Cumbia was born in the steamy expanses of the Magdalena River delta in Colombia’s Caribbean coast, an almost mythical intermixing of indigenous instruments and African rhythms that would go on to become one of the most emblematic musical genres of Latin America. From the barrios of Monterrey to the villas miseria of Buenos Aires, each city, country, and region of the continent has put its own unique spin on the classic sound.
And out of these dozens of regional variations, few have had the lasting impact of Peru’s own psychedelic Andean twist on the genre, known as chicha. As part of Native Instruments’ ongoing audiovisual exploration of global bass movements, Tropical Frequencies, the Berlin-based digital audio powerhouse has put Peruvian chicha under the spotlight in a series of enlightening mini-docs. The latest installment, “A Brief History of Peruvian Cumbia,” peels back the chicha label to explore the regional and cultural diversity swimming underneath the surface.
From the Spanish-inflected guitar tradition of música criolla, to the indigenous huayno melodies of the Andes, this video shows that chicha is less a fixed genre, and more like the sum of Peru’s stunning regional diversity. The doc’s brief journey through this musical panorama is complemented by interviews with Bareto – one of the genre’s most visible 21st century heirs – who reflect on the political implications of bringing this emblematic working-class sound back to the mainstream.
Of course, the whole five-minute affair is driven along by the twangy guitars and slinky rhythms of Peruvian cumbia, which makes for an especially lively crash course that you’ll probably want to watch more than once.