Cumbia has a three-century history that spans several continents. This Latin American musical backbone, which has its roots in an African dance brought to Colombia via the slave trade, binds many different regional traditions together through a similar beat. Travel over space, time, and the border on this rhythmic journey into the roots of cumbia and its presence in Tejano culture.
Cumbia might appear very different depending on what you’re doing and whatever century you’re in. In Peru in the 1960s, cumbia was known as ‘chicha,’ and it was a mix of huayno and psychedelic rock. Selena Quintanilla was a Tejana icon in the 1990s, with hits including ‘Baila Esta Cumbia.’
In 2007, Puerto Rican reggaetoneros Calle 13 released the single ‘Cumbia de los Aburridos,’ which put a modern spin on cumbia. Cumbia has been influenced by a wide range of sounds, instruments, and other styles over the years, with each country and artist contributing their unique viewpoint. While the sounds of cumbia differ depending on where you are in the world, there is one sound that links them all.”
They use a scraper called a guacharo in Colombia to generate the chucu-chucu-chu rhythm that you know with cumbia,” says Professor Héctor Fernández L’Hoeste, author of “Cumbia! : Scenes of a Migrant Latin American Music Genre.”
Cumbia’s first known existence, according to L’Hoeste, is from the 19th century. Cumbia is a Colombian dance that originated in Africa and was imported to the country via the slave trade. It was originally intended to be a mix of three cultures, with Spanish ancestors living alongside African slaves and Indians.”
The traditional, regional Caribbean dance, according to L’Hoeste, became commercialized and whitened over time. Orchestral arrangements were added in the 1940s and 1950s. As a result of musical trends in the United States, cumbia began to take on a large band sound. During this time, cumbia evolves from regionally recognized music to nationally recognized music. After that, the music quickly shifts to Mexico.
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