Chicha Libre plays a mixture of latin rhythms, surf and psychedelic pop inspired by Peruvian music from Lima and the Amazon. The Brooklyn collective is made up of French, American, Venezuelan and Mexican musicians who mix up covers of Peruvian Chicha with original compositions in French, Spanish and English, re-interpretation of 1970s pop classics as well as cumbia versions of pieces by the likes of Erik Satie, Love and Richard Wagner.
The group draws its personnel from Barbes regulars Bebe Eiffel, One Ring Zero and Las Rubias del norte. Chicha is originally 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 late 60's in the Peruvian Amazon. Cumbias amazonicas, as they were first called, were loosely inspired by Colombian accordion-driven cumbias but soon incorporated the distinctive sounds of Andean melodies, some Cuban son, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers.
While Chicha Libre’s repertoire has evolved somewhat from the Peruvian canon, the sound and approach are completely indebted to the Peruvian 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.
Chicha Libre has performed around the world, including Turkey, The UK, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, the US, Canada and, of course, Peru. They have showcased at WOMEX, in Copenhagen, and Globalfest, in NYC.
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, The Skatalites, Frente Cumbiero and the Orchestre Poly-rythmo de Cotonou.
Chicha Libre's music has been featured in the TV show Weeds and a Simpsons 20th anniversary special in which they were asked to play the Simpsons theme "chicha" style alongside the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers 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. Their first CD, Sonido Amazonico, is available from Barbès Records in North America, Crammed Disc in Europe and Random Records in South America.
Their follow up Album, Canibalismo, is out on Crammed Discs/Barbès Records.
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