Wednesday, November 9, 2011

CANDELARIA (Self Released, 2011)


The SF-Bay Area scene has been ahead of the game since the beginnings of the ñu-cumbia movement and many artists and record labels (Bersa, Unicornio) from here had been fundamental in the establishment and development of this global scene.
But there's also been a whole local parallel underground scene that's been widely ignored in the blogosphere maybe because they tend to aim more towards the roots and traditional cumbia, rather than the cutting-edge experimental and/or DJ-oriented stuff. 
Candelaria somehow dwells in between these two scenes and appeals almost equally to both crowds. I have big respect for them because I've seen these guys around in the scene a lot, at every remotely cumbia-related event and they seem to know what's up. Still, me being an active DJ in the scene and them a live band, our conflicting schedules didn't allow for a chance for me to ever see them live. So I had a lot of expectations for this release, but at the same time I didn't really know what I was gonna find. 
The concept behind Candelaria was to create a some eclectic, rootsy, transnational approach to cumbia with a reggae-dub twist and I'm all for these kind of experiments. However with a premise like that, I was hoping for something more in the lines of Frente Cumbiero's last year release with Mad Professor. And if that's what you expected too, you'll be disappointed because the dubby side of the project is too watered down and leans heavily towards the old school rural Northern Colombian cumbia. 
But that's no reason to dismiss this self-titled debut album at all. There're some really good tunes here, a couple of interesting covers of standards ("La Curura," "No, No, No") and remarkable original numbers (like the album opener, "Las Cruces," my personal favorite). The voice of the front woman (her last name is Candelaria) is impeccable and the band sounds tight. 
I'd like them to lose a bit of that respect for the cumbia roots and be more playful with it, more experimental with the dub soundscapes and way more innovative with the lyrics. As you know I am a lot more attracted toward the kitsch and out-of-context irony of ñu-cumbia than the old rural songs that talk about fishermen, mountains and donkeys.
I like cumbia to be fun, even if I respect those roots and I like those old cumbias from a digger point of view, I can't personally relate to them because they have nothing to do with my very urban upbringing or my current situation. What I'm trying to say is, whenever I see one of those early Discos Fuentes 7'' records I dive head first to snatch it, but that doesn't mean that's the type of cumbia I wanna listen to--I wanna learn from that, I wanna sample break beats from that, I wanna laugh at its naivety, sure,  but I don't know if I'd wanna go see those artists live if they performed in my town. That's just my point of view though, and I'm not trying to imply that's the right way to relate to cumbia at all, lots of people from all walks of life have been lately approaching cumbia from so many different angles and it's all interesting, it all adds up. 
Candelaria have my full support and I'm looking forward to catch them live soon (I've been told the singer is quite pretty too, unfortunately the photos in the CD's booklet are too out of focus to appreciate that), maybe we'll get to share stage too, who knows. One last suggestion, let some DJ remix the opening track and the last one, "Pendejita," something dope could definitely come out from those.

Purchase it here.

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