Emanating from Latin America, cumbia rhythms are fast becoming as international as the ubiquitous sounds of house and techno. And as they spread, they’re bringing shuffling syncopations and vibrant polyrhythms, bright-colored timbres that blend traditional sounds with new electronic forms. When those noises dance out of familiar hardware and software rigs, they’re also a reminder that common tools need not mean homogenized results – not once in the hands of creative musicians.
Thump, the VICE property which has been putting out fine-quality and diverse music reporting even despite a name with crowd-grabbing EDM overtones, visits Lima in their latest video. It’s a nice, compact overview of the energy of that scene. But if Lima is an epicenter, it’s hardly where that music ends: “digital” cumbia reverberates in Berlin, New York, or at the adoptive home of Argentina’s Gaby Kerpel – Los Angeles. Cumbia, for its part, is associated with Panama and Colombia, a hybrid of indigenous music and African and European influence and inspiration, resurrected from slave culture to become an international popular form. To remake this form that was already a cultural hybrid, a complex construction of newly-fabricated identity, as “digital” makes perfect sense. Cumbia was always an avatar; now its practitioners show us how it’s done with the latest tools.
Max Pearl has been celebrating digital cumbia for Thump; he introduces the new video, directed by Mariano Carra. They visit the likes of Animal Chuki on ZZK Records and Deltatron from Peru’s label Terror Negro. It’s all must-watch, must-listen stuff.
Max wrote a great overview at the end of last year, as well:
The video’s great; if there’s any complaint I’d have, it’s that the “subculture” label might lead you to believe this is some isolated phenomenon, when in fact some of these artists get play on the other side of the world. (The context is clearer when you read Max’s narrative, though.) Latin American influence on electronic music has been part of its roots since the beginning, and when it echoes in Europe or America, and producers and listeners to whom these rhythms dance and play the music and make new forms, the process of musical breeding and cross-breeding only continues.
And there’s a lesson for dance music in general: at the moment, the most dynamic, “newest” music is very often the music with the deepest, richest connection to history.
But enough jabbering. Let’s listen.
King Coya, Andes to Angeles, nicely represented in this teaser from a few years ago:
King Coya on the remix scene:
Animal Chuki’s excellent Capicúa is a free download, courtesy XLR8R:
And listen to their mixtape for more of their Lima sound:
1. Animal Chuki – Polen
2. Animal Chuki – Capicúa
3. La Yegros – Viene de Mi (Animal Chuki remix)
4. Animal Chuki – Eva & el Mono
5. Animal Chuki – Cholito Jr.
6. Animal Chuki – El Rey
7. Animal Chuki – Tambo
I’m personally partial to the trippy grooves of SHUSHUPE, aka Ursula Talavera, also from Lima, who’s out with a new netlabel EP last month of “Indocumbia”. It’s a fusion of – well, a lot of things, from “Indochinese” melodies to trap to cumbia, timbrally and rhythmically, resulting in something that sounds both ancient and futuristic. There’s gamelan for extra spice.
EP download is available free from netlabel Folcore:
or in English (not that you can’t work out how to get the download in Spanish!): Shushupe EP Indocumbia
Here’s… something happening with her live, that will mainly sort of wish you were there. (Cue “Come Fly with Me”…)
And yes, Lima can get glitchy with its tradition, as Lima’s Daniel Martinetti (“Elegante & La Imperial”) does here:
And let’s finish out with Lima’s Dengue Dengue Dengue!, the audiovisual duo of Felipe Salmón / Rafael Pereira. When these push further out into oddly-unbalanced, slanting grooves, something truly magical happens – check out especially the appropriately-serpantine Serpiente Dorada, also just from last month:
I’m sure readers will have more to share – and that some of our readers hail from Peru, Colombia, Panama, Argentina, and other corners of the globe where you’re also listening and making to this stuff. Do sound off.
And next up – we definitely need to give some Digital Cumbia love to Colombia. Follow-up story later this week!