Chicha Libre is a Brooklyn collective made up of French, American, Venezuelan and Mexican musicians who play a mixture of Latin rhythms and psychedelia. Chicha refers to Peru’s particular brand of electric cumbia first made popular in the late ’60s in Lima and the Amazon. While loosely inspired by Colombian cumbia, chicha incorporated Peruvian melodies, psychedelic effects, some Cuban son and everything in between—an oddly post-modern combination that was close in spirit to the Congolese rumba of Franco or the pop syncretism of Os Mutantes.
While Chicha Libre’s new album, Canibalismo (out May 8, Barbès in the US and Crammed Disc worldwide) is inspired by the Peruvian Chicha explosion of the 70’s, it also looks back to the Cultural Cannibalism dear to Os Mutantes and other Brazilian tropicalists, and the production values of late 1960’s rock bands. The group still pays homage to amazonian legends Ranil and Los Mirlos, but mixes it up even more by combining mellotron and other vintage synths with African guitars, treated percussion, fuzztone and some R.D Burmans inspired arrangements.
Chicha Libre has performed around the world, including Turkey, The UK, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, the US, Canada and, of course, Peru. They have played in Los Angeles with guitarist Jose Carballo, of Chacalon y la Nueva Crema fame, in Lima with Los Shapis and in Berlin with Ranil, the legendary cumbiero from Iquitos. They have toured with Cambodian psych-band Dengue Fever and shared the stage with bands as varied as Brazilian Girls, Jovanotti, The Skatalites, Frente Cumbiero and the Orchestre Poly-rythmo de Cotonou. Chicha Libre’s music has been featured in the TV show Weeds and aSimpsons 20th anniversary special in which they were asked to play the Simpsons theme “chicha” style alongside the likes of Red Hot Chili Pepper and ZZ Top. They have also scored a Vaclav Havel play, which was performed at Colombia’s Miller theater in the author’s presence and two Charlie Chaplin films which they performed at NY’s prestigious Merkin Hall.
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