Cumbia has been a fundamental genre in the history of Latin music. And no one knows this better than Carlos Vives.

The Colombian singer-songwriter has dedicated his career to preserving and expanding the reach of the genre. Cumbia originated on Colombia’s Caribbean coast and has spread throughout Latin America.

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“When a Colombian listens to Mexican cumbia, he realizes the power of cumbia born in the amphibious villages of the Rio Grande de la Magdalena in Colombia. How is this rhythm endemic? It went around the world,” Vives told MiTú during an event to announce his upcoming “El Tour de los 30”.

“When the record industry arrived, when Medellín started producing music, it started exporting musical groups to Mexico,” the singer said. “They were Sonora, Dinamita, Margarita, la diosa de la cumbia, Aniceto Molina, etc. They were the ones who brought the orchestrated cumbia from Colombia,” he explained. 

“If that cumbia had not migrated with the orchestras, Selena (Quintanilla) would have sung boleros or rancheras or corridos because what Selena really sang was classic Colombian cumbia.”

The original ambassador of Latin American music

Born in Santa Marta, Colombia, in 1961, Carlos Vives has been a champion of cumbia music. Since his debut album “Por Fuera y Por Dentro” in 1987, Vives has been instrumental in introducing cumbia to new audiences.

The singer has helped the genre gain popularity throughout Latin America. He has won multiple Latin Grammy Awards for his cumbia-infused albums, such as “Déjame Entrar” and “Cumbiana.”

A passion that crosses borders

Vives’ passion for cumbia goes beyond merely interpreting the music. He has also been a historian of the genre, working to preserve its rich cultural heritage. 

In 2015, Carlos Vives released a documentary entitled “La Tierra del Olvido,” which explores the history of cumbia and its evolution over the years. The documentary includes interviews with some of the genre’s most legendary musicians and showcases the many regional variations of cumbia music.

“If it wasn’t for the cumbia that was born in Colombia, Bad Bunny wouldn’t be number one right now because his song with Grupo Frontera (“X100″) is a cumbia,” Vives proudly expresses.

He went on to talk about the power of cumbia in South America. 

“Even the chants in Argentine stadiums would be different because they were born from cumbia, and they owe all that to Colombia,” Vives concluded.

Luckily for Vives and cumbia fans, his tour will include many cumbia songs from his repertoire. The show will be a journey through his 30-year career.