One of our regular readers sent us this article about Los Wemblers from Iquitos. Recently they visited my home city of Cleveland, Ohio where they performed at the world renowned Cleveland Museum of Art.
Los Wembler’s, the legendary band from Iquitos, Peru, will be traveling to the U.S. for the first time. The five Sanchez Brothers who make up the band are Amazonian Cumbia pioneers who helped launch the Chicha explosion of the 1970s.
Los Wembler’s have only rarely left the Amazon and this is a unique opportunity to see them. The brothers are still faithful to their original sound, and haven’t lost a bit of their passion and enthusiasm. They will be performing an original repertoire that spans forty years and includes some of their hits, including “Sonidio Amazonico” and “Danza del Petrolero,” which were featured on the Roots of Chicha compilations released by Barbès Records.
About Los Wembler’s
In 1968, in Iquitos, the capital of the Peruvian Amazon, a certain Solomon Sanchez decided to form a band that would play an electric version of the music popular in the Amazon at the time—pandilla, carimbó, and of course, cumbia. Solomon enlisted his five sons and named the band Los Wembler’s. Using electric instruments came with a certain Anglo exoticism and in the middle of the Amazon, the name Los Wembler’s sounded exotic enough. It still does.
Los Wembler’s were started the same year as Los Destellos and Juaneco y su Combo, two other Peruvian cumbia pioneers who laid the foundation for what would become known as chicha.
Iquitos is the largest isolated city in the world. It boasts five hundred thousand inhabitants, but its closest road is six days away by boat. Still, the city has been the scene of a few invasions, among them the rubber boom of the turn of the 20th century and the oil boom of the 1960s. Despite its geographical isolation, Iquitos has always been open to the outside world. The Sanchez clan got its inspiration from AM radio broadcasts which would play music from Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, as well as America. All those influences found their ways into their music.
Iquitos had always been a party town and the new Petroleros needed to spend their petro-dollars. The band’s reputation grew quickly and they found themselves touring around the Amazon region, spreading their sound.
Los Wembler’s penned two of the early hits of the genre—“Sonido Amazonico,” which has become the unofficial anthem of Amazonian Cumbia, and “La Danza del Petrolero.” Both tunes were made famous by Los Mirlos, a band that took many of its clues from Los Wembler’s but being based in Lima, had much easier access to tastemakers and audiences and became the better known of the Amazonian bands.
From 1973 to 1979, Los Wembler’s recorded two to three albums a year but by the late 1970s, the band started slowing down. Their style was getting outdated; younger bands were using more synthesizers and processed guitar sounds. After Solomon died, the Sanchez brothers mostly stopped touring and recording—but they would still get together to play local functions and parties. In the past few years, there has been a renewed interest in their music and the band performed in Lima after a twenty-five year absence from the national scene.
And now, Los Wembler’s are bringing their Amazonian funk to the U.S. The Smithsonian Institute has invited the group to perform in Washington D.C. as part of its 2015 Folklife Festival.
©2015 Ben Gangloff
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