Wednesday, May 20, 2009

That Colombian Fetish

Recently I've been thinking a lot about how unfair I've been to Colombian music on this blog.
I've been writing quite a lot about new school cumbia, but focusing mainly in the Argentinean and Mexican scenes, I guess because they are closer to me and because they are the ones who got more exposure and media-attention (thanks mainly to Zizek and Toy Selectah, respectively).
The thing is, cumbia is a traditional Colombian music genre and we all know that. Nowadays we're getting neo-cumbia releases from totally random places like Australia, Netherlands, and Switzerland but I bet there are a lot more interesting ones in cumbia's birthplace that we are not just paying enough attention too.
I mean, we all know of Richard Blair and his worldwide-successfull Sidestepper project that released some very interesting neo-cumbia track like ten years ago, way before the crossover craze. But besides that guy, who's actually Brittish, I know there must be many other young Colombians experimenting with this contagious beat.
The thing is, Colombians have a completely different relationship with cumbia than fans in countries like Argentina, México, El Salvador and Perú. For Colombians cumbia is a deeply-rooted folk music style of African slaves descendants. They have a certain respect to the genre that we don't particularly share. In the rest of the continent, cumbia evolved into a whole different thing and is generally perceived as a low-brow, kitschy, cheesy music listened only by the undereducated working classes. So when cool urban kids in Buenos Aires or México City approach cumbia as a source of sampling material for their productions, they do it with a sort of tongue-in-cheek kind of humor. Colombians don't see it that way and that's why the neo-cumbia coming from Colombia sounds so different. It's fun to listen, and fun to dance to, but they're not necessarily making fun of the genre itself.
A couple of days ago the French mestizo artist Sargento García released a very interesting five song EP called Cumbia Muffin where five different neo-cumbia artists from Colombia make remixes of his songs, which were not all particularly cumbias in their original format. The results are quite impressive. Among the artists who work on the remixes is Bomba Estéreo which I predict, will be in everybody's best-of lists at the end of the year. Their album Estalla (out on Nacional Records) is amazing and the song "Fuego" (featured in Linyerismo Episode I) might be the first neo-cumbia hit with mainstream appeal, check out the video that just came out too and fall in love with their singer like I did and like everybody did during their visit to SXSW.
Another of the artists involved in that project is former Sidestepper member Pernett, who I honestly didn't know much about and I regret it. He has a couple of solo albums out already and in his first one, called Cumbia Galáctica (!!!!), he made a cumbia cover of "La Abuela" one of the first successful rap songs in Spanish. I just wish I knew about this before because I would've totally include them in Linyerismo Episode II.
The Colombians that I did include in Linyerismo Episode II were Palenke Soultribe, which readers of this blog are already very familiar with and this other guys called Systema Solar playing this amazing song:

I bet that there must be tons of others like them doing amazing experiments with cumbia down in Colombia that are waiting to be discovered. I'm eager for more.


lucha grande said...

puchika al fin! finally a thoughtful article on Neo-cumbia and the Roots of Cumbia de Colombia. And I'm feeling you on Bomba Estereo! Keep it up JuanData!

el amarillo said...

i love the way you talk about neo-cumbia in colombia, i was actually debating this subject with a friend from peru, i agree cumbia in colombia is rooted and artist do not use it to have fun only but for amazing political and social issue songs which is awesome.

systema solar and bomba estereo are the greatest right now. monareta is another act you must take into account.