Brooklyn’s Chicha Libre keeps it retro. The sextet led by French expat Olivier Conan plays original, classic, and re-imagined compositions of its psychedelic Peruvian cumbia namesake (chicha) sung in Spanish, English and French. Conan formed Chicha Libre in 2007 after first listening to the hypnotic Andean dance music in Peru two years earlier. The electric surf guitar-driven variation of Colombian cumbia, which itself is named after a maize-based Incan liquor, first became popular in the Andean nation in the '60s and '70s but has experienced a recent renaissance and resurgence.
Bandmates Conan (cuatro and vocalist), Joshua Camp (keyboards), Karina Colis (percussion), Nicholas Cudahy (bass), Vincent Douglas (guitar) and Neil Ochoa (percussion) released the group’s first album, Sonido Amazónico, in 2008 and readies its follow-up, Canibalismo, which is slated to drop in May.
Watch the trippy music video for Chicha Libre's song “Popcorn Andino” below and download Chicha Libre’s reworking of Vivaldi’s “Spring“ -- called “Primavera en la Selva” (“Spring in the Jungle”) -- above.
Conan says the song exemplifies Chicha Libre’s debut LP: “Primavera showcases our cannibalizing instincts -- a mixture of western classical music -- the theme to Vivaldi's spring, but played in minor and arranged in the Amazonian cumbia style. I think it sums us up.”
Chicha Libre performs at Barbes every Monday night.