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The Roots of Chicha explores another little-known (outside of Peru) subgenre of global groove music: chicha, an infectious combination of Peruvian traditional music, Colombian cumbias and percussion-heavy Afro-Cuban grooves, all layered with psychedelic-tinged guitars and keyboards. Needless to say, this is music for dancing.

The 17 tracks by six different combos on The Roots of Chicha were all recorded in Peru between 1968 and 1978. The signs of the times are draped all over these tracks with surf- or raga-influenced or wah-wahed guitars, electric bass, cheesy organs and early synthesizers. But chicha is essentially percussion-based dance music, pulling heavily from Colombian cumbias and Cuban music. It is also good-time music, designed for working-class Peruvians to blow off steam after work and on weekends.

It's certainly good-natured and possibly a bit lascivious at times--I have no idea what all the heavy breathing is about on "Vacilando con Ayahuesca" by Juaneco y Su Combo, nor do I get all of the leering in "El Guapo" by Los Diablos Rojos, but it seems to be a pretty universal language they are speaking. Similarly, Los Hijos del Sol are literally whooping it up on the buoyant "Si Me Quieres," and Juaneco y Su Combo's "Me Robaron Mi Runa Mula" sounds like the soundtrack tune for a particularly silly South American spaghetti Western.

A welcome addition to the growing body of danceable global music now readily available, The Roots of Chicha is true world music, mixing the local with what was beamed in on the radio and sifted out of record bins.

More by Carl Hanni


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