If you’ve never heard of chicha music, you’re kinda missing out. It’s a genre that developed in Peru in the 60s and 70s. It fuses bits of traditional Colombian cumbia with elements of surf-rock, psychedelia, and indigenous Andean music. And, most likely, it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. There are some modern groups here in the States that want to change that, and one of them just happens to make their home right here in Austin.
Chicha takes its name from the mildly alcoholic, corn-based drink popular in the hinterlands of the Andes. In the 60s workers flooded into cities like Lima, and brought with them their traditional sounds and rhythms. The music stewed in the big city. Electric guitars (with pedal-board accoutrement like wah-wahs and fuzz-boxes), farfisas and, eventually, synthesizers replaced traditional instruments. Cumbia, rock, surf and psychedelia also influenced the sound, and you get tunes like (a personal favorite) “Muchachita del Oriente” care of Los Mirlos (hope you can read Spanish). There were many others, with names like Los Destellos, Los Hijos del Sol, Juaneco Y Su Combo, and Los Diablos Rojos.
Chicha remained popular into the 90s, but today it’s getting a renaissance here in the U.S. thanks to a few groups that know a far out tune when they hear it. Three of them are hosting what they’re billing as the first-ever “Chicha Summit” this weekend with a show tonight at Houston’s Continental Club, and Saturday night here in Austin at the Flamingo Cantina. The groups are Chicha Libre from Brooklyn (who also just happen to be playing Studio 1A today), Chicha Dust from Tucson, and Austin’s own Money Chicha, one of the latest bands in Adrian Quesada’s Latin galaxy of stars. Money Chicha stopped by Studio 1A themselves a few weeks back. To get you in the chicha mood for tomorrow’s show, today’s song of the day is “Chicha Negra,” the first tune the performed in their 1A session. We hope we’ve whetted your appetite for all things chicha.