This joyous afro-pop confection is the opening track on New York indie rock band Vampire Weekend's sophomore album Contra. The song was originally released as a free download on October 5, 2009 on the band's website.
Frontman Ezra Koenig explained what Horchata is for a European audience to the British musical publication, the NME: "It's always been one of my favourite drinks." he declared. "I don't know if you can find much Horchata in England, it's a sweet Mexican rice drink, usually served cold."
Koenig told The Sun December 11. 2009: "I actually wrote that song in New York and then took it on the road with us and worked on it. Horchata actually reminds me of New York as I drink it all the time back home but it's easier to get in New York than in California."
The percussionist on this track is a Brazilian named Mauro Refosco, who previously had been in David Byrne's band and later in 2009 joined Thom Yorke's solo outfit.
In the track-by-track production notes provided by the band, multi-instrumentalist/producer Rostam Batmanglij explained this song: "It opens with a harmonium drone like you might find in Bollywood music, Ezra's voice comes in with a kind of Buddy Holly echo, he's doubled by a Kalimba thumb piano, which is intertwined with his vocal melody—there's actually a few melodies going on at once—and a subby bass drum thumping, and then suddenly you get a deep house synth and a mass of our voices: me and Ezra and some womens' voices as well. And they're all soaked in this classic '80s reverb. One of the goal's for this record was to use vocals as a texture, as an instrument."
Koenig told the NME February 16, 2010: "'Horchata' was a melody that I'd had in my head going back to when I was a teacher - I remember singing it when I was fixing up my classroom. It took a long time to grow and become a proper song. We started recording it before we had finished writing it because we wanted to experiment with sounds and rhythms."