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.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

DOCTOR STEREO-La Cumbia Perdida (Names You Can Trust, 2011)

After surprising me last year with the best single of the year, and maybe the best single ever released since the rebirth of cumbia in vinyl, (I'm talking of course about Frente Cumbiero's Ananas Tornillo/Pitchito), I new that the good guys at NYCT wouldn't just stop there and would keep exploring the ñu-cumbia sounds with more great releases in beautiful 45's.
I was expecting with great anticipation the new Frente Cumbiero, but instead I  got this one by the virtually unknown Doctor Stereo. First I was like huh? Who the fuck is this? I mean, I think I know pretty much everybody doing sample-based cumbia back in my home country, Argentina, and I've never heard of this Doc, by the way, is the Stereo part of his name a reference to Bomba or Soda? Or neither?
Then I realized that it was actually a new alias of a well known DJ/producer called Ezequiel Lodeiro, who you may remember from last year's must-have release El Latinazo on Love Monk 10'' single. He's also the host of a highly regarded soul music party back in my hometown.
"La Cumbia Perdida" is a nice little piece, based on the percussion-heavy Colombian cumbia of Discos Fuentes beginnings (think the breaks of Los Teen Agers, Pedro Laza, Climaco Sarmiento, Sonora Cordobesa, etc) so it pretty much falls into the same category of Frente Cumbiero's release, but with a much cleaner, as in less excessively over-layered production style. Very different from the average ñu-cumbia that's been coming out of Argentina since the Zizek boom.
I haven't played it in my sets yet, but I'm leaning more towards playing the remix on the b-side because it has the addition of some afro-beat guitar that makes it delightful.

Buy it here.