Peruvian cumbia

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Peruvian cumbia or Chicha is a subgenre of Cumbia that became popular in the coastal cities of Peru, mainly in Lima in the 1960s through the fusion of local versions of the original Colombian genre, traditional highland huayno, and rock music, particularly surf rock and psychedelic rock. The term Chicha is more frequently used for the pre-1990s variations of the subgenre.

Unlike other styles of cumbia, the Chicha subgenre's harmonics are based on the pentatonic scale typical of Andean music. It is played with keyboards or synthesizers and up to three electric guitars that can play simultaneous melodies, an element derived from the harp and guitar lines of Andean huayno. The rhythmic electric guitar in chicha is played with upstrokes, following patterns derived from Peruvian coastal Creole Waltz. Chicha songs contain electric guitar solos, following the rock music tradition.

Origins and development[edit]

Chicha started out in the 1960s in the oil-boom cities of the Peruvian Amazon. Loosely inspired by Colombian cumbia, it incorporated the distinctive pentatonic scales of Andean melodies, Cuban percussion, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, wah-wah pedals and moog synthesizers. Chicha absorbed elements of the music of the Amazonian regions of Peru and the use of the Farfisa electric organ through Amazonian bands like Juaneco y su Combo. Chicha, which is named after a corn-based liquor favored by the Incas, quickly spread to Lima. It became the music of choice of the mostly indigenous new migrant population. By the mid-1980s it had become the most widespread urban music in Peru.

The first Chicha hit, and the song from which the movement has taken its name, was "La Chichera" (The Chicha Seller) by Los Demonios del Mantaro (The Devils of Mantaro), who hailed from the central highlands of Junin. Band Los Destellos, formed in Lima en 1966, brought electric guitars to Chicha and consolidated its characteristic features by integrating in it elements of Peruvian Andean folklore, Peruvian Creole Waltz, Cuban music and Rock music.

During the 1980s the Amerindian immigrants to coastal cities that nurtured the subgenre became working and middle class individuals and a market for Chicha commercial radio. The Pharaoh of Cumbia, Chacalon, became one of the most popular Chicha artists through his hit "Soy provinciano" (I am from the province) and vibrant concerts. Another famous band in the 1980s were Los Shapis, a provincial group established by their 1981 hit "El Aguajal" (The Swamp), a version of a traditional huayno.

The strong influence of Mexican tecnocumbia became evident on the evolution of Peruvian cumbia in the 1990s. Efforts by Argentina-based Grupo Néctar and others gave it regional recognition. Its decline during the late 1990s was followed by a revival that began in 2007, mainly thanks to the rising popularity of Tongo. To the Andean, Northern, Amazonian and Central varieties of Chicha, a Romantic one was added, influenced by new songwriters, romantic Salsa music and romantic Latin ballads.

Lyrics[edit]

While most lyrics are about love in all its aspects, nearly all songs reveal an aspect of the harshness of the Amerindian experience - displacement, hardship, loneliness and exploitation. Many songs relate to the great majority of people who have to make a living selling their labour and goods in the unofficial "informal economy", ever threatened by the police.

Los Shapis' standard "El Ambulante" (The Street Seller) opens with a reference to the rainbow colours of the Inca flag and the colour of the ponchos the people use to keep warm and transport their wares. "My flag is of the colours and the stamp of the rainbow / For Peru and America / Watch out or the police will take your bundle off you! / Aye, aye, aye, how sad it is to live / How sad it is to dream / I'm a street seller, I'm a proletarian / Selling shoes, selling food, selling jackets / I support my home."

Current exposure of all social classes of Peru to Chicha as well as a renovation in lyrical content, to include expressions of animation have led to its revival.

Musical instruments[edit]

Unlike traditional Cumbia from Colombia, Peruvian Chicha bands feature electric lead and rhythm guitars, electric bass, electric organ, electronic percussion and synthesizer. There are one or more vocalists who may simultaneously play percussion plus timbales and conga players. There are no accordions nor woodwinds.

Electric guitars make extensive use of the fuzzbox and the wah-wah pedal following the influence of psychedelic rock and surf rock in Chicha.

The influence of Salsa has seen the recent inclusion of wind instruments in some Peruvian cumbia bands.

External links[edit]