in saliva can be beneficial in breaking down starches for the brewing process, although that shouldn't really apply to apples so much, which are already sugary & ripe for fermentation.

a similar process is traditionally used in fiji to prepare kava.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:03 PM on November 6, 2007

I missed this post until right now. Good stuff, vronsky!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:40 AM on November 7, 2007

It should be mentioned that you can see Chica Libre live every Monday at Barbes in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
posted by iamck at 7:40 AM on November 7, 2007

Thanks vronsky.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:22 AM on November 7, 2007

« Older Dust off that floppy   |   What would your phone do? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments