In This Mini-Doc, a Psychedelic Chicha Classic Gets a 21st Century Update

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The Amazon is a region incomprehensibly rich in natural resources, filled with frontier boomtowns that have grown up around the exploitation of everything from rubber to timber – and of course, petroleum. So it’s only fitting that the psychedelic cumbia sound born out of Peru’s Amazonian capital, Iquitos, would include an iconic ode to petroleum workers of the world, titled “La Danza del Petrolero.”

The latest mini-doc on Peruvian cumbia from Native Instruments takes us into an updated recording of this classic track, playing out in an unassuming Iquitos living room session that just so happens to unite two titans of the genre: Los Wemblers and Dengue Dengue Dengue.

Originally penned by Los Wemblers in the late 1960s, “La Danza del Petrolero” shouts out oil-pumping neighbors Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela before diving into a hypnotic refrain: “Esta es la danza del petrolero, de donde reina el oro negro.” Laid over a loping percussion section that clicks and chirps with the ebullient cacophony of a nocturnal rain forest, the lyrics are punctuated by chicha’s signature vocal ad libbing and the meandering guitar melodies that define the sound.

This time around, “La Danza” gets a digital update with a Native Instruments Maschine sitting in for the original percussion section, but otherwise the spirit of the track remains intact. Along the way, founding member Jair Sánchez reflects on the inspiration behind the song, and points out the differences between their version and Los Mirlos’ much more famous cover, recorded several years after the original.