Chakachas ‎– 1972 ‎– Jungle Fever

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chakachas jungle fever lp front

Any music fan that digs the Latin music sounds of the 1970s from late pachuco soul to Latin funk and disco and salsa, or, any serious fan of sampledelia in hip-hop circles knows the single “Jungle Fever” by Chakachas.

It was a truly infamous hit in the United States in 1971 and 1972, mainly for the moaning, breathy, sexual overtones of its female vocalist (though there are some male grunts in the mix too) but it was also beat crazy. The band that created this smash, were, to all but hardcore music connoisseurs, virtually unknown. That’s OK, its record company at the time Polydor, wanted it that way. That’s because this group from Belgium was almost completely white, made up nearly entirely of Northern European men (with the notable exception being vocalist Kari Kenton who was of Cuban origin), most were either Dutch or Belgian.

Tracks
A1 Chica Chica Bau Bau 3:45
A2 Un Rayo Del Sol 2:45
A3 Cha Ka Cha 2:15
A4 Latin Can Can 3:55
A5 Yo Soy Cubano 2:37
A6 Eso Es El Amor 2:50
B1 Harlem Nocturne 3:25
B2 Ay Mulata 3:00
B3 El Canyon Rojo 8:32
B4 El Rico Son 3:10
B5 Jungle Fever 4:20

chakachas jungle fever lp back

AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

Chakachas have a curious history. Formed in the late ’50s by pianist Nico Gomez and percussionist Gaston Bogaert, they were imitators of the Latin sounds that were taking the world by storm at the time, from cha cha, to mambo to hybrid exotica to rhumba. They made records and seldom played outside Brussels or its environs. They disbanded in 1965 and Gomez began making his own albums (most are killer and are now very collectible), often using former bandmates as session players. Later in the decade, other groups from the region began making Latin-style recordings and making some headway in sales and in the press. The group’s producer, Roland Kluger, convinced all but Gomez to return and recorded the Jungle Fever LP, of which the title track was buried at the dead end of side two. Polydor nonetheless issued the cut as a single and the rest is history, except for one interesting fact: they understood the record would die if anybody knew this band was white. For an appearance at the Apollo, they hired a group of African-American men to impersonate the band on-stage. Since no known photos of the real Chakachas existed, they were in the clear.

chakachas - jungle fever original belgium lp front

Original Belgium 1970 Polydor front cover

The hit was a one-off, a fluke, but what a boon. It has had a steady life in the whisperings of DJs for the past three-plus decades and is oft-sampled in both dance music and hip-hop circles. As an album, Jungle Fever is a revelation. While their single is the stuff of legend, the album in some ways places it in its rightful place at the end of the disc. Dusty Groove, with their impeccable good taste as both a record store and as a label, reissued this baby on CD and let the rest of us in on the secret. This is one wild, unusual, infectious set of Latin funk with killer horns that play against the rhythms, in some cases, and vocals that seemingly come from Latin music’s past and are at odds with the more contemporary grooves being laid down by the band. According to the liners, this is because of Will Albimoor, the group’s arranger and new composer (mostly under the nom de plume Bill Ador). Though some songs remain from the Gomez repertoire, they have been radically altered in terms of contrapuntal polyrhythms, strange key signatures, and weird fills by the horns, vocals, and piano. And there are mad loads of drums; they are everywhere, breaking, slipping, twisting, turning, spiking and hovering about these tunes.

Checkout “Un Rayo del Sol,” for the great drum breaks, or the smooth vocals with the razor wire electric guitars and horns in “Cha Ka Cha“, with Sergio Mendes-like choruses blended with weird Latin soul cadences. “Yo Soy Cubano,” is as pure a rhumba as one is likely to hear anywhere — until the choruses — and one hears the odd harmonic structure written in between the guitar and piano. Then there’s the tough, barroom cha cha of “Ay Mulata” and the seamless, nearly psychedelic mambo-meets-samba that is “El Canyon Rojo,” with bits and pieces of a spaghetti western soundtrack thrown in just to stretch the listener’s brain a little further. This disc is not some insider avant-garde joke; there is no irony here. The playing is sincere, innovative, and breaks an intentional sweat. It’s no academic exercise made by studio hacks. It’s as accessible an early Latin-styled funk recording as one is likely to find. It’s only after repeated listens that the quark strangeness in its mix sets in, but that doesn’t detract from the listening — and dancing — experience. There is also a beautiful cha cha reading of Earle Hagen‘s classic standard “Harlem Nocturne” with a funky bassline and tight guitar break. Here again, the horns’ contrapuntal arrangement adds an even deeper element of mystery to the well-known noir-ish tune, while keeping it firmly in a danceable groove, especially in the middle eight. When one gets to the title track at the end, it’s almost superfluous; the set is so delightfully, joyous, sophisticated and hip, “Jungle Fever” is just some naughty, nasty, icing on this exotic cake.

As an album, Jungle Fever is singular, not only for its origins, but also for its achievement as music. Its endurance is well-deserved: this is a finger-popping, hip-twitching classic.


Enjoy Nico Gomez‘s masterpiece album “Ritual” in our back pages here.

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22 Comments
  • Remi
    Posted at 10:28h, 11 March 2016 Reply

    Well done again. Thanks.

  • rich
    Posted at 21:43h, 11 March 2016 Reply

    cant wait to hear it. thanx nikos

  • Goran
    Posted at 22:16h, 11 March 2016 Reply

    Delightful !!

  • DR
    Posted at 22:22h, 11 March 2016 Reply

    My Grandma Used To Play This Song All The Time.

  • Emil
    Posted at 23:17h, 11 March 2016 Reply

    Chakachas Belgian band from the 60, 70’s, deep grooves, love it !

  • T-Swift
    Posted at 00:08h, 12 March 2016 Reply

    Was looking for this all over the place….thanks man….nice grooves….didn’t even know they were white!

  • Brian
    Posted at 14:36h, 12 March 2016 Reply

    Ah yes, great memories of the early 70’s. ?

  • Aral
    Posted at 20:43h, 13 March 2016 Reply

    Just wonderful. Thanx

  • Gilberto
    Posted at 21:37h, 13 March 2016 Reply

    DAMN! This sounds beautiful! Thank you so much!

  • Mekster
    Posted at 05:00h, 14 March 2016 Reply

    This that hit!

  • Jimmy
    Posted at 12:46h, 14 March 2016 Reply

    Hot hot record. Such beautiful music thanks alot Nikos!

  • Dave
    Posted at 12:55h, 14 March 2016 Reply

    Tight group. Nino Gomez record that you posted is fantastic too.
    Excellent work guys.

  • Charles
    Posted at 17:51h, 14 March 2016 Reply

    Absolute stone classic album. Everybody should have this. Super share!

  • Colin
    Posted at 01:36h, 15 March 2016 Reply

    aighh,aighh,aighh!!!!

  • Valmont
    Posted at 10:18h, 15 March 2016 Reply

    Nice to get the long player – lookin forward to discovering the lesser known tracks on this album.
    Thanks FMS for keeping all these links alive.

  • H2O
    Posted at 19:52h, 15 March 2016 Reply

    Smooth to the groove.

  • Dallas
    Posted at 13:46h, 16 March 2016 Reply

    superbe musique merci

  • Roman
    Posted at 10:20h, 22 March 2016 Reply

    This is really great gemmm, and make me feel good listening.

  • Rea
    Posted at 20:23h, 22 March 2016 Reply

    This is the dopest blog ever. Being a youngblood, I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing to these cuts. I can’t thank u enough. Peace.

  • Jamal
    Posted at 14:36h, 23 March 2016 Reply

    pretty groovy! damn! gotta get this music

  • Coreen
    Posted at 21:31h, 23 March 2016 Reply

    awsmm song awsmm music
    ???

  • Barreiro
    Posted at 18:27h, 20 June 2016 Reply

    Was given this album for my 7th birthday in 1977 by a crazy neighbor lady- she wasn’t all there, I mean, who gives a 7 year old an album with a pic of chick with her pants half down? I think I cried when I heard the title track and put it away for 4 years.

    But I burned this album into my brain in the 80’s, And again the past 3 days… I fucking love it, thanks for this post.

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