reviewed by Michael Thomas
To dive into the world of Ramon Chicharron is to expose yourself to a bunch of stuff you’ll probably never hear about in the Canadian music scene. The name “chicharron” comes from “chicha” (an Andean fermented drink) and “ron” (Caribbean fermented alcohol). Chicharron sings in Spanish and his music is inspired by cumbia and champeta, but with Afro-Caribbean and psychedelic influences mixed in.
But even if your Spanish-language skills and your knowledge of Colombian music styles are non-existent, it won’t mean you appreciate Merecumbé any less. The album is nothing less than joyous, even when Chicharron is singing about less-than-happy topics. It’s an album to dance to, an album in which to lose yourself in the rhythms.
Opener “Los Monos Están Berracos” is a perfect encapsulation of everything mentioned above. The thirty-second song intro slowly builds in a number of sounds, from tropical guitar to Latin percussion, and when Chicharron begins to sing, everything comes together. The song mentions monkeys continually chattering at humans over the destruction of their homes, and it’s pretty obvious this is a metaphor. “Nena Tú Tienes” starts with more psychedelic sounds before mixing in the Latin rhythms. It’s a more traditional love song, at one point talking about love as train without brakes. You can really feel the Latin dance influences in the title track, and the lyrics even mention seeing someone dancing.
The softer side of the album has songs like “Cosita Linda,” another love song, with more relaxed Spanish guitar and gentle percussion. “Dame Tu Querer” also feels relaxed, but that’s only on the surface. The song is actually quite political, as Chicharron sings about a politician using his office to enrich himself while shafting the people he’s meant to serve.
There’s a final sense of duality on “Me Fui De Mi Terra.” The title translates to “I left my home” and it’s a song about moving into new surroundings, backed by Chicharron’s beautiful Latin rhythms.
Chicharron apparently composed a lot of this album alone in a Costa Rican jungle, so perhaps intense isolation among beauty might make something else as incredible as Merecumbé.
Top Track: “Los Monos Están Berracos”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*