Even a couple of years ago, I had no idea of the existence of Peruvian Cumbia music. That shows what a big beautiful world we live in; there’s always something new to find, even a whole genre you were completely ignorant of!
Peruvian Cumbia, or Chicha, is a sort of deeply Latin, Reggae-esque, psychedelic jam. Drawing from traditional Columbian Cumbia, it incorporates modern ideas from surf rock and traditional Peruvian musical styles from the Andes to the Amazon. There’s not a lot like it, as a far as I know. It’s very much a unique output from Peru.
“Lamento Del Yacuruna” by Los Wemblers is typical of old school Chicha, with its fast, psychedelic guitar picking, intense Latin percussion, and a bassline that sounds very much like early Jamaican Ska.
The guitar drives much the song, but the energy of the drums will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever heard music from places like Cuba. It’s unmistakably Latin, but also, cosmopolitan modern music taking inspiration from around the globe.
The song was released in 1975, when the Peruvian Cumbia sound had developed and become established, but Los Wembler’s De Iquitos had played a foundational part in the creation of the music in the decade before.
Iquitos is a very isolated Peruvian city near the Amazon, and this is where “Los Wemblers” are from. The band is formed of 5 brothers, who still play today.
The song’s name is interesting. It means “Lament of the Yacuruna”, with the Yacurunu being mythical people-like beings who live underwater in the Amazon river. It’s fascinating how the indigenous culture of Peru is transmitted through music like this.
What a great little jam!