I love most Cumbia music I have been exposed to. I am certainly no expert on the music but I do have a great respect for its musical traditions. This post deals not with the details of the history of Cumbia, which I am not equipped to expound on much, but rather it looks to the future and the new growth that will sprout from its seeds as they are sown across the world of music.
Cumbia’s now massive spread is a testament to its adaptability, and it’s simplicity and repetition. I don’t mean to say that the original poly rhythms of the Columbian drum choirs,the bombo, tambor macho, tambor hembra and guache are simple. Certainly in its original roots form Cumbia was complex and poly rhythmic but Cumbia’s big spread came only after it moved to the cities in the 40′s and was somewhat tamed and trimmed, blending with Cuban mambo, US Jazz and popular music and becoming a trotting and repetitive dance rhythm. In its golden era of the 50′s and 60′s Cumbia spread through the radio, recordings and was carried by dance bands all over Latin America with regional styles and versions popping up from Peruvian chicha to Mexican onda grupera.
Since the 80′s Cumbia’s upbeat pulse has blended with Reggae, Dub, Ragga,and Reggaeton, all musics of the Caribbean Dancehall as well as electronic music of many types which were hungry for new rhythms to sample. These occurrences have gathered new audiences and are creating opportunities for people from all musical back grounds to become involved and interested in Cumbia rhythms. From the great work of revivalists and record re-issuers like Olivier Conan with his label/club Barbes based in Brooklyn to the cutting edge electro-folklore of Buenos Aires’ ZZK records to the varied and dynamic Transnational Bass, represented by DJ Umb and his blog Generation Bass, I would say Cumbia is on a move.
Some producers chew up the rhythms that they find and then spit up new combinations, some producers absorb influences gently like a sponge and squeeze them out later, what is expunged is basically the same, but in a new context. Juxtaposing and combining the rhythmic elements of Cumbia with new music is creating new forms and genres everyday . To me this is a great thing, not to destroy the older or traditional forms but to spread the essence contained in them. I look at rhythms as pieces of code or patterns, spaced across time that can be applied to any instrumental context, not only tied to their original tones. Cumbias bass lines, off beat chords, hand drum rhythms and the predominant Guira rhythm have proved to be very versatile tools when used in the context of many other styles. Here is some great music, that moves beyond geographical boundaries and dares to journey the wide world of sound in step to the beat of a rhythm born on the Atlantic coast of Columbia.
Balkan, Gypsy, and Middle Eastern fusions work particularly well but you will find Andean and Celtic music too will be blended with Cumbia as well as Dub, Dancehall, Reggae, House and many other electronic and dance genres. The Cumbia bass line can be found in all kinds of music and adapts itself well to many rhythms and environments and the driving Cumbia percussion elements combine naturally with layers of percussion and rhythms from all of the world, from Dumbek drumming, the sounds of the Celtic Bones and Bodrain to the hat, kick drum and snare of Reggae and the programmed beats of Ragga.
I’ll start with a set of songs by San Francisco based producer and multi-instrumentalist izzy wise ( Isaac Weiser) who has a background in Klezmer music and has played in a variety of bands and in many styles from Reggae to Latin. His knowledge of Eastern European and Middle Eastern music shines in his mixes, which contain unique combinations of tones from distinctly separated regions, creating an “electro world dub mashup” of the nicest kind, that does not strain to combine awkward ill-fitting samples but rather sews together a sonic patch work of elements in a very organic and comfy way.
His music is good enough to warrant 3 songs in a row.
The next mix was posted by Senor Griff and represents the Andean stringed instrument the Charango being played to the rhythm of a Cumbia. The song is by Cubayande a great band from La Paz, Bolivia. Their precision and rhythm is astounding on this track. I linked up with Griff through soundcloud, joining his group Nueva Andina. He has been travelling through the Andes and has been a great resource to me sharing many songs with me.
I have previously posted here about Trukis(Cristian Trukis of Linares, Chile) and his Cumbia Dub sound which I really enjoy. Check out his song below. Great artwork too by the way. I am anxious to hear more music from him.
PandaCumbiaDub- by trukis
Dengue Dengue Dengue are a production duo composed of Felipe Salmón and Rafael Pereira, from Lima, Peru. Their music is Dubwise and also combines elements of Guaracha, Classic Colombian Cumbia and Psychedelic sounds of Chicha and more.
Dumbia Murdahs- by Dengue Dengue Dengue!
This remix of a Manu Chao song is chilled and a little more relaxed than much of the selections here. Daniel Florez of Medellin aka Dany F puts together well crafted Tropical Bass and electronic Cumbia tracks that tend to be deep and highly danceable.
Inti Che is a producer originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina who is now based in Berlin. He is a part of a flowering Latin/Caribbean/Andean electronic music scene there. His sound is highly developed and massive with strong electronic synth bass tones and perfectly blended samples of rolling timbales, Cumbia percussion and great melodic loops riding on top.
Some classic Dancehall Reggae blended with Cumbia percussion loops by Mykol Orthodox on the Cabeza Label. This song is a welcome addition to a genre that can tend to orient around minor keys and the punchy bass line is a great change up to the steady stepping Cumbia bass lines. This one adds some up tempo dancehall joy to the mix.
Dennis Alcapone – We Nah Inna Dem (Mykol Orthodox Rmx)
Another from the Cabeza Label. I love the synth bass on this track, how it weaves into the sampled track playing along with the horn parts. This is basically Cumbia stylistically but with a mixing style and tones that are electronic. The bass drum on the track HUGE and the Clarinet lines make this one of my favorites.
Cabeza! 008 Cumbias Momificadas by Sonidero Cordobestia
Argentinian duo Super Guachin create Chip Cumbia and Tropical Bass music, using the sounds of 1980′s video games, custom rewired Gameboys, keyboards and electronics connected to modern computer technology in order blow your mind with their cutting edge bass heavy ingenuity . This duo is now part of the ZZK collective and label. I expect much from them in the future.
Cabeza! 009 – Bass de la Villa- by Super Guachin
This track by Rafael Aragon combines heavy drums, Dubstep wobble bass tones, a surprisingly happy classic Dub reggae riddim and Cumbia percussion grooves with detailed finely crafted synth melodies and organic instrumentation. By the end of the song what sounds like Gypsy/Balkan or maybe even middle eastern accordion and vocals greatly changes the mood of the song but because this song has a great composition, that develops like a sound track to an adventure movie, these various elements fit together seamlessly and support the overall vision of the piece. Rafael has a very unique sound and is combining things I have heard before in all new ways, the mood of this song seems to combine hopefulness with the experience that comes from a long journey.
Another Dancehall Reggae and Cumbia combination. This track is by Kuto Selektah Quilla. The lighting fast toasting and the percussion work well together to spread some truth at a seemingly cocaine induced tempo about the dangers of using Cocaine.
El Barba dub combines Cumbia and Dub with live psychedelic mixing. He labels many of his track genre’s simply Cumbia Dub and uses Kaoss Pads to manipulate effects live. I love his sound and his mixing techniques. Very much in the mood of the extreme dubs by the likes of Scientist and Scratch but here on a Cumbia groove with echoing horns and heavy deep warm bass galore.
The last track was produced by myself under my moniker Piper Street Sound. This is Efter Eden by Superstar Orkestar blended with El Remolon’s Bolivia and original loops and melodies I composed. Balkumbia music. Hope you enjoy!