The Brooklyn Rebirth of Chicha

Chicha Libre: Sonido AmazonicoOlivier Conan didn’t go to Peru to find chicha; it found him. Conan was introduced to chicha — a style of Peruvian pop music derived from Colombian cumbias — by street vendors in Lima and was immediately hooked. Ignored by critics, art students, and the middle class, chicha was music for the poor and, as such, was largely ignored outside of Peru.

That is, until Conan returned to Brooklyn and formed Chicha Libre, whose debut album ¡Sonido Amazonico! was released today. The group plays a mixture of latin rhythms, surf music and psychedelic pop inspired by the chicha bands of the 1960s that borrowed sounds from rock and roll (electric guitars, organs) and combined them both with cumbia and traditional Amazonian music. In an interview, Conan describes how Chicha Libre pays homage to those progenitors:

“We imitated the sounds but took liberties. It has since evolved into a band with its own identity and borrowings from everywhere — in a way, it is faithful to the spirit of Chicha, which itself borrowed from all corners of the world. We’re just as syncretic and trying to be just as much fun.”

The band mixes covers of forgotten Chicha classics with French-tinged originals, re-interpretations of 70s pop classics as well as cumbia versions of pieces by Satie and Ravel. You can catch the six-piece group — which includes Joshua Camp (of One Ring Zero) on the Hohner Electravox — every Monday night in April at Olivier’s Brooklyn club, Barbès.

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