Cumbias I Have Known: Part 1

I recently had the rare privilege to be initiated in a new and mysterious world. It is one I expect I will explore in these posts many times over in years to come. That world belongs to the flashy and sometimes bewildering genre of Peruvian Cumbia.

Delfín Quishpe – Torres Gemelas (yes, I know he’s Ecuadorian, but he’s huge in Peru)

A partial translation of the lyrics:

When I went to New York
I thought I’d see my sweetheart
She lived in New York and worked in the Twin Towers
A call, I received it
It simply said “Goodbye my love”

Like much that comes from Perú, the personalities of its upper echelon are larger than life.

Delfín Quishpe feat. Wendy Sulca & La Tigresa del Oriente – En Tus Tierras Bailaré

In roughly the same way that Rock and Roll is celebrated in the English-speaking world, Cumbia runs like a common thread through much of Latin America, exhibiting a distinct character in every context where it has emerged.

Wendy Sulca – Cerveza, Cerveza

In the above 2007 video, the 13-year-old Peruvian cumbia star, Wendy Sulca cries out for “Beer, Beer”.

There is so much variety on the world of cumbia that one installment on the subject isn’t possibly enough. And while I have nowhere near the authority on the subject as I did when I tackled amen breaks, I won’t let that keep me from trying.

La Tigresa del Oriente – Nuevo Amanecer

Something heard in Peruvian cumbia which seems somewhat distinct is that it sometimes features harp as the instrument which carries the main melody (sometimes as many as three melodies are woven together in a single cumbia track). I suspect the instrument’s presence has something to do with the shared cultural heritage of Peruvian cumbia and Huayno.

Incidentally, harp is one of the sounds that came into vogue toward the beginning of the current decade in the world of house music:

Florence + the Machine – You’ve Got the Love (The XX Remix)

If this is your jam, the artist responsible is performing in Portland on August 21!

Because Toy Selectah is tha bomb, here’s his Guarachero refix:

Florence + the Machine x The XX – You’ve Got the Love (Toy Selectah Guarachero Refix)


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