Wednesday, June 22, 2011

PATAFUNK-Playa (Independent, 2011)

There's a cumbia track on this album called "America Canta Cumbia." Its simple premise states that cumbia music is present everywhere "from Argentina to Canada" and as many others have claimed in the past, it's a sort of new musical lingua franca of the continent.
Everywhere you look nowadays there's new cumbia stuff coming out, sometimes from the most unexpected places (Venezuela, in this case) and it seems like every other artists that released an album after 2008 had to have a mandatory cumbia song in their tracklist.
Still, here in the United States, there's almost absolutely now mainstream representation of cumbia and I find that a bit odd. Spanish language radios play no cumbia, Billboard magazine has no cumbia top-10 in their popularity listings, the Latin Grammys have no category for best cumbia record or song (while, at the same time, they have like ten categories for Mexican regional music), etc. In other words, while cumbia is, by all accounts, the music that unites all Latino immigrants in the US regardless of their nationalities, it is still, apparently, an underground phenomenon: it doesn't have big stars and it doesn't sell records (or downloads). And/or, more importantly, the people who control the mainstream playlists (radio programmers, Billboard ranking compilers, record label execs) are completely out of touch with what's really going on. Also, there's still a lot of prejudice against cumbia amongst the upscale (or wannabe upscale) segment of the Latino market who still see it as working-class lowbrow music, music for "mojados" (recent/poor immigrants), even after the ñu-cumbia phenomenon of the last three or four years made gringo hipsters and highly regarded Anglo DJs embrace the genre; and on top of that is that fact that some nationalities (Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans) never really got into the cumbia thing, but that's a whole other issue.
Anyway, I'm not trying to come up with an anti-cumbia conspiracy theory here. These are just some random ideas that were bouncing around my head the other day when I was listening to Patafunk's Playa while riding my bike through Oakland. And those same ideas have been popping up in my head every time I listen to a new album by a non-cumbia artist who includes a mandatory one cumbia song (there're so many that I don't even wanna start listing them). Besides being from Venezuela, I don't know much about these Patafunk guys but I got their album the other day; overall it sounds pretty cool (in a sort of Bomba Estereo cool kind of way) and if it wasn't for the excessive presence of auto-tune, many more of their tracks would make it into my DJ sets.

Available on Itunes and probably other digital download stores.

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