Cumbia is infinite, so we'll focus on a few of its manifestations. As Aurel Minulescu puts it in the description of the Trio Mercur Mexican Cumbia mixtape, the history of cumbia is a road map that takes you in a complicated serpentine-like journey not only over the Americas, but all around the geographical areas inhabited by Latin Americans. The sonic itinerary gets more nuanced once you look closer at the evolution and social impact that cumbia has had over the decades. Its birth is rooted in the end of 19th century Colombia, and was founded on the basis of the strong African percussion influences. Being considered as the music of uneducated people casted a shadow of stigma on the genre.
You see... if all is not yet cumbia, everything returns to cumbia. That's the way it's always been in the land of cowboys in northern Argentina. That's where Los Squicos Litoralenos can be found. They are a band raised on mate tea, chamamé folk music and Psilocybe Cubensis. As their wonderful label Hive Mind puts it, Los Siquicos were able to nurture their obsessions, hone their craft, and develop a singular style that takes the traditional chamamé folk music of rural Argentina. In this remote region, cut off from the fashions of the city, Los Siquicos were able to nurture their obsessions, hone their craft, and develop a singular style that takes the traditional chamamé folk music of rural Argentina, then throws it in a blender with Latin-American cumbia and chicha, the tropicalia of Os Mutantes and Tom Ze, the free music of Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, The Residents, UFO conspiracies, radical philosophy, and a strong dose of the absurd. The track is Los Ninos del Brasil, 2019.
Los Shapis from Peru play chicha, a style of cumbia played with surf guitars and psyched synths. Los Shapis sing about the studens in Peru, so I figure next we should another chicha from 1983 by Los Ovnis de Jorge Chambergo Porta.
Cumbia sonidera is a sub-genre born in the eighties and forged by DJs (called Sonideros) in the 90s. Though it may be the national music of Colombia (where salsa is actually the thing now), cumbia is the thing in Mexico. And by The Thing I mean it's huge, it's rough, it's the music of the poor and uneducated, it's stigmatised and ostracized, it's the music of the masses who come together in the tens of thousands at street parties powered by gigantic soundsystems. Everybody wants to dance to the bands next big hit and everybody wants to hear Un Saludo, that means their name shouted out through the speakers by the Sonidero.
Kumbia is the new Punk, that is the motto of Grupo Kual. Grupo Kual? was founded by Angel Pedraza of dinastia Pedraza in San Juan Aragon, Mexico City. Pedraza continues the legacy of his father and uncles who created Super Grupo Colombia in the 80s. We'll listen to their cover of Canita de Azucar by Afrosound, released on Discos Rolas in 2020.
Throughout the episode you will listen to a different brand of sexyness, the contemporary tropical music kind, with electronics, psychedelia, improv, metastories and showmanship. We have 3 pieces by 3 closely related bands who are part of an even bigger family: Meridian Brothers, Romperayo and Chupame El Dedo. Meridian Brothers was founded by musician Eblis Alvarez in Bogota, in 1998 and started realeasing music on various labels in 2006. Labels like Soundway, Les Disques Bongo Joe or Barbes Records. You will listen to La Policia from 2018. Eblis also plays in speed metal grindcore duo Chupame El Dedo, with percussionist extraordinaire Pedro Ojeda. Alvarez is responsible for the guitar, electronics, and baroque approach. They released the Chupame El Dedo EP in 2014 and the LP No Te Metas Con Satan in 2019. The third track is by Romperayo led by Pedro Ojeda, with a psychedelia driven by ritualistic electronics. The last track is called Tutuna Rebajada. Rebajada means slowed down and it refers to a style of cumbia where the tracks pitch is slowed down to psychedelic effect. We'll come to that later. Up next are Arrington de Dionyso Malaikat Dan Singa from Portland with a trance punk version of All Tomorrow's Parties from 2019 and Ak'chamel The Giver Of Ilness from Texas with a culturally-cannibalistic version of Sonido Amazonico by Chicha Libre.
Let's end and date this podcast with an ominous Cumbia Rebajada and then, who else than Mister Cumbia telling you how to take care of yourself.
*Concept, words & music selection by Victor Stutz. Presented by Dragoș Rusu
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*This article is part of the project Music & Conversations in the Attic, co-financed by AFCN.