The Folklore of Psychedelic Cumbia and Chicha Music


Cumbia music inhabits some very special real estate in my heart.

At the sweet young age of nineteen, I dropped out of University to move to Mexico. I had no work visa, no income and a beginner's textbook understanding of the Spanish language - but none of that felt relevant.

I was smitten by something the locals call "Folklor Méxicano", that very unique and very distinct brand of Latin American culture only found in Mexico.

A big component of that is wrapped around a culture of music and dance that feels essential to Mexican existence. Every weekend villagers from the surrounding countryside would flock to the San Patricio disco to dance to cumbia, salsa, norteña and other regional musical genres. These dances and the music played on those weekend disco nights still inhabit some of my fondest memories.

Originating in the coastal regions of Colombia in the 1800's, cumbia music made it's way throughout Latin America, leaving a noticeably lasting impression in Mexico and Peru. Originally a working-class populist music, cumbia was frowned upon by the elites, but as the genre's popularity spread like wildfire, cumbia became a shared music in every sector of society. In the 1960's psychedelic cumbia and a distinctly Peruvian varietal chicha, emerged.

Years after returning to Canada I discovered the magic of psychedelic cumbia... and promptly fell madly and deeply in LOVE!

It embodied the same basic cumbia ingredients I knew and loved but also combined fuzz guitar, reverb and a heavy dose of 1960's American rock influence.

Folklore Mezcla #1 - Cumbias y Chichas Sicodélicas

This handpicked selection of psychedelic Latin American 'Discos Funetes' is the first of many folklore inspired mix-tapes to come in the "Folklore Mezcla" Spotify series. Enjoy this broad-sweeping collection containing cumbias and chichas from the 1950's - 1980's out of Colombia, Peru, and México.

A little more on the genre: "The Origins of Chicha", from Sounds and Colours

"Cumbia is a popular phenomenon borne out of the economically and socially disadvantaged, but where the gravitational forces that attracted musical creativity in 1960s rural Colombia were held together by folk tales, libido and an admiration for exuberant natural surroundings, the situation for the Peruvian chicheros in the harshness of the ungrateful city of Lima set the conditions for entirely different dynamics. The daily routine of an Andean migrant in the 1980s was determined by his ability to adapt to an alien and unfavourable economic system, amassing any skill and ceasing any opportunity he was presented with. In this scenario, musicians were often placed together not by long-time comradeship but by their need to play as often as possible, in as many bands as they could. This everyday struggle extended all the way to the top of this new industry. Juan Campos’ Horóscopo record label is the prime example of a success model made possible by sober hard work, dedication and a ‘Midas touch’, that took the man from car-repair technician to events organiser to producer and curator of a music scene that changed the pace and colour palette of a grey cityscape, exhausted by the fumes and noises of public buses and malfunctioning traffic lights." - Diego Hernandez