When I did that neo-cumbia post last month describing the many characteristics that distinguish this genre from its Colombian ancestor (which many readers misunderstood as categories) I left out one other factor that I think was fundamental in de development of new school cumbia: the punk attitude.
Originally I was going to include it in my post, but in the end I decided to leave it out because I didn't have enough examples and because the punk-cumbia connection has been there for a long time before the whole neo-cumbia phenomenon kicked off in this decade.
Cumbia and punk rock go hand in hand because of the easy accessibility of the genres which makes them ideal for up-and-coming D.I.Y. musicians with little to no training. Cumbia's lack of sophistication in its constant rhythm and simple lyrics structures was essential for the genre to spread so fast throughout the whole continent amongst the poor classes. And way before hip-hop and electronic music production became accessible to the marginal youth in Latin America, punk rock was there voicing their teenage angst and rebellion.
Kumbia Queers might be the best known kumbia-punk group nowadays for the fans of neo-cumbia, but before them, lots of other punk rockers in Latin America had crossed over to the cumbia camp. One of the most remarkable examples of this in Argentina was Agrupación Mamanis, a kumbia side-project of anarko-punk band Las Manos De Filippi, which in the nineties surprisingly hit the charts with the now classic "El Himno Del Cucumelo" (a remix/tribute album to this band is currently in the making, more info coming soon...).
Following that same sort of approach to cumbia with "k" we have Anarkia Tropikal, from Chile.
Now Chilean cumbia in general, and Chilean neo-cumbia in particular, are a complete mystery to me. Of course I'm familiar with Chilean cumbia hero Chico Trujillo and a few others here and there, and it's also undeniable the influence of Argentinean cumbia (and cumbia villera) on the other side of the Andes. We also know about German neo-cumbia pioneer Señor Coconut who made his first experiments with the genre Chile. And we know that Chile has arguably the richest Spanish hip-hop scene in the continent (my favorite MC and my favorite DJ are Chilean: Anita Tijoux and DJ Raff, respectively). Now if we were to put all those ingredients together in a blender, the result should be a flourishing Chilean neo-cumbia scene comparable to the Argentinean, Mexican or Colombian. But if that in fact exists, I have yet to find it.
So far, I'm happy to find Anarkia Tropikal with their goofy lo-fi rebellious cumbias that remind me at times of Mexico's El Gran Silencio and Argentina's Todos Tus Muertos or Bersuit but take it to unexpected extremes indulging into some anxiety-inducing trash-metal and hardcore-techno moments. There are no cool breaks to sample and no catchy tunes to play at the parties, so my DJ interest in this album is almost inexistent, but it does make me laugh at times when I listen to it (clever moments like "Bachelet rhymes with Pinochet"), especially in the skits. Ideal as background music to have while reading The Clinic.
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