Cumbia is essentially happy, party music and one that spans a great deal of variants from electric, pysch/psychedelic, big band, traditional music and traditional dance accompaniments. This is stuff you should be cutting some rug and getting pissed to, to be frank.
A marvellous record: a re –release of two compilations that sought to promote the history of Columbian pop music – specifically the sound of Cumbia – and more specifically the sound of one label, Discos Fuentes from the 30’s onwards. And before you go and click on something else to read let me tell you in no uncertain terms that this is no mere archivist’s delight. This is stuff you should be cutting some rug and getting pissed to, to be frank. Cumbia is essentially happy, party music and one that spans a great deal of variants from electric, pysch/psychedelic, big band, traditional music and traditional dance accompaniments. Or completely psyched out, agrarian hoe downs as on the brilliant Cumbia Cienaguera: you name it, this compilation’s got it. Despite the lyrical content often being far from happy (dead fishermen on the staple La Piragua – done with a tremendous amount of style on disc one by Gabriel Romero – not to mention political insurgency, slavery) you could think the whole thing is geared up to having a good time. Given Columbia’s past it’s no surprise that a fair number of singers choose to pick up on these topics; let’s take Pedro Laza’s Navidad Negra as a final example. But you never feel this is worthy music. You really need a bottle of something by your side whatever the subject matter.
The first disc kicks off with twosmooth enough brass-led pop pieces from the late 70s, by Rodolfo Y Su Tipica R.A.7 and Gabriel Romero. Things get looser and a bit fruitier with the accordion frills of Armando Hernandez’s La Zenaida (The Fruitseller), which sounds daft and super serious all at once. It’s marvellous. From then on we have the sultry charm of Adolfo Echeverria’s Amaneciento which is a real snaky poolside charmer with a terrific piano-led jam. Elsewhere we have tracks we’ve mentioned above such as 1960’s Cumbia Cienaguera or the ever-powerful La Piragua (you could never guess this is about drowning fishermen). We’d be daft if we didn’t mention the shake down of La Pollera Colora by Los Inmortales, or the rock steady charm of La Sonora Dinamita’s Se Me Perdió La Cadenita mind… Oh and check out the fab instrumental that closes the first disc, a guacharaca (which sounds like a washboard) and an accordion battle it out. Tops
Disc two is a groovy affair, kicked off by the clarinet shuffle of Pedro Laza’s Y Sus Pelayero, which gets increasingly sweaty as it progresses. By contrast, a thumping and powerful female vocal by Lucy Gonzalez – known as the Golden Blind Woman – sings of joining the sirens in Soledad… To stop things getting too morose, there's the knock-out klezmer feel of Lupita which tears the joint down with its frenetic rhythm; it’s tremendous. Things don’t slow down either with the accordion-led gyrations of Llora Acordéon, recorded by one of Cumbia’s greatest acts, Los Corraleros de Majagual. If I had to take one track on this collection to sum up all that’s good about Cumbia I’d pick this one. Elsewhere, we get a tremendous shake out with Alberto Pacheo’s Santo Domingo and a big band break down with Lito Barrientos and his marvellous Cumbia En Do Menor. And just in case we get tired of that we can try the stripped down roots Cumbia of Andres Landero or what about Combo Los Galleros’ ska work outs… Indeed… where to draw the line?
It’s so fucking good, this record, that it defies belief.