Sunday, September 25, 2011

Digging Cumbia Argentina-Vinyl Rips

From an international perspective, Argentine cumbia didn't become interesting until the late '90s/early '00s with the emergence of the ghetto-fabulous cumbia villera and almost simultaneously ñu-cumbia, or cumbia digital. But cumbia was a very well established genre of commercial dance music in Argentina since the '60s and had to suffer many mutations to adapt to the local market, starting from the pure Colombian original style, until attaining its own local character. 
As an average white middle-class big city boy in Eurocentric Buenos Aires, I grew up systematically turning my back on cumbia, dismissing it as "music for maids and bus-drivers." But as much as my generation would like to deny it, cumbia was there, it was very present in our backyards, subconsciously influencing us. Going back to the vinyl records of that era I find myself confronted with mixed feelings, a sort of nostalgia for an era I could never be nostalgic about because I was decisively not part of it. Still, many of these songs unleash instant flashbacks to precise moments of my childhood because we used to sing them, mostly as a joke, even when we didn't know that type of music was called cumbia, sometimes because they crossed over to the mainstream as soccer hooligan chants, as mentioned on this related post
I put together this selection of Argentine pressings of cumbia--not exclusively recorded by Argentinean artists or artist living in Argentina. It's an unfinished work, needs a lot more work, but a first step into trying to figure out, through vinyl digging, some of the history of Argentine cumbia and how it developed to eventually give birth to cumbia villera and ñu-cumbia. I only ripped some tracks from each album, the ones I found either more interesting or more representative. Enjoy and share! 

CUARTETO IMPERIAL - Lamento Negro/El Zurdo José (CBS, date unkwon): The 45 RPM single with the big hole was not a particularly popular format in Argentina, the way it was in other cumbia-friendly countries (Colombia, Mexico, Peru) during the '70s and '80s. Instead, you find this 7'' records with little hole that play in 33RPM. Here we have a good example of the songs that helped popularize cumbia in Argentina during the '70s, thanks to Cuarteto Imperial, who were actually Colombians living in Buenos Aires, and playing cumbia still in a very traditionally Colombian style. Cumbia was still very rural in its topics and aesthetics and very afro in its rhythms, those qualities would eventually move aside to make room for the characteristic Argentine cumbia style developed in the following two decades.

LOS WAWANCO - Volumen #8 (Odeon Pops, date unknown): Along with Cuarteto Imperial, Los Wawanco are considered the main pioneers  in bringing Cumbia to Argentina and making it a popular dance music during the '60s and '70s. What differentiate these guys from the other pioneers was that the group had members from all over Latin America (Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Argentina), so their musical influences were a lot more diverse than the traditional Colombian cumbia, even though that was the main genre they played during their beginnings. Here we have them in a 4 song, 33RPM EP, doing covers of Colombian standards ("El Pescador") and a Dominican merengue (however, it's labeled Colombian merengue on the cover art).

LOS DE COLOMBIA - Ritmo y más ritmo (Philips, date unknown): Just look at that groovy cover! And the music is not that bad either, well, at least some of it. Of course, the Los De Colombia are five ugly dudes, who probably aren't even Colombian, and those girls are just some random hot models, but wow, I feel like framing this one. Their repertoire consist on mostly Colombian style cumbias, but there're a few odd numbers, a bolero, a translated cover of Sonny Rollins, a lot of tango/milonga style singing and even a canaval murga (pretty bad one though). I only ripped a few of the strongest cumbia tracks, the instrumentals have some pretty good loops.

LOS LUCEROS COLOMBIANOS CON RITMO - Fiesta en Bogotá (Armar, 1974): This is just me speculating, but I think there was a time when claiming to be Colombian gave you more credibility if you were trying to play cumbia in Argentina. That's why there're so many groups with names like this. I don't know who they are, maybe they were Colombians who followed the steps of Cuarteto Imperial and relocated in Argentina, maybe they are Argentineans pretending to be Colombians and playing mostly Colombian style cumbias. There's however a candombe (Afro-Uruguayan rhythm) listed in their repertoire and a song where they say "here in Argentina" in the chorus (even when the album title is Party in Bogotá). So I have my doubts.

MARIO Y SUS DIAMANTES - Lo último de (Sicamericana, date unknown): An oddity here. Instrumental organ-lead tropidelia by a Venezuelan artist, pressed in Argentina. It swings between extremes, from really horrible most of the time to really amazing in a few moments. There're some covers of Colombian classic cumbias, like Calixto Ochoa's "La Comadre" and Eliseo Herrera's "La Manzana" (which I've already posted in a previous batch of vinyl rips, in a vocal version by Dominica y Su Conjunto--this version here, however, has a scratch so it pops and skips a few times, but it still has an great break and if you really want to, you can easily edit the pops out). There're also some boring ass boleros and bossa nova covers that I didn't bother to rip and honestly, most of the album sounds like carrousel music but then you have an original number like "Las Puertas" and it's super dope.

LOS COSTEÑOS - A Gozar la Cumbia (Billboard, 1977): Once again, I don't know if these guys are really costeños from Colombia, or they are just Argentineans pretending, but if it's the second case, they pull it off really well. This album includes all the colombian cumbia songs that I knew as a kid, before the Argentine cumbia pop crossover of 1989--although I didn't know the genre was called cumbia yet. To me they were just funny popular songs that people in the country's inner provinces danced to back then, and I discovered them through my cousin, who used to sing them without really understanding the meaning of the lyrics that talked about places like Santa Marta and Barranquilla, towns in the northern coast of Colombia that we didn't even know existed. It also includes a cover of "La Pollera Amarilla" (an answer record of sorts to the über-famous "La Pollera Colorá"?) that was later popularized in Argentina during the early '90s cumbia explosion when covered by Gladys La Bomba Tucumana (it was her version that made it to the soccer stadiums and it was sung along with distorted lyrics by hooligans for most part of the '90s). All these sound very Colombian in style, but then you have "Merceditas," a traditional Argentine folklore song, so I don't know...

WAWANCO - Unicamente (EMI, 1977): Here we have an early example of cumbia diverting away from its Colombian roots to acquire a more Argentine character. Incorporating elements from local milonga, "lunfardo" (vernacular Argentine  slang) and references to current Argentine pop culture (mentions of national sport heroes Guillermo Vilas  and Carlos Monzón), helped Los Wawanco become the biggest tropical music  powerhouse in Argentina during the '70s and their influence can still be seen decades later. This album includes the original "Cumbia Bohemia" that would later be successfully covered in the '90s by the biggest female cumbia singer of that decade, Gilda. There're some tracks where they still go back to the Colombian roots, paseo, gaita and vallenato, but for the most part the album is marked by a clear intention of argentinizing cumbia.

LOS DIABLOS DE LA CUMBIA - Creadores de la cumbia metálica (Sicamericana, 1985): Another oddity that has the word fail written all over it. Way before cumbia villera achieved street-cred by importing the aesthetics of hip-hop mixed in with soccer hooliganism, these bunch of wankers were trying -unsuccessfully- to merge cumbia with the then-prevailing hard-rock/metal aesthetics with similar intentions. Cumbia wasn't rural, wasn't Afro and wasn't Colombian anymore, by now it was a local pop music genre that was gradually becoming more and more urban, so palm trees were replaced by graffitied walls. Still, these guys were mostly a joke and had no rock credibility so nobody ever took them seriously, particularly because their cumbia had almost no "metal" at all (as they claim in the title) and also because they made cheesy covers of cheesy TV show songs. It wasn't until the mid-'90s with Los Auténticos Decadentes, Bersuit and Agrupación Mamanis that cumbia an rock finally found a commercially successful meeting point.

CLAN TROPICAL - Todo al 3 (Magenta, 1991): Generic cumbia compilation from Magenta, the label that pretty much monopolized commercial cumbia in Argentina during the '90s. Four bands, two of which are horrible (Luz de Luna and Los Duendes de Santa Fé) and two that barely pass for historical interest only (Grupo Angora, Los Diamantes), all have in common one thing, the same manager: a Peruvian guy named "El Cholo" who put together the comp. Sometime along the '80s there was in Argentina of a considerable switch from the classic Colombian style of cumbia to the cheesier side of Peruvian chicha (minus the psychedelic part) brought over by an wave of working-class Peruvian immigrants. Chicha pioneers Los Mirlos had such a success in Argentina during the early '90s that they established a permanent local branch of their band for the Argentine market. Traditional Colombian cumbia instruments as gaitas and accordion are nowhere to be found here, replaced by electric guitar and keyboards and lyrics are corny to the max.

LOS CARTAGENEROS - El Sonido De Los Carta (Magenta, 1990): "Ni De Piedra Ni Madera" by Los Cartageneros was one of the biggest hits in Argentine cumbia of the late '80s/early '90s and one of the first of many cumbia hits that crossed over to the mainstream media and dancefloors. It's also quite significant for me because it's the first cumbia which lyrics I memorized after seeing them perform it at a TV show (although I'm pretty sure that was at least a couple of years before 1990). Even though in their name they claim to be from Cartagena (Colombia) I don't think any of the members of this Argentine band are any more Colombian than the Mexican group Supergrupo Colombia.


Juan Data said...

get it here

Juan Data said...

and here

c_c_rider said...

wow! this is some good vintage cumbia! mil gracias for ripping this and sharing it. my two favorites from part 1: las puertas by mario y sus diamantes and cuarteto imperial's lamento negro! viva la cumbia!!! downloading part 2 now, i can't wait. thanks again :)



lkfnlfgkhnln said...

ohh ahora que megaupload cerró, podrías subirlo a otro servidor?? se agradece, amigo!!!