Chicha music is like the beverage it was named for — the fermented drink of choice in Bolivia and Peru, made from corn and saliva (yes, you read that correctly) for extra kick, though modern times require a more sanitary process. Chicha music (musica chicha) is the sound created by indigenous Peruvian mountain inhabitants who moved to more modern cities. It preserves the original Incan melody lines but adds electronics, cheesy keyboards and newfound cumbia beats — for extra kick.
This new release is from Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Chicha Libre, a band consisting of two Americans, two French dudes, a Venezuelan and a Mexican. That may be a far cry from Lima, but the musicians are masters of their craft and offer an ear-pleasing variety of Peruvian cumbia. The songs come off as revisionist yet inspired and updated when necessary, and the players preserve the music's elemental nature. Aside from that, it's a damn good listen and also music you can dance to.
Chicha Libre takes Peruvian highland melodies, called huaynos, and adds surf guitar, hints of psychedelia, cumbia beats and the cheesiest Farfisa you've never heard. Tunes are mostly instrumental, with some vocals coming as an afterthought. Standout songs are opener "La Plata", the catchy "Lupita en la Selva y el Doctor" (Lupe in the Jungle and the Doctor) and the sultry "L'Age d'Or." The band also includes an over-the-top cover of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."