Chicha: An Ode to Peruvian Cumbia

Like this post? See my posts on salsa or reggaeton.

Chicha is Peruvian cumbia and it’s addictive. However, many Peruvians hate it. It’s seen as lower-class. But it’s gaining popularity compared to a generation ago.

The horns are the key that differentiates salsa, cumbia, and other Latin music from gringo music. Once you come to love the horns, you’ll be addicted too.

Another difference is the theme of the lyrics. Read my post about Love in Latin America to understand why they’re more romantic. Each of my selected songs below are about love except the last two.

Grupo 5 “Motor y Motivo”

This meat-and-potatoes track by Grupo 5 is a good warm-up.

When some of Grupo 5’s popular songs play in the club, everybody sings along. Other singalongs by Grupo 5 include El Embrujo and Te Vas.

Hermanos Yaipen “Tendría Que Llorar Por Tí”

Another popular singalong, from Hermanos Yaipen. Their other hits include Ojala que te mueras and A llorar a otra parte.

Grupo Nectar “Arbolito”

This is a classic track from Grupo Nectar, who only achieved popularity after most of them died in a tragic bus crash.

I understand how I could think this song is corny if I’d have grown up hearing it. Lyrics with translations:

Aquel arbolito donde está escrito
tu nombre y el mio, tu nombre y el mio

That tree, where it’s written …
Your name and mine, your name and mine …

Papillon “Triste Payaso”

The passion in this anthem has made it a mainstay. A catchy, solid orchestra backing up and romantic lyrics tell the story better than me. Note the song’s written about a lost girlfriend, but sung in a woman’s voice.

No hay licor que me ayude a saciar mi dolor…

There’s no booze that can ease my pain…

No hay mujer que me ayude a olvidar este amor…

There’s no woman to help me forget this love…

Estoy llorando, estoy sufriendo, ella se fue…

I’m crying, I’m suffering, she left…

Llevo la vida de un triste payaso que rie por fuera y llora por dentro…

I live the life of a sad clown who smiles outside and cries inside.

Mis amigos me ven sonreir pero no saben que estoy destrozado de amor…

My friends see me smile but don’t know I’m destroyed from love…

Esa es mi vida, así vivo yo, así muero yo…

That’s my life, that’s how I live, that’s how I die…

Mi rostro sonrie y mientras mi alma llora su lamento de amor …

My face smiles while my soul mourns its love loss…


Dilbert Aguilar “Vuela Palomita”

Dilbert Aguilar is my favorite example of raw vocal power, some of the best singing to come out of Peru.

Armonia 10 “La Ricotona”

This is a party song. Chorus lyrics translated:

La Ricotona ya comenzó a pegar
con este ritmo que te pone a gozar
pa’ que toda mi gente lo baile sin parar
pa’ que toda mi gente goce en todo lugar

La Ricotona has started to hit
with this rhythm that makes you hot
to all my people, dance without stop
so all my people  have it everywhere

(Some of this stuff is hard to translate, so leave it in a comment if you have a better translation)

Orquesta Papillon “El Guzano”

Another party song with versions in Mexican and other cumbias.



  1. Grupo 5 is great. Much more traditional than the Kumbia Kings. Mexicans like cumbia as well. It is great party music and everbody– kids to grandparents can dance to it. Thanks, I will be listtening to those guys. As far as intense love. As an Irish-American I have extreme difficulty sharing my emotions with any other person. I was raised that it was a sign of weakness and 4 years in the USMC cemented that into my psyche. However if I am at a party and hear either “Danny Boy”, Volver, or “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues I cry like a baby.


  2. Slightly off topic..

    Sexually frustrated in Latin America?

    Just tell me..

    Is it a case of virgins or whores there?

    …and nothing in the middle..

    I would be curious to know coz I am considering moving there.




  3. virgin or whores?


    dunno. are you frustrated.

    I love cumbia.

    peruano al corazon 🙂

    you should move back dude. I am sure I’ll end up in arequipa, algund dia sere characato con mas que mi pasaporte arequipeño jaja


  4. “Sexually-frustrated” was put into my tagline purely for marketing purposes to get people to click through to my blog. i do talk about sex a lot so i don’t think i’m being dishonest.

    To answer your question, you’ll be spoiled with loads of sex if that’s what you want. You can get quantity or quality; I’m currently focused on the latter.

    If you do move to Latin America, please don’t write like you did in that comment. I’m trying to mix in with these folks while also making them competitive, competent people to be leaders in capitalism. They don’t need encouragement in their awful writing skills.


  5. I am a huge fan of Peruvian cumbia. My favorites are the bands from Northern Peru: The Yaipén family bands (Grupo 5, Hermanos Yaipén and Orchesta Candela), Armonia 10 and Agua Marina.

    Many of the songs you listed on this page aren’t really “chicha” though. Chicha is the Peruvian cumbia from the 70s and 80s with the typical electric guitar sound, like Chacalon, etc.

    Bands like Grupo 5, Armonia 10, etc. play real cumbia which is similar to Mexican or Colombian cumbia (but without the accordeon), not chicha.

    Currently the most popular style of Peruvian cumbia is the so called “cumbia sanjuanera” (Corazón Serrano and similar bands) which was influenced by Ecuadorian “sanjuanito” music and sounds more similar to true chicha.


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