After getting its inspiration from exotic strains of cumbia from the nether hemisphere and writing an album’s worth of mostly original material (on last year’s’Canibalismo) Chicha Libre turns its attention to some classic songs from the Anglophone world.
The band applies its psychedelic chicha template to The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton,” Arthur Lee & Love’s “Alone Again Or,” The Simpsons’ theme song as well as a classic Chicha from Peruvian band Los Shapis.
Chicha Libre is a Brooklyn- based collective which count members from Mexico, France, Venezuela and the US. Most of them spent their formative years somewhere between Anglo Rock and Latin Tropicalia. Cuatro Tigres is their way to link both parts of their brain.
Chicha was a Peruvian form of cumbia, itself the most popular – and often most populist – of all South American rhythms. In the 1970’s, Peruvian musicians took their cues from Colombian dance music and their own Amazonian and mountain traditions, but also from British and Californian psych rock. Chicha musicians favored electric guitars with wah pedals and fuzztone and worshipped Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix – and Willie Colon.
With Cuatro Tigres, Chicha Libre is closing a loop – using a sound that was shaped by Peruvian tropical music to pay tribute to its own rockero roots – and to some of its personal heroes:
– The Clash, who started mixing up global influences before the expression World Music was coined and empowered an entire generation of musicians to stretch the traditional notion of Rock.
– Arthur Lee’s Love, which is still one of the greatest example of psychedelic sophistication, one that has endured and seems more relevant than ever.
– Los Shapis, who were something like the Beatles of Chicha, complete with dozens of hits, stadium filled with screaming fans and goofy movies. On a trip to Peru, Chicha Libre was fortunate enough to spend time with Los Shapis who also joined them on stage for a few songs. “Rica Chicha” was the first song to use the name of the new genre.
And if anything bridges the pop culture of North and South America, it’s probably The Simpsons, which is as popular in Argentina, as it is in Oregon. When the producers of The Simpsons 20th anniversary special asked Chicha Libre to perform the Simpsons theme “chicha” style alongside the likes of Red Hot Chili Pepper and ZZ Top, they were too happy to oblige.
The front cover was designed by Elliot Tupac, a Peruvian artist whose posters and murals can be found on the walls of every neighborhood in Lima. Elliot is credited with perfecting a Chicha graphic style which has come to represent Peruvian urban culture. His work has been shown all over Latin America.
And then, Cuatro Tigres? Why the name, you might ask? Mostly, because it is more that Tres Tigres, the Spanish language tongue twister. Or maybe because those four songs are the kind of tigers Chicha Libre likes to put in their tank. Or possibly because Olivier Conan plays the Cuatro.
1. The Guns of Brixton (Strummer, Jones, Headon, Simonon)
2. Rica Chicha (Jaime Moreyra)
1. Alone Again Or (Brian Maclean)
2. La Danza de los Simpsons (Danny Elfman)
Produced by Olivier Conan and Joshua Camp
Mixed by Bryce Goggin at Trout Recording
Cover art by Elliot Tupac