New Latin American Music Picks from ‘Global Village’
Originally published on NPR
Betto Arcos returns once again to tell NPR’s Guy Raz what he’s been spinning on “Global Village,” the world music show he hosts on KPFK in Los Angeles. This week, Arcos has compiled songs from four of his favorite new Latin American artists, with music ranging from a reworking of traditional Colombian dance rhythms to a hip-hop song paying homage to Chilean protesters.
- Artist: Frente Cumbiero
- Album: Frente Cumbiero Meets Mad Professor
Frente Cumbiero is from Bogota, the capital of Colombia. The group is made up of young musicians, all in their early 30s. The name is a play on the idea of the band being a front, or frente, for cumbia, a style of music that is native to Colombia and has become incredibly popular all across Latin America. It’s pretty much the most popular dance music in every country but Colombia, where cumbia has been sort of dead since the 1970s, when Vallenato and salsa took over, and so Frente Cumbiero is trying to revive it.
“Cumbietiope” is a play on the words “cumbia” and “Ethiopia.” This song mixes the Ethiopian flavor from the 1960s with cumbia to create something original. The clarinet featured in this song is a particularly good example of how the two historic styles are blended together.
Zapata Se Queda (Zapata Stays)
- Artist: Lila Downs
- Album: Pecados y Milagros
Off Lila Downs’ new album Pecados Y Milagros, this song resulted from Downs’ recurrent dreams that the ghost of Mexican revolutionary icon Emiliano Zapata was present in her house. Zapata, a peasant who fought for Mexican rights alongside Pancho Villa, remains one of the most important revolutionary icons in Mexican history. Downs wrote this song about Mexico’s need for a visionary leader today as the country continues to endure new conflict.
- Artist: Ana Tijoux
- Album: La Bala
This song is an homage to protests happening all over the world, but specifically the demonstrations that took place in Chile in 2011, in which students demanded access to quality education. Tijoux raps about the Chilean class divide and points a finger at politicians and executives of big corporations as contributors to the country’s current state. The chorus goes, “Your time is up, we will not allow this anymore / Your doctrine of shock, your time is up, it is time.”
- Artist: Novalima
- Album: Karimba
Novalima is a group of young musicians from Peru who fuse hip electronic dance music with traditional Afro-Peruvian music, bringing traditional sounds into the 21st century. They manage to keep the roots of the music intact: They’re not messing with the beat and the rhythm, just adding to it more color and texture.
At the heart of “Mamaye” is the percussion, particularly the cajon Peruano, or Peruvian box. The instrument, which is now featured in many jazz and flamenco songs, originated in Peru and was played by Afro-Peruvian slaves. “Mamaye” is a slave song that Novalima has rearranged and filtered through a new style of dance music.