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This Isn’t Your Mama’s Cumbia: The Eclectic History Of Latin America’s Classic Music Genre

cumbiafever / Instagram

As soon as the first beats of classic cumbia songs such as “La pollera colorá, “Carmen se me perdió la cadenita” or “Cumbia sampuesana” started playing at family parties, you knew it was about to turn into a good time. Many Latinos have fond memories growing up with these classics, a testament to how widespread cumbia’s reach has been across Latin America, starting from its roots in Africa.

There’s just something about cumbias that make Latinos stop in their tracks.

In a 2015 interview with NPR’s alt.latino, Eduardo Díaz, the director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, talked to the show’s co-hosts about cumbia’s origins.

Although cumbia does have indigenous and European influences, mainly with the flute and variation with melodies respectively, its roots extend all the way to Africa. According to Díaz, the movement slaves had while being shackled together gave way to the short, simple steps first practiced in cumbia dancing.

“That’s why you have in the original cumbia, this sort of side-step with the one foot, and then the right foot. The left foot first catches up with it. But you don’t move very far. That’s why when you see the original cumbia, the men are barely moving their feet. It’s a real short shuffle step,”  Díaz explained to NPR alt.Latino.

Drums and chanting were used in the earliest forms of cumbia. The song “Fuego de Cumbia” played by Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto gives fans the purest form of cumbia.

The minimalistic musical stylings of “Fuego de Cumbia” retains the simple nature of cumbia’s roots. You can hear the flutes and drums that carry the rhythm through your body and get you moving on the dance floor. It truly is cumbia at its rawest and most original form.

Centuries ago, African slaves used the cumbia dance as a type of courtship dance, described in the cumbia of “Rito esclavo” by Pedro Laza.

Although Díaz focuses on the instruments used, one quick listen to the lyrics tells the tale of how slaves used the dance.

The song starts with these (translated) lyrics:

This is a ritual

A slave ritual that slaves perform for their loves

Yelling is heard

Light the candle

The drums cry

Cumbia started spreading from the outer Caribbean coast of Colombia to other parts of the country, along with traveling to different parts of Latin America.

Cumbia made its way through Peru, Mexico and Argentina evolving along the way. The genre picked up different regional sounds based on instruments and lyrics that reflected the region in which it was created.

Around the 1940s in Mexico, cumbia came by way of Colombian singer Luis Carlos Meyer Castandet, who is said to have recorded the first cumbia outside of Colombia with the track, “La cumbia cienaguera.”

Peruvian cumbia also has a similar instrumental arrangement as cumbia sonidera and tecnocumbia.

Peruvian cumbia involves electric guitars, synths and a distinct touch of Andean flavor. It can be played a little slower than regular cumbia and lends itself to some slow dancing. It really isn’t that bad though the guitar does take some getting used to.

This sound was starting to churn out in the ’60s in Peru.

Cumbia’s ability to spread through so many countries and adapt to so many different instruments shows the genres strength and resilience.

By the 1980s, two subgenres formed in Mexico—tecnocumbia and cumbia sonidero.

Tecnocumbia used tropical elements and electronic instruments and developed around the 1980s. Think Los Bukis and their sound.

Selena’s “Como La Flor,” “La Carcaha,” and “Technocumbia” are all part of this genre.

An ICONIC Queen 👸😭💜

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That’s right. You’ve been enjoying tecnocumbia for a long time and didn’t even know it.

Cumbia sonidera can be heard echoing at house parties in East Los Angeles or at La Cita in downtown L.A., as described in an article from the New York Times last year.

“With the largest Mexican community in the United States, the Los Angeles area is cumbia sonidera culture’s nerve center north of the border,” the article states.

Cumbia sonidera is known for its shout-out dedications from a DJ, or sonidero, as well as the electric riffs that waft through.

Favorite couple 👌 FreddyRomina❤️ #cumbiasonidera 😫😂

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It’s the kind of music that makes you want to clap along and do a little shuffle. Unless you are with your main boo then you definitely hit the dance floor for some well-timed twirls.

While Peruvian cumbia and cumbia sonidero could be heard in the discotheques from Lima to Monterrey, a new type of cumbia was evolving in the slums of Argentina.

Cumbia villera’s history started out in the late 1990s, and uses lyrics describing the hard-knock life of living on the streets.

Early groups sang about partying, not social issues, but as the country plunged deeper into a depression, societal issues such as poverty and misery started to rise to the surface in the lyrical composition. In a sense, it was like the blues for Argentina, giving these artists a place to vent about the societal problems they lamented and wished to change.

Cumbia villera was influenced from Peruvian cumbia, cumbia sonidera, as well as reggae, ska and rock. The music started to change in the early 2000s under President Nestor Kirchner along with an improvement in the economy.

Cumbia then evolved to a modern form of music known as electrocumbia. Before long, it became a favorite at clubs and dance parties for young Latinos eager to mix the culture of their youth with the sounds and rhythms of young adulthood.

Cumbia’s essence is taking form in cumbia hip-hop and even being showcased on one of mainstream music’s largest stage—Coachella. Mexican cumbia sonidera group Los Ángeles Azules played this year and shared a piece of Latino collective history to people who have never heard these beats before.

With the rapid development this genre has experienced over past centuries and decades, the frontier of cumbia has not been reached—and that sounds like a wonderful thing.


READ: This Viejito Plays Cumbias Using A Coke Bottle And His Skills Are Insane

What’s your favorite genre of cumbia? Tell us below!

Cardi B Fans Are So Happy For Her New Baby But Are Already Clowning On Her For Her Name

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Cardi B Fans Are So Happy For Her New Baby But Are Already Clowning On Her For Her Name

Fans have been patiently waiting for Cardi B to have her baby and the day has finally come. On July 10, Cardi B and Offset welcomed Kulture Kiari Cephus to the world. Cute, right? Well, the Internet is always a crazy place and once you release something on the Internet people are bound to react. That is exactly what happened when the world learned Kulture’s name. Here are just a handful of reactions from the Internet about Kulture Kiari Cephus.

Cardi B and Offset welcomed Kulture Kiari Cephus into the world.

CREDIT: iamcardib / Instagram

Caption: Kulture Kiari Cephus 07/10/18🎀🌸 @offsetyrn. What a beautiful moment for the new mom.

Some fans were so excited just to see the new baby.

CREDIT: @jerikavschlogan / Twitter

Big congratulations, you two. The birth of a child is one of the greatest moments in life. Pure joy and love.

But others just couldn’t get past the name.

CREDIT: @zeefromhtx / Twitter

Tbh, celebrities have long been giving their children unexpected names. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West named their children North and Saint. Beyoncé named her first child Blue Ivy. How is Kulture that different?

Like, people were just so confused.

CREDIT: @TommySledge / Twitter

You could hear the eye rolls and facepalms everywhere you went after the news dropped. But, again, other celebrities have used truly weird names for their children.

Then came the jokes.

CREDIT: @Jadenosteen / Twitter

That’s crazy. You might want to get your house checked by a priest if furniture is floating around. It’s not a normal thing to happen.

Twitter users even found Harry Potter references inspiration.

CREDIT: @KadijahChloee / Twitter

Who here is a Harry Potter fan? If that’s you, then you understand just how easily Kulture Kiari Cephus could be a spell.

The baby’s name has already started to become an urban legend.

CREDIT: @Emi_Bayyy / Twitter

Now all Cardi B fans know what they have to do to get Cardi B to show up at their house. Now watch all her fans try this summoning charm.

The overall theme, however, is just astonishment.

CREDIT: @JappOffJones / Twitter

It just wasn’t what anyone was expecting. Like, at all. But at the same time, it is kind of cute so who knows how you should really feel.

Everyone is assuming that those Kardashian ladies are quaking.

CREDIT: @fentyking007 / Twitter

No, Kris. You don’t get to corner the market for names that start with “K.” Anyone can name their child what they want.

Some true fans pointed out that the name is not a surprise considering the parents’ names.

CREDIT: @SylviaObell / Twitter

This tweet really does clear things up. Like, Kiari Cephus are family names now, thanks to Offset. How many of you are walking around with names passed down from generation to generation.

People were recreating some of the most famous memes because Twitter.

CREDIT: @98feetofsmoke / Twitter

Surely there were several people to had to really squint to figure out the name. This man couldn’t have been the only one.

The name has even inspired non-fans to give Cardi B some love this week.

CREDIT: @MikiaMonay / Twitter

You just have to respect Cardi B’s commitment to living her best and most authentic life. Be like Cardi B, y’all.

There might also be some concern brewing here.

CREDIT: @Misterlyanu / Twitter

Though, it would be more interesting if you think she named her child Culture instead of Kulture. Like, there is no way to know that there is a “K” instead of a “C” if you don’t say so.

Cardi B’s fans started to respond to the chatter on Twitter as if speaking as Cardi B.

CREDIT: @yoyotrav / Twitter

That’s right. Imagine a young Cardi B being questioned about her choices. Surely she would not take things lightly when questioned.

Some people can’t be fooled and realized the Offset might be after free press.

CREDIT: @kxng_josiah17 / Twitter

In case you didn’t know. Offset is a member of the band Migos. They have three albums and their second is called “Culture” and their third is called “Culture II.” Maybe he was looking for free press.

Yeah, fans aren’t fooled by the name.

CREDIT: @_Leeeelo / Twitter

Hopefully that’s not where the name came from but we have to wait for Cardi B to explain the name choice before we know the truth.

This user totally understood the importance of the name Cardi B and Offset chose.

CREDIT: @BritniDWrites / Twitter

Could you imagine being a Jennifer or a Yolanda in a home with Belcalis and Kiari? That would be so boring.

Others just made their own joke names.

CREDIT: @SavinTheBees / Twitter

Some people didn’t get the joke, obviously. Clearly the Twitter user knows how to make comedy totally unaccessible.

A few brave souls didn’t think twice about the name and just wanted to know about Cardi B.

CREDIT: @WRBolen / Twitter

It would be pretty amazing to at least hear the audio from the delivery room. She already has the greatest sound library at her vocal cords. We just want to hear her when she is under pressure.

But the greatest thought of all is this one right here.

CREDIT: @rosadona / Twitter

It would be pretty awesome to see that your mom was owning the music charts when she was pregnant with you.

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