At the end of the 70’s a revolutionary movement arose in the highlands of Peru. (the shining path) They were taking action in small towns and cities around the mountains causing a lot of damage and violence in those already forgotten lands. People in such places scared and in need of finding a more comfortable future, set on a journey towards the big richer cities in the coast. Masses found themselves looking to settle down in the surroundings of cities like Lima, in the desert. The so called “pueblos jovenes” were born and with it came an explosion in the city’s demography and a substantial social and cultural change.
And music of course couldn’t be left behind. In Andean culture, music is the main way to communicate and express feelings and opinions rather than written word and plastic arts, so when the world of the “sierra” joined the seaside, a whole musical world appeared. It was the mixture, or the adaptation of the small town culture and folklore to the more modern and western ways that gave birth to the new sounds. The combinations of waynos (typical music from the mountains) with more tropical sounds, electric guitars and technology summed up to become Chicha (referring to an alcoholic beverage made from corn, popular in rural areas) music.
I’m going to take one band as an example: Los Shapis. Julio Simeon (aka Chapulín el Dulce) in vocals and Jaime Moreira on guitars joined in 1981 and became the first known chicha band. The tropical rhythms taken mostly from cumbia and keyboard backgrounds set the base for really melodic guitar riffs, taken from the Andean tradition played with different effects mostly echoed and deep, that are one of the trademarks of Los Shapis and in general chicha’s sound. The lyrics are often referring to sorrow, love catastrophes, and the struggling difficulties of being poor. Sung melodically yet in a suffered tone makes me think of chicha as the Latin American, high-land blues.
Moreira and Chapulín "el dulce" holding chicha galsses
The music in general is pretty upbeat, very danceable, and almost psychedelic but what I find most interesting about it is how it perfectly portraits all those new suburbs of Lima and cities in the coast. Reminds me of houses rising up from the dust, old buses, big roads and colorful imagery under the gray sky of Lima. It is an incomprehensible mixture of joy and sorrow, it is the suffering and the pleasure of being taken by the rhythm and just move, dance drink and forget we were born in a turbulent and impossible to understand country.
Los Shapis’s discography is somehow inexistent as there are not real albums edited until the 00’s when they rejoined but just a large number of singles and hits released. What I am about to post is an excerpt from a movie made in 1986 about them called “En El Mundo De Los Pobres” (In the World of the poor)
I have too decided to share a compilation of songs. To download, click here
Los Shapis - En El Mundo De Los Pobres - El Aguajal
Los Shapis - La Novia