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by World Music Network July 27, 2015


Psychedelic Cumbia & Latin Disco: Two New Rough Guides!

Two exciting new compilation albums are to be released on 31 July on World Music Network! Whether it's The Rough Guide To Latin Disco, or The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Cumbia, these are must-haves for your collection! Add them either to your World Music Network subscription, or order them as a one-off purchase in our store.

The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Cumbia

RGNET1337In the late 1960s cumbia was reborn psychedelic. This surf guitar groove sprang from the coastal cities of Colombia, Peru and Mexico where, under the influence of the western psychedelic culture, conditions were ripe for incredible experimentation.

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‘Psychedelic’ is a buzzword being used a lot these days, especially to sell evermore obscure treasures dug up from the world’s once lost, now rediscovered, international musical archives. In some instances calling the music ‘psych’ is a bit of a stretch – just because it’s weird or dressed up in imported trappings from the same era does not make it necessarily so – and at other times it seems to be merely cashing in on a trend.

Happily this is not generally the case when applied to cumbia, because this venerable genre of Colombian music with an international reach truly did go through a psychedelic period. Especially in Peru, where it is also experiencing a genuine resurgence of interest among contemporary musicians and audiences alike, from South America to the United States, Europe and beyond. Psychedelic rock (especially the Latin-flavoured kind, as practiced by Santana, Malo, Azteca and the like) and cumbia came of age together in the mid to late 1960s under parallel circumstances. In Peru (and to a lesser extent Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia) the tools of rock and roll – namely electric guitar and organ – were already quite popular among the youth of the day and it makes perfect sense that this originally acoustic Afro-Colombian coastal social dance music would be reborn under the influence of psychedelic culture by the late 1960s, in order to make it relevant to the younger generation. Add to that the strong surf culture in places like coastal Peru and Mexico and conditions were ripe for just the sort of experimentation sampled here. In addition it can be said that ‘imported’ hippie culture and rock and roll were seen as a real threat to order and decency by dictatorships from Brazil to Cuba. So when many Latin American governments decided to repress the rock and roll ‘rebellion’ and psychedelic youth culture swirling around them, some of that vibe and energy was sublimated and folded into more marginalised and nationalistically acceptable tropical musical formats like samba, cumbia or salsa.

Peru has had its share of great electric guitarists bending strings to the rolling beats of cumbia – from Enrique Delgado to José Luis Carballo – who came from its own important domestic tradition of criollo guitar music as much as rock). So it’s not an exaggeration to say cumbia peruana (and regional variants at times referred to ascumbia andinacumbia selvática, and more recently chicha) has had the lion’s share of Carlos Santana influences evident in the mix. For this reason we start the compilation with a suite of five vintage Peruvian recordings from some of the greats like Juaneco y su Combo. Interestingly the Peruvian psych sound so prevalent in the early 1970s had a profound effect on the originators of cumbia; hence we offer the two fine examples from 1970s Colombia that follow. We round out the mix with a gaggle of contemporary artists from Chile, Mexico, USA, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, and Germany, bringing the psychedelic tropical vibe up to date while still retaining the trippy trappings of yesteryear. 


The Rough Guide To Latin Disco


RGNET1338From its underground roots in the nightclubs of New York, disco music had strong connections with the Latino community. The irresistible influence of salsa and Latin percussion permeates this selection, which features many of the legendary artists of the 1970s disco heyday as well as the new wave of Latin disco inspired bands.

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From its underground roots in the nightclubs of 1970s New York, disco music had strong connections to the city’s Latino community. They provided many musicians, producers and labels making the music, as well as a large section of the audience dancing to it. Latin percussion instruments were at the heart of the disco sound and the strong influence of salsa can be heard in many tracks. 

One Latin music record company, Salsoul Records, would go on to be described as the greatest disco label of all time and, as disco conquered the world, Latino musicians in the Caribbean, South and Central America were swept along by it and began producing their own variations on the Latin disco theme.

Disco music boomed for less than a decade and by the early 1980s it faded as newer musical styles came along such as new wave, rap, hiphop and electronic music. However, disco would not be forgotten and it was the inspiration and foundation for the next great global dance movement to emerge in the late 1980s, namely house music. By 2000, with a growing interest in the 1970s underground disco roots of house, a new generation of musicians and bands began to release music heavily influenced by those early Salsoul Records releases.

The Rough Guide To Latin Disco features some of the legendary artists, musicians and tracks from the golden era of disco music, the 1970s, alongside some of today’s new Latin disco inspired bands, musicians and producers.

From the 1970s, we feature five tracks from the legendary Salsoul Records. These include two from Latin soul singer and disco pioneer Joe Bataan (‘La Botella’ and ‘Latin Lover’), plus two from the Salsoul Orchestra (‘Salsoul Hustle’ and ‘Ritzy Mambo’), the label’s in-house band and huge disco stars in their own right. The final Salsoul track is ‘Dancin & Prancin’’ from master Cuban percussionist Candido, released in 1979 at the peak of disco’s popularity. 

Of the non-Salsoul 1970s classics, we include ‘Sunny’ by New York salsa/funk band Yambu (a cover of the Bobby Hebb song), US-based Cuban flute legend Fajardo’s hustle inspired single ‘C’mon Baby, Do The Latin Hustle’, and Colombian artist Wganda Kenya’s cover of Carl Douglas’s 1974 disco-soul hit ‘Kung Fu Fighting’, translated into Spanish as ‘Combate A Kung Fu’.

Post-2000, with the nu-disco movement in full swing, a host of new young artists began to produce music heavily influenced by the classic 1970s Latin disco sound. We present four of these new generation bands on the compilation – three from the UK (Grupo X, Malena and Los Charly’s Orchestra), and one from California (Jungle Fire). These tracks feature the trademark Latin disco sound – a four-to-the-floor beat, fingerpopping basslines, scratchy syncopated rhythm guitar, heavy Latin rhythms and, in some cases, sweeping Salsoul style strings. All proof that Latin disco is still alive today four decades on since it first exploded in the clubs of 1970s New York.