Mambo Loco

85191One of the best parts of going to any new city, here or wherever, is finding the record shops, and spending an afternoon having a good nose around the vinyl therein. My trip to Spain this time round was a little disappointing in most of the cities I visited – there were invariably record shops in each place but nothing very special.

Madrid was again the massive exception, with at least five absolutely belting record establishments, where I spent rather too much. My favourite of all of these was a place called Discos Babel, looked after by a very friendly and helpful feller whose English was thankfully better than my Spanish. I remember it from my previous visit to the city and last time, I bought just the one record (Uruguayan beat sensations, The Mockers, as you’re asking). This time the damage was a little heavier.

I’m still investigating the Vainica Doble record I found there, and a couple of other things but currently occupying the (sadly virtual) turntable at our house was this great little compilation from AnalogAfrica, not exactly a crate-diggers bargain, but a scorcher nonetheless…

Aníbal Velásquez y su Conjunto

a3951239925_16Aníbal Velásquez is, I gather, your genuine Colombian living legend, with a 60 year career behind, which began in the 50s. He reached a bit of a peak in the 60s having founded his own conjunto with brothers Juan and Jose, playing what I think of as Cumbia, but seems to have a number of other names to them that know these things. He has a reputation as an innovator and a number of instruments have been revived (or even created) under his auspices. Not least of these, is the accordion itself:

“When I started to play the accordion, the instrument was not very popular – it had not become a main part of Costeño culture, and it was considered a second class instrument – a bit foreign and awkward”

CS388341-01B-BIGSince those days, despite the gradual decline in interest in Cumbia, his own reputation has actually grown, playing in and gradually becoming the star turn in various local and national festivals. His stature even appears to have withstood a 19-year period of self-imposed exile in Venezuela.

The record is a wonderfully jittery one, easily as clangy and shouty as the Aliboria record in the last post, each track parading its own stroppy but catchy rhythm which won’t be denied.

Watch this video about the making of the title track, Mambo Loco:


As you can see there’s a right old troop of bangers, tingers and scrapers furiously doing their thing, with the man himself struggling to be heard over the racquet. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s damn hard to sit still.

It’s not all about the rhythm, though, the keys and at times guitar work weave carefully in and out of the rhythms behind them. Velásquez’s muscular finger work is pretty impressive too. I love the sound of the accordion, full stop; partly because it does still sound foreign and awkward (even cheesy at times), but I think the man does have a glorious driving style of his own. By now in his eighties, he’s still something of a local celebrity in Baranquilla and still performs live.

I bet he’s great.


downloadBeen looking around for something modern I liked from Latin America. There’s a few western-sounding bands around, all sounding pretty good but not exactly Latin. Here’s something though…

Anarkia Tropikal

Anarchy Tropical are a Chilean band of ne’er-do-wells, who, if the YouTube clips are anything to go by, seem to be having an immoderate amount of fun arsing around with punk and Chicha rhythms. Wheedling farfisa sounds and impossibly brittle Chicha guitars, wind themselves around off-beats and loping Cumbia bass lines, wrapped in by the all-encompassing rhythms of what looks to me like a man playing a cheese-grater but which is of course the merengue staple rhythm instrument, the guiro (as any fule know…)

Listen to the crazed, high spirits of “Ayahuasca”, and you’ll get an idea of how exciting a mixture it is:

This track appears to be free to download from their SoundCloud page along with the whole of 2013’s “La Verganza de los Brujos”, an album chockfull of witches, wah-wah and Cumbia zombies. It must be a helluva experience seeing this lot on stage. I’ve seen them billed as “anarcho-cumbia” and once you’ve seen the clips, it’s hard to argue with that…



Oh go on! Here’s another – their tribute to the Mirlos:


What’s My Name?

Chicha+Libre+chicha_libreI kinda think I should be over all this, by now. Probably need to hear some skinny white guys playing Stooges covers soon…

Chicha Libre

Chicha Libre are a Brooklyn band fronted by a Frenchman , called Olivier Conan, who founded the Barbes label and was the brains (and the curiosity) behind the Roots of Cumbia collections that I’ve been playing to death these weeks.

I’ve just bought their most recent record, Canibalismo, which is a suitably goofy collection of Chicha rhythms, surf / wah-wah guitars and dubby effects. Think of Conan as a French/Peruvian Joe Meek (or maybe just watch this:)

There’s also a terrific interview with Conan, here, which includes a video section as well. It’s well worth a read.

And here’s a live session, at KUTX in Austin:

Rotan las estrellas y suena tambo…

Cumbia Soundway(OK, that’s a best guess…)

I feel that life is passing me by… No Green Man this year (best weather ever…). No End of the Road. A gaggle of pals at Psychfest. Nothing to post on this Blog…

Ho Hum

Actually, one of the reasons I’ve not posted anything for … oh absolutely ages, is that I continue to be enchanted by the sounds of Cumbia. And you can’t keep posting YouTube links to Peruvian songs from the past… You’d’ve thought, wouldn’t you?

I’m currently wading neck-high through the Amazonian currents of Soundway’s 55-track (yes…!) compilation, put together by dance producer Will “Quantic” Holland, which is rather grandly titled “The Original Sound of Cumbia: The History of Colombian Cumbia & Porro As Told By The Phonograph 1948 – 79”.

It’s fabulous, much more traditional than the previous Chicha records I’ve been enjoying, and conspicuously unsullied by the wah wah…

I had hoped to link to a mix Soundway have posted on Soundcloud, but the site is particularly obstinate (is it just me?), so until Soundcloud sort themselves out, this’ll have to do…

Pasión Oriental

destellosCan’t shake this damn chicha bug, buzzing around my brain…

Los Destellos

Los Destellos (the Twinkles) are credited with starting the whole Peruvian Cumbia ball rolling, although ace guitarist Enrique Delgado Montes is actually the man who gave this whole new thing its unique buzz.

The first track (not a real video I’m afraid) is my absolute favourite off the Vampisoul Cumbia Beat compilation I’ve just acquired. It’s a corker, Peruvian surf guitars a-go-go!


Then there’s this clip from the nineties showing a rather cuddly, bespectacled shopkeeper-type tentatively wielding his guitar who surely can’t be the same psych-Chicha fiend?

(Until you see his fingers on the fretboard, that is…)

Messing Around with Ayahuesca




Hold on there! No work for me today! A day of unbridled hedonism awaits. Stand back, it could get messy (but don’t worry, I’ve put out the polythene sheets, Dexter style, no one will ever know…)

Actually I’ve already taken the dog and the boy up to the woods for a run, and listened to the first disk of the fantastic freakbeat comp “Real Life Permanent Dreams”. I’m hoping to get onto listening to the recording I made of Saturday’s British Sea Power gig, but for now it’s all about the Chicha…

Juaneco y Su Combo

Juaneco was in real life Amazonian Juan Wong Pololizio who took over his father’s pick-up band in the sixties, and re-branded them a “combo” in the style of the day. They quickly became the Peruvian Ventures (try Googling that…!), taking locally-sourced toons and frying them up with wah-wah guitars and farfisa organ sounds. At first listen they’re a little cheesy, but at the time I’d guess they were pretty wild and new to the South American public.juaneco-coleccion%2Bde%2Boro

I gather where Juaneco and his Combo were doing something a bit different is in the way they took what would’ve been brass riffs and translating them into Noe Fachin’s spiky and intelligent guitar sound, and Juaneco’s own meandering, reedy organ. Fachin was known locally as “The Witch Doctor” because of his wild lifestyle and enthusiastic consumption of local psychedelic, ayahuasca.

Tragically, five members of the band, including the Witch Doctor himself, died in a classic rock and roll plan crash in 1976, leaving Juaneco to recruit a new band and plough on. (See here for a proper history…)

I can find no videos of the band online, (although there are a few of latter day Juaneco y Su Combo line-ups, now led by Juaneco’s son), so I’ll go with these two clips, the first of which, Me Robaron Mi Runamula, intersperses photos of the Combo with various Peruvian ladies in exotic costumes. (Lovers of Calexico will certainly recognise a few reference points, here…):


The second clip, their best known tune, Vacilando con Ayahuesca, is a slower, more sinister version than the one on the Barbes Records’ collection, Masters of Chicha, I got from Emusic (which I can heartily recommend, btw):

Return of the Cumbia


We’ve just come back from a very pleasant couple of days motoring around mid Wales, plodding up hill and down dale, drinking and eating lavishly (ish) and pottering around charming market towns, and all of it to the lumbering, overpowering soundtrack of more Peruvian Cumbia.

DJ Chorizo Funk

The cd hogging the player for most of the time was one burned from a belting mixtape from some feller calling himself DJ Chorizo Funk (I know, I know, but bear with me…). I think the mix was put together to celebrate the reopening of a club called Peligrosa in Austin, but I’m way out of my comfort zone here. It’s a terrific mix of razor-sharp brass riffs, reedy organ sounds, and plaintive calls from the heart in half-intelligible Spanish, all of it glued together with the goofy bumpety-bump rhythms of Cumbia.

And it’s free to download. (Yes!)




I was at the rugby a fortnight ago with my pal, Martin, who not unreasonably asked me if I’d heard anything good recently. Inexplicably, I was taken by surprise and muttered some incoherent nonsense about Cumbia – I think I even trotted out some predictable rubbish about “summer sounds” and it being “irresistible”.


My cack-handed inarticulacy has bugged the hell out of me ever since, and I’ve spent more than a few quiet moments in the days since composing the sort of beguiling testimony that the sparkling players of Columbia and Peru deserve.

I hope he asks me again…