Due to the success of last year’s The Roots Of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru, Barbes Records is now releasing full album by the some of the groups included on that compilation. Juaneco Y Su Combo is not a household name, but it should be. Masters Of Chicha Vol.1 is a collection of the group’s work from when Juan Wong Jr. took over his father’s band in the late 60’s to the late 70’s. Juaneco Y Su Combo combined Cumbia, Peruvian Folk Music and Rock to create the sound that was later dubbed Chicha music.
The group was also known for their look as well as their sound. They dressed in traditional Shipibo costumes, a native tribe from their home in Pucallpa. Much like a country band dressing like cowboys, even if none of them are actually cowboys, Juaneco Y Su Combo dressed like the Shipibo as a way to show their pride in where they are from. The Shipibo influenced even the song subjects, as the group often wrote songs about life in the jungle.
There are two reasons why this band sounds so unique. First, when Juaneco took over his father’s band, he switched from playing the accordion to the Farfisa Organ, which gave the band that 60’s garage rock sound. The second was guitar player Noé Fachin, who was much older than the rest of the group. He came into the group with Brazilian and African music influences and soon became the main songwriter. Upon listening to the Juaneco Y Su Combo: Masters of Chicha disc, one knowledgeable enough will notice the Congolese guitar influence on Noé Fachin's guitar playing. They often covered Brazilian standards as well as the hit Cumbia and Rock songs of the day.
Noé Fachin, along with several other members of the group, died in a plane crash after a gig in 1977. The remaining surviving members, including Juan Wong Jr., who drove home after the gig rather than flying, decided to continue with the group. It was said that the group never sounded quite the same after that the death of Noé Fachin.
Juaneco Y Su Combo are still performing to this day. Juan Wong Jr. passed away in 2004 and his son, Mao Wong Lopez, has taken over the band, continuing the family tradition.
Among the standouts on this collection are “Recordando A Fachin” (Remembering Fachin), a song done by the post Fachin line-up with a wicked guitar solo; “El Agua Del Higueron” (The Water Of Higueron), which is an underground Cumbia classic; and the garage rockin’ “Dale Juaneco.” The only complaint I have with this release is that it includes six tracks that are also on the Roots Of Chicha compilation. I would have like to have heard other tracks. Nevertheless, it is another standout Chicha release. Hopefully Los Mirlos will be their next release.
Check out this video of the later version of the group-- it's fantastic! I would have loved to seen this group back in the day, but this is great.
Juaneco Y Su Combo: Masters of Chicha can be found at Amoeba Hollywood in our Peruvian section, located in the World Music Section.