Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We're going to hear some music now that evolved partly from the experiences of slaves brought across from Africa to the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It's called Cumbia. Most recently, it's migrated to the music scene in Los Angeles.

Corey Takahashi caught up with the musicians from Colombia and Mexico who are bringing the updated sound of Cumbia to the U.S.

(Soundbite of music)

COREY TAKAHASHI: This is the signature percussive shuffle of Cumbia.

TAKAHASHI: And this is how the Colombian band, Bomba Estereo modernizes that sound.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LILIANA SAUMET (Lead Vocalist, Bomba Estereo): (Singing in foreign language)

TAKAHASHI: Liliana Saumet is the group's lead vocalist. She grew up on Colombia's Atlantic Coast and that's where Cumbia was born.

Ms. SAUMET: I can feel when I sing the Cumbia because it's my region, you know, it's my family, my everything. I think it is mystical.

TAKAHASHI: Bomba Estereo is one of the best known groups performing this new kind of Cumbia, and Saumet is the bridge across eras. She sings like a traditional cantadora one minute and rapping the next.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SAUMET: (Singing in foreign language)

TAKAHASHI: The group's founder, Simon Mejia, plays bass guitar and produces.

Mr. SIMON MEJIA (Bass Guitar and Producer, Bomba Estereo; Founder): It would be nice to say that this called music we're making is part of a new movement of musicians in Colombia that are exploring folk songs, not only Cumbia but other rhythms, some Pacific rhythms making a new music cartel from Colombia that is coming out to the world.

TAKAHASHI: Singer Liliana Saumet says that the Cumbia she hears outside of Colombia isn't the same as what she grew up with in the coastal city of Santa Marta. It's gone from being a rhythm tied to daily life and ritual to one that's built for dance clubs.

Ms. SAUMET: I think it's good. (Foreign language spoken) but I think the feeling is different.

TAKAHASHI: It's not hard to figure out why musicians beyond Colombia have co-opted Cumbia. The rhythm is a sort of musical Silly Putty bending to the whim of any performer or region.

Antonio Hernandez(ph) is a DJ and producer for Mexico. At fiestas around the world, he's a Cumbia ambassador who fans know as Toy Selecta.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

TAKAHASHI: Toy Selecta produced this song in a Mexican Cumbia style, piling killer accordion (unintelligible) top standard Cumbia percussion. The dreadlocked DJ lives in the music center of Monterrey, Mexico. But I caught him at a party near Skid Row in downtown L.A. He says Cumbia is part of the genetic code of Latin America. It undergoes a Darwinian evolution everywhere it travels. And he says Mexico has several mutant strains, all of which sound distinct from the Colombian original.

Mr. ANTONIO HERNANDEZ (DJ and Producer): Think about this - it's like, okay, this is a good, like, example. It's like rhythm and blues being played by English people. That's the type of relation that we got with - in Latin America.

TAKAHASHI: Toy Selecta uses Cumbia in the same way that another DJ might use a hip hop beat as a surefire way to fill the dance floor.

(Soundbite of music)

TAKAHASHI: This remix Aye Guey is an example of one of his newer Cumbia concoctions. He released it through the California record label, Bersa Discos.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HERNANDEZ: What you're listening, it's a combination of Cumbia, traditional Cumbia with accordion sound, but with the Mexican flavor, and what I add is the beat, the really strong kind of beat-driven situations.

TAKAHASHI: As he sees it, this new blend of Cumbia is the situation where listeners get two parties for the price of one.

For NPR News, I'm Corey Takahashi.

(Soundbite of music)

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of credits)

MONTAGNE: I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: I'm Steve Inskeep

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.