Monday, February 9, 2009

Juaneco y su Combo

Chicha is a drink made of corn which is fermented in clay dishes, sometimes for days, and is drunk primarily by Peruvians in the Andes (the Incas).

Chicha is also a genre of music that is a blend of Cumbia and Surf Rock with some Psychedelic Rock sprinkled on the top. It was really popular in the year 1970.

If people like the Tropicalia band Os Mutantes and think there is a link to the whacky weird music of today's hot underground then they should really grab up some of the Juaneco y su Combo.

Juaneco what? There once was a man named Juan Wong Paredes who was born in the Amazon, in Pucallpa to be exact, and was also Chinese. Confused? Well, Juan jammed with his friends in proletarian bliss for many years. He then passed his band on to his son. It seems like a weird thing to do, but he was a Chinese guy from the Amazon so just go with it.

Juan Jr. developed Juan Sr.’s band into what is now known as Juaneco y su Combo which is one of the most uplifting, positive, spiritual and melodic bands I have ever laid ears on. Juaneco used the classic Cumbia instruments: bongos, timbales, cowbells and other percussion mixed with new Psychedelic Rock instruments like a Farfisa organ and Fender guitars with wah-wah, reverb and distortion effects. The end result is a raw, tropical, working class music that just feels so right when the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another important figure in Juaneco y su Combo was a man named Noe Fachin who was the band’s resident Roky Erickson (minus the electro-convulsive therapy). Noe was the “composer” of many of Juaneco’s best songs – El Brujo (The Wizard) and Vacilando Con Ayahuasca (Changing or alternating - vacillating - with Ayahuasca). He sang and played some of the best guitar I have ever heard. The Ayahuasca is a shamanistic brew that Noe was fond of. Juaneco related closely with the Shipibo tribe who used the brew to break on through to the other side. Ayahuasca gave Noe a deeper sense of psychedelic consciousness (insert didgeridoo sound here). The entire band dressed in indigenous garb with feathers and robes and spears! They had two or more female dancers on stage (or dirt clearing) at all times when they played. It was a complete vibe that this band brought, marinated in deep culture, meaningful in its lyrical content and solid in its musical contribution.

You can purchase the latest re-issue of Juaneco y su Combo’s music (sold now as Vol. 1 of Masters of Chicha) on the Barbes label out of Brooklyn. You can also learn to dance Chicha style if you really want to impress, well, I guess just me.

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