Emanating from Latin America, cumbia rhythms are fast becoming as international as the ubiquitous sounds of house and techno. And as they spread, they’re bringing shuffling syncopations and vibrant polyrhythms, bright-colored timbres that blend traditional sounds with new electronic forms. When those noises dance out of familiar hardware and software rigs, they’re also a reminder that common tools need not mean homogenized results – not once in the hands of creative musicians.

Thump, the VICE property which has been putting out fine-quality and diverse music reporting even despite a name with crowd-grabbing EDM overtones, visits Lima in their latest video. It’s a nice, compact overview of the energy of that scene. But if Lima is an epicenter, it’s hardly where that music ends: “digital” cumbia reverberates in Berlin, New York, or at the adoptive home of Argentina’s Gaby Kerpel – Los Angeles. Cumbia, for its part, is associated with Panama and Colombia, a hybrid of indigenous music and African and European influence and inspiration, resurrected from slave culture to become an international popular form. To remake this form that was already a cultural hybrid, a complex construction of newly-fabricated identity, as “digital” makes perfect sense. Cumbia was always an avatar; now its practitioners show us how it’s done with the latest tools.

Dengue Dengue Dengue, via VICE/Thump

Dengue Dengue Dengue, via VICE/Thump

Max Pearl has been celebrating digital cumbia for Thump; he introduces the new video, directed by Mariano Carra. They visit the likes of Animal Chuki on ZZK Records and Deltatron from Peru’s label Terror Negro. It’s all must-watch, must-listen stuff.

In Lima, Digital Cumbia is Having its Moment [Thump]

Max wrote a great overview at the end of last year, as well:

In Lima, a Tropical Bass Scene Finds its Footing [Thump]

The video’s great; if there’s any complaint I’d have, it’s that the “subculture” label might lead you to believe this is some isolated phenomenon, when in fact some of these artists get play on the other side of the world. (The context is clearer when you read Max’s narrative, though.) Latin American influence on electronic music has been part of its roots since the beginning, and when it echoes in Europe or America, and producers and listeners to whom these rhythms dance and play the music and make new forms, the process of musical breeding and cross-breeding only continues.

And there’s a lesson for dance music in general: at the moment, the most dynamic, “newest” music is very often the music with the deepest, richest connection to history.

But enough jabbering. Let’s listen.

King Coya, Andes to Angeles, nicely represented in this teaser from a few years ago:

King Coya – ZZK Records from ZZK Records on Vimeo.

King Coya on the remix scene:

Animal Chuki’s excellent Capicúa is a free download, courtesy XLR8R:

And listen to their mixtape for more of their Lima sound:

1. Animal Chuki – Polen
2. Animal Chuki – Capicúa
3. La Yegros – Viene de Mi (Animal Chuki remix)
4. Animal Chuki – Eva & el Mono
5. Animal Chuki – Cholito Jr.
6. Animal Chuki – El Rey
7. Animal Chuki – Tambo

I’m personally partial to the trippy grooves of SHUSHUPE, aka Ursula Talavera, also from Lima, who’s out with a new netlabel EP last month of “Indocumbia”. It’s a fusion of – well, a lot of things, from “Indochinese” melodies to trap to cumbia, timbrally and rhythmically, resulting in something that sounds both ancient and futuristic. There’s gamelan for extra spice.

EP download is available free from netlabel Folcore:

Shushupe EP Indocumbia

or in English (not that you can’t work out how to get the download in Spanish!): Shushupe EP Indocumbia

Shushupe live, courtesy the artist.

Shushupe live, courtesy the artist.

Here’s… something happening with her live, that will mainly sort of wish you were there. (Cue “Come Fly with Me”…)

And yes, Lima can get glitchy with its tradition, as Lima’s Daniel Martinetti (“Elegante & La Imperial”) does here:

And let’s finish out with Lima’s Dengue Dengue Dengue!, the audiovisual duo of Felipe Salmón / Rafael Pereira. When these push further out into oddly-unbalanced, slanting grooves, something truly magical happens – check out especially the appropriately-serpantine Serpiente Dorada, also just from last month:

I’m sure readers will have more to share – and that some of our readers hail from Peru, Colombia, Panama, Argentina, and other corners of the globe where you’re also listening and making to this stuff. Do sound off.

And next up – we definitely need to give some Digital Cumbia love to Colombia. Follow-up story later this week!

  • Felix Turner

    those masks are dope.

  • cooptrol

    Uruguay has also it’s share of electronic cumbia and latin rhythm producers, such as the awesome Lechuga Zafiro, and the Subtropical crew from Montevideo:



    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ooh, now definitely adding this to the list…

  • Adam Murray

    Thanks for opening me up to some new music. Good stuff!

  • https://www.behance.net/bob_bell Bob Bell

    Another reason to visit Peru! Great sounds

  • Aaron

    One of the best things about cumbia popularity as ive witnessed it on various trips over the past couple years…is that is helping move more and more people away from dancehall.. which is a godsend. It’s even starting to permeate Soca music on Caribean islands. There is some interesting dub/jamaican crossbreeding going on out there too.

    • Aaron

      gah..too early..Caribbean..

  • jean_poole

    See also >> The Cumbia Cosmonauts, from Melbourne Australia ( live electronic 3piece band! ) : https://soundcloud.com/cumbiacosmonauts / http://thecumbiacosmonauts.bandcamp.com/ / + http://vimeo.com/jeanpoole/cumbiacosmonauts

  • Paul Rose

    I travelled Buenos Aires a couple of times in the last 10 years, and always liked teh sound of Cumbia echoing in the street when the cars drove by. There is a very strange go-stop-go shuffle moment in the beat. I always thought that there is so much potential, but then the rather simple humppa polka basslines in most of the digicumbia stuff always annoys me after some time so much. There is a nice Mad Professor collab from a couple of years ago, though: http://www.frentecumbiero.com/hola/DubMeCrazy/

    • Sakul

      I agree! well there is a lot of terrible cumbia with awful nasty lyrics too, but the rythm itself is so… moving! One thing I miss here though, since this stuff seems to be made all digitally, is less quantization. what I mean is when 5 people are drumming in a circle there is that special sound of everyone slightly out of time, that’s what always stayed in my head. But nevertheless new hybrids are very cool!! And probs to them being self confident and bring the catchy sound to the world! Dengue dengue a bailar!

  • Frank

    Honestly this must be the most boring music i have ever listened to.I think this quote from another comment sums it up nicely :”polka basslines”.Most.Boring.Stuff.Ever.

  • Daniel

    I don’t care where the masks come from, they look like a Shpongle rip-off. :)

    • Daniel

      God, just listened to it and I’m sorry it just does not sound good at all. Terrible really. Even if they might look like a Shpongle rip-off they sure as hell does not sound like one. 😐

  • Ozkar

    This is not new Peter… Nortec started to do this in the first of 2000 or before taken music from the nort of mexico.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAkk3MqxOY8

    • tosque

      music from the north of Mexico != cumbia