The Chakachas – “Jungle Fever”


Who are the Chakachas?

The Chakachas were a group of studio musicians based in Belgium, first appearing the in the 1950s playing Latin soul and jazz, with some European music thrown in. The band was formed by Gaston Bogaert and started out in the late 1950s. They scored some Belgian hits such as the #1 “Eso es el amor”, “Rebekka”, and “Twist Twist” which broke into the UK charts (at #48) in 1962. But the Chakachas were known for their lone American hit, “Jungle Fever,” which was a Top 10-charting, million-selling single in 1972. They also recorded by their alternate name Los Chicles.

The formation of the Chakachas

You could say that the Chakachas may be a cosmopolitan sort of a band. They were active from the 1950s to the 1980s. They played Latin American and R&B stuff, but the band was actually from Belgium. They were a group of studio musicians formed by arranger Gaston Bogaert, who was also the band’s leader and percussionist. Bogaert had been a sometime member of Los Juano Boengs and the Continentals. The Chakachas’ lineup was rounded off by Kari Kenton (Tito Puente’s wife who sang and played maracas), Vic Ingeveldt (saxophone), Charlie Lots (trumpet), Christian Marc (piano), Henri Breyre (guitar and backing vocals) and Bill Raymond (bass guitar). They were also alternatively known as “Les Chakachas” or “Los Chakachas.”

The Chakachas were formed in Brussels, sometime in 1958. They played and recorded a spirited, whimsical combination of Latin music, R&B, soul, jazz, and exotica delivered in European style. In that same year where Chakachas was formed, the group scored a chart-topping smash in Belgium, the Spanish-language “Eso es el amor.”

The Chakachas’ first hit outside Belgium

In 1959 The Chakachas recorded a track called “Rebecca,” (or “Rebekka”) which was featured in the critically-renowned film The Battle of Algiers. Their first hit outside Belgium occurred in 1962, when their single “Twist, Twist” which occupied a #48 position on the UK singles chart. The single’s composers were credited only as written by “Pagano, Loti, Modinez.”

“Jungle Fever” – the Chakachas’ only Stateside hit

The Chakachas issued many recordings, but it was not until about ten years later that they would achieve their biggest and most successful chart hit. It was “Jungle Fever,” which was created by songwriter Bill Ador. The track was a stop-and-go funk instrumental, interrupted by heavy, orgasmic female moans and breathing that made the whole thing a bit more sounding pornographic.

Not surprisingly, in the UK “Jungle Fever” charted considerably lower at #29 because the song was eventually banned from airplay by the BBC. However, in the United States it was top 10 pop smash, at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked at #11 on the US R&B singles chart. It was the first and only time that the Chakachas figured on the US charts.

The influence and impact of “Jungle Fever”

“Jungle Fever” has grown to be popular on its own through the years, eclipsing the disco era and even the group who performed it. This has been still popular at several dance clubs, and was also featured in 1997 film Boogie Nights. “Jungle Fever” has also widely been sampled as well by a lot of artists such as 2 Live Crew, Ambassador, Antoinette, Beatnuts, CEO, Public Enemy, and others. The song was also included in the 2004 soundtrack album Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

The Chakachas’ later history is admittedly difficult to track. They also recorded under the name of El Chicles or Los Chicles, and backed up a Belgian orchestrator by the stage name of Nico Gomez. The Chakachas remained active until the 1980s.

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