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Chucha Santamaria y Usted don’t just have one of the longest names in the indie community, they back up those letters with musical heft. “Fiebre Tropical” clocks in at only 2:40, yet it more than justifies the length of their moniker. “Fiebre Tropical” is the first single from Chucha Santamaria y Usted’s self-titled debut mini LP, which the Austin boutique label Young Cubs released in June.
Though their sound encompasses that of an entire ensemble, Chucha Santamaria y Usted is just two people: Sofía Córdova and Matthew Kirkland. The duo hails from Oakland by way of Puerto Rico and New York City.
While it may not be obvious to the listener, “Fiebre Tropical” is about the arrival of Europeans to Puerto Rico in 1492, you know, that event that’s usually termed “discovery” by most insensitive textbooks and grammar school history teachers. Chucha Santamaria y Usted may be giving Christopher Columbus the metaphoric musical finger on this track – even their name seems to hints that perhaps they would not be out waving flags at their local Columbus day parade.
The song also shares its name with a live album by Cuban-American bandleader Chico O’Farrill. Not to make too much out of what is probably happenstance, but like Chucha Santamaria Y Usted, O’Farrill was a hybrid (Irish-German-Cuban) whose ability to blend Latin rhythms with bebop led him to work with some of the 20th centuries greatest musicians: Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Stan Getz.
Like O’Farrill’s music did a generation before, “Fiebre Tropical” intrigues because although its origins are diffuse, it succeeds in borrowing whatever it needs from wherever it likes.