Across Latin America, Making Cumbia Modern

Uruguayan musician and producer Juan Campodónico records as Campo. i i

Uruguayan musician and producer Juan Campodónico records as Campo. Matilde Campodónico/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Matilde Campodónico/Courtesy of the artist
Uruguayan musician and producer Juan Campodónico records as Campo.

Uruguayan musician and producer Juan Campodónico records as Campo.

Matilde Campodónico/Courtesy of the artist

Betto Arcos returns once again to weekends on All Things Considered to share what he's been spinning on Global Village, the world music show he hosts on KPFK in Los Angeles. This week, Arcos has brought Guy Raz four 21st-century interpretations of cumbia, a traditional music from Colombia and Panama. But Arcos' contemporary playlist stretches beyond the humid north of South America, featuring garage-rock cumbia from Mexico City, subtropical cumbia from urban Uruguay and more.

Making Cumbia Modern, All Across Latin America

Cover for Miticos del Ritmo

No Pares Hasta Tener Lo Suficiente [Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough]

  • Artist: Los Miticos del Ritmo
  • Album: Los Miticos del Ritmo

This is a band that was put together by Will Holland. The English DJ moved to Colombia to explore the roots of Colombian music. Late last year he put together a compilation called The Original Sound of Cumbia, a two-CD set he compiled of nothing but cumbia, going back to the late 1940s. He pretty much compiled the master list of Colombian cumbia music, and he's an Englishman!

He's joined here by a stellar group of musicians. It's a really terrific record, and this song showcases how beautiful the music is and how adaptable it is. We can see that here, as he's taken a Michael Jackson tune and adapted it.

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Song
No Pares Hasta Tener Lo Suficiente [Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough]
Album
Miticos del Ritmo
Artist
Los Miticos del Ritmo
Label
Soundway
Released
2012

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Cover for Cumbia Salvaje

Cumbia Espantamuertos

  • Artist: Sonido Gallo Negro
  • Album: Cumbia Salvaje

When you listen to this, you can almost hear a film noir. A theremin comes in in about the middle of the song. It's an instrument that works like so: You put it on a table, it's got a metal bar, and the sound comes out when you move your hand up and down. It creates this mysterious, quasi-scary sound, hence the idea that this tune is to scare the dead.

Sonido Gallo Negro is a project that reinvents cumbia — in Peru called chicha — to establish the difference between the cumbia from Colombia and from other places. This group from Mexico City is trying to reinvent the '70s Peruvian sound with a garage-band sensibility. They add an organ farfisa, like a fuzz guitar sound. The cumbia is very much present here. You can say that there is a slow version of cumbia and a fast one, and here is a slow one.

Cover for Campo

Cumbio

  • Artist: Campo
  • Album: Campo

This is Juan Campodonico, but he goes by Campo, (meaning field), and the idea here is that the project is like an open field. Campo creates a sound called subtropical music because Argentina and Uruguay aren't known for being tropical — they're in the south, where it's cold.

This cumbia really came about in the mid-'90s in the working-class slums of Buenos Aires and Montevideo — cumbia villera, cumbia from las villas. In those countries, when you say you're from las villas, they know automatically that you're working-class. It's poor people's music.

What Campo is doing here is using the rhythm of the cumbia villera and taking it to another level. With the guy who sings here, Martin Rivero, he is in a sense trying to emulate the Brit-pop accent, even though he's from Uruguay. Rivero picked up the accent because he went to a British school, so he's singing like a Brit-pop singer with a cumbia villera behind him. It's a great contrast. It's got dark lyrics, dark vocals, but it's upbeat.

Cover for Ondatropica

Linda Manana

  • Artist: Ondatropica
  • Album: Ondatropica

Ondatropica is filled with older musicians who recorded in the 1960s and '70s, unlike the other artists that we're talking about here. They went back to Discos Fuentes, they brought back the same engineer and they recorded on reel-to-reel — and this is what you hear on this song. What you hear is a big band playing a cumbia. They're not only creating something new, but rec-reating an old sound in the 21st century.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Linda Mañana
Album
Ondatropica
Artist
Ondatropica
Label
Soundway

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