I'd like to dedicate this post to some of the females involved in the neo-cumbia movement. I've always been interested in the participation of women in underground music, I guess because they tend to be a rare minority in almost every scene, also because, well... I like women. In a scene like this, that's been spearheaded by DJ's and bedroom producers it's particularly obvious the lack of female talent, but the few that are out there have been very significant and need to be recognized.
The most important and well known are definitely the anarkumbia riot-grrrls of Kumbia Queers, pioneers of the scene in all their right. I wrote about their 2007 debut album in the first post of this blog (yeah the post where I also said, two years from now everybody will be talking about cumbia, and that was two years ago, bitches). I particularly love these girls for being so irreverent and disrespectful of all music genres, which I think is sort of the whole sense behind this music, that tounge-in-cheek sense of humor, the irony of appropriating cumbia culture and taking it out of context in funny ridiculous ways. This mostly just happens within neo-cumbia artists from two countries: Mexico and Argentina, because it is in those two countries where cumbia is charged with a lot of social preconceptions as "music for the undereducated lower classes". So the fact that Kumbia Queers are half Argentinean and half Mexican is, I think, the perfect formula for their instant success. I also happen to love girl bands, period, I did since I discovered The Go-Go's as a kid and had my first celebrity crush on Belinda Carlisle.
Anyway, I have some great gossip for all you Kumbia Queers fans, two of the biggest producers of cumbia's new school ever are gonna be working on the new Queers' album: Toy Selectah and Pablo Lescano, from Mexico and Argentina, respectively. I honestly can't wait to hear what comes out from that combo.
Before leaving Mexico, it's my duty to give some props too to Amandititita whom, so far, for some odd reason, I've never mentioned here. This petite mexichick claims to be an intelectual, in fact her bio says she's a writer, but this doesn't really show much in her lyrics which are ironic and funny but silly-funny, not smart-funny, although she does say "you are more evil than Bush" in one of her songs, which makes me laugh every single time. Her sense of humor reminds me a little too much of Mexican mock-rockers Molotov, which I personally hate, but musically she's closer to the electro-low-brow Mexican artists like Silverio and María Daniela y su Sonido Lasser. I don't really like her music too much, even if it's a lot of fun to listen to sometimes. I have never play any of her songs on my mixtapes or DJ sets, but I know plenty of Mexican DJ's in town who spin her hits quite a lot. She might be just a myspace diva but she's definitely a character I'd love to interview.
You must already be familiar with Alika thanks to her collaboration with El Hijo De La Cumbia in his amazing debut album Freestyle De Ritmos last year. This female rapper-turned-reggae-toaster has experimented with cumbia on her own too a few times.
I've known her personally since 1996. Back then she was one half of a group called Actitud María Marta who basically kick-started the second wave of Argentine hip-hop in the mid nineties. They were very well known for their politically charged lyrics and their participation in lots of left-wing acts, however, their metal-rap at that point wasn't too great.
Around 1999 they broke up and Alika (who up until then was just Alicia) decided to go solo and in Chile recruited the band La Nueva Alianza to back her up. Alika has just released a new video for this amazing cumbia-rap song of her last album. I have to say I enjoyed the video very much, especially for the references to Chacarita, my favorite soccer team (even though I've never been a soccer fan). Here, check it out:
As for the rest of Actitud Maria Marta, far from calling the quits after Alika's departure, they turned up way better, when they replaced her with two other girls named Karen, one singer one rapper, and they got rid of the metal-infused musicians replacing them with hip-hop tracks. They haven't been able to come out with one official release since then, but they have toured all over the place, way more than any other Argentinean hip-hop artist. Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and all over Europe, trust me, these girls sure know how to put a show. Now I've been close friends with Malena, the only founding member left in the group and she's been the FIRST person in the whole hip-hop universe I ever heard talking about fusing cumbia. Way back in the mid nineties she already professed a serious love and respect for Colombian cumbia and she mentioned it many times, but back then I never payed her attention because, as I mentioned here many times, I used to be a hardcore hip-hop purist.
In 2008 they released an independent CD called Con Perfume Revolución which you can download here and it includes the cumbia-rap "Eres Re-Lindo," a free version of the popular cumbia "Eres muy bonita pero mentirosa" from a female point of view. However the instrumentation sounds more traditional acoustic cumbia than the neo-cumbia sound of Alika and Princesa.
Princesa gained notoriety thanks to the Chancha Via Circuito remix of her song included in ZZK Sound Vol.I and also by another of her songs remixed by the amazing Frikstailers, both are neo-cumbia musts. She's part of the third wave of Argentine hip-hop, the ones that came out after the year 2000. But her rap owes a lot to the female pioneers. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find out if she has ever done any cumbia on her own, only remixes by other people. Anyway, her Spanish dancehall isn't too bad.
My happiest find of 2009 was this other gorgeous Argentine woman who sings in Los Labios. Since I discovered them online, I haven't stopped playing "Bus Estación" at almost every gig. Unlike most of the other women named on this post who approach cumbia from either punk or hip-hop, Lulu does it from a gay-hipster-indie-pop perspective and the results are quite unique. Definitely a candidate for this end-of-the-year Best-Of's.
Now one of the most relevant things that happened to neo-cumbia in 2009 so far has been the release of Bomba Estéreo's second album Blow Up or Estalla, depending on the market. This colombian group has been around for a while mixing afro-colombian beats like cumbia and others with electro and hip-hop but their early work was more instrumental or had a male MC. The music was already great but the best thing that could have ever happened to them was adding a female voice (and beautiful face) to their songs. Liliana Saumet turned Bomba Estéreo into the first mainstream-crossover worthy act in the whole neo-cumbia, and "Fuego" the first neo-cumbia hit with radio and MTV appeal. I have already posted that video here once, but I love it so much that I'm gonna go ahead and do it again.