Chicha Libre and the Brooklyn-Peru Connection

Bringing Lima's trippy underground sound to Park Slope

On Sunday afternoons, Lima's chicha massive has traditionally assembled by the tens of thousands in parks and empty parking lots known as chichodromos. The generation of pioneers heard on Roots of Chicha gave way to more mainstream bands like Los Shapis, the dapper counterparts to chicha's biggest '80s group, Chacalon y la Nueva Crema. Los Mirlos continue to perform in chicha's standard configuration of male musicians flanked by a pair of G-string-clad, booty-shaking dancers typically photographed from the ground up in many an entertaining YouTube clip. Chicha's third and most recent incarnation is tecnocumbia, whose (thus far) cheesy electronics broke in the Amazon before spreading rapidly through the country.

With DJs chopping/screwing the latest crop of Colombian cumbias, the chicha revival can't help but smack of nostalgia, although back in Brooklyn, Barbès is far from an Andean-Amazonica Social Club. So far, only a few dozen chicha fans can comfortably enjoy York's own chichodromo action at this divine hole in the wall, situated below a tanning salon and beside a decent patisserie (create your own metaphor) on an otherwise unremarkable Park Slope corner. There you'll find Chicha Libre—which consists of Conan (on the four-stringed Venezuelan cuatro), Vincent Douglas, One Ring Zero keyboardist Josh Camp (playing a mind-bending faux accordion called an Electrovox), former Combustible Edison bassist Nick Cudahy, and veteran percussionists Greg Burrows and Timothy Quigley—playing their franco-norteamericano chicha each Monday night. They cover chicha classics like Juaneco's "El Borrachito" ("The Drunk"), lay down class-struggle koans in originals like "The Hungry Song" ("I have no mother, I have no father/But I have coca, and I have cola"), and chicha-fy Satie, Ravel, and the Clash with equal syncretic fervor. Apart from some slightly goofy cowboy hats, the kitsch ends as soon as these honkies start to kick it some 3,600 miles north of Lima's bleak cityscape, with hardly less of an intoxicating effect than their jungle-boogie-ing predecessors.

Chicha Libre, more psychedelic than they look
Courtesy Barbès Records
Chicha Libre, more psychedelic than they look

Chicha Libre and Los Rubias del Norte play the ¡Sonido Amazonico! release party April 4 at Drom, dromnyc.com.

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