The San Diego Union-Tribune, CD Review >>
While visiting Hungary as a teenager, I witnessed a Budapest jazz-funk band perform a spirited version of Herbie Hancock's “Chameleon.” Far more intriguing, though, was the rural Hungarian rock band I heard that covered Jackson Browne's “Doctor My Eyes” – in heavily accented phonetic English, with an Eastern European musical tinge Browne probably never imagined during even his most intense peyote trips.
My Hungarian sojourn came to mind while listening to “The Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru.” Born in Colombia, cumbia has been widely embraced in Latin America and beyond. Given the absence of any notable psychedelic Colombian cumbia bands, the prospect of hearing the six Peruvian groups featured here was hard to resist.
Nothing on “Chicha” is as wonderfully warped as the music of Brazil's Os Mutantes from the 1960s and 1970s. But these Peruvian songs, which are of a similar vintage and seem equally inspired by surf-rock, are enjoyable nonetheless. And you can still sense the wide-eyed joy of young Peruvian musicians experimenting with their first wah-wah pedals, Farfisa organs and muy primitive synthesizers.
What results fascinates on a sociological level (Chicha was dismissed as a music of the unwashed lower classes), and on a musical one (as Western and Third World traditions morphed into new hybrids). The outcome was markedly different from the Latin-rock of Santana, Malo and other California bands from the same period.
“Sacalo, Sacalo” by Diablos Rojas suggests what might have happened if Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs had grown up in an oil boomtown on the Amazon, while “Muchachita Del Oriente” by Los Mirlos has a Ventures-go-ska feel, by way of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western soundtrack.
Better yet is “Elisas” by Los Destellos, which provides a compelling answer to the question: How would Beethoven's “Fur Elise” sound with electric guitar, Latin percussion and an insistent clave rhythm? 10/18/07 >> go there