¡Venga mariposa!

The rain is currently lashing away in Hammer fashion at the windows of our rented Brecon cottage, and with the forecast unpromising for the weekend, I can’t help but think of the hardy souls who are currently packing for Green Man. I consider myself retired these days but I will no doubt feel some envy and regret when people start messaging and tweeting once it starts.

Right now though, not so much…

It’s a classic Welsh August in short, and I can’t think of many things less like the equatorial sounds of Cumbia. Nevertheless, a chance encounter on YouTube recently reminded me what an absolute wealth of exotic, goofy sounds there is in Latin America and as a result I spaffed away a bunch of downloads at my favourite online emporium on newish forms of Cumbia.

And lo!

The hoary clouds start to roll away…


A couple of the EPs and single tracks I took were by a band of cheery souls calling themselves Malphino, who are apparently “an outer-national, mystical band from an imaginary tropical island that has dreamt up a cinematic score and audio backdrop to their idyll”. Seems credible…

Here they are doing a sweetly guileless track from their Welcome to Malphino album for Worldwide FM.


You’ll have noticed that Malphino, amongst others, employ the services of a tuba instead of a bass. This is a rare and lovely thing – an instrument my uncle used to play in his time with the Cinderford Brass Band but not one you see a lot of, even in the sort of hipster circles I like to frequent. If you can look past the comedy tones though, it’s a great sound – deep, stentorian, unequivocal…

There’s a bit of a piece about Malphino on the Sounds & Colours site which is worth a read, if you can cope with the disappointing news that the mythical land the band hail from is actually South London. Whilst you’re there, you can also download a track from the band’s debut LP, Visit Malphino. There’s also a longer interview with the band here.

The record was released last year by Lex Records but is currently out of stock (indeed appeared to sell out as I was browsing), although earlier EPs (El Lava de Gabacho & Lalango) are great and are available on eMusic. In the meantime, here’s another clip of the band busking in a Colombian butcher’s stall at Brixton Market, performing “Fabiola Amapola” from Lava de Gabacho



Obviously, I vigorously approve of bands playing their local butchers. I’m also very much in favour of the odd change of tempo, and in this case, a song that appears to get ahead of itself and has to take a self-conscious breath to regain its cool (before dashing off all over again…)

In fact, there’s all sorts of reasons to love this song. Who doesn’t like a ukulele? A tuba solo? A nimble-fingered accordion? (Many people of course, but let us not speak of these types). The version on the EP actually includes a demented pipe organ and an over-enthusiastic cowbell. Yee-ha!

The rest of the EP is great galloping fun too, a super-abundance of accordion, Walken-esque levels of cowbell and the ubiquitous tuba, plus guest appearances from flute, a brass section and even a bit of feedback-y dissonance – this just on the opening track, “Cumbia Policia” (And that’s a picture in itself – bandoliered accordionists and guiro players tumbling out of an on-two-wheels Black Maria as it careens around a corner).

All tremendous, contagious stuff, and if that doesn’t raise a smile on even the dullest of Welsh days, then you, my friend, are flat-lining…


The previous two Augusts have yielded a flurry of posts as a welcome by-product of a week getting it together in the Welsh hills, and you’ll no doubt be hoping this year will be much the same. I’m presuming this but on the other hand, knowing the unreliable nature of this fitful venture, you may just have to be happy with what you get.

Whatever, this is an absolute doozy.

Alex Mendoza y sus Poetas del Ritmo

And so again, we’re enjoying seven days of constructive loafing in the Welsh countryside. Reading (Moby Dick), walking (in the rain, of course), drinking (sherry, mostly), chatting (shit, mostly) – you know, generally sticking it to the Man.

Stand by…

As I may have intimated in my last hurried post, there’s a whole wave of Cumbia breaking upon these shores at the moment. I quickly dashed off the last post moments before we set off on a walk across hill and down dale in the temperamental but never less than impressive Brecon Beacons. Throughout the morning, I can honestly say the fragile notes of Alex Mendoza’s timid, brittle guitar didn’t leave my head in the couple of hours we were out.


This isn’t really Cumbia at all, as I’m sure you’ve worked out – the trebly surf guitar gives it away as Peruvian chicha – but the loping Colombian rhythms and the itchy & scratchy sounds of the guiro tell us we’re not a million miles away. I love the mishmash of reedy guitar lines warmed up by the sympathetic chords of farfisa-style organ, all given a lop-sided drive by the distinctive rhythms of South America. It’s all going down rather well…

And if you’re not immediately won over by that sleeve…

Disappointingly, aside from the fact that he’s a Peruvian guitarist, there’s pretty much nothing about Señor Mendoza available on the Internet that I can find. I gather the driving force behind the record, however, is Max Weissenfeldt who provides the eight-armed, Tony Allen-style drum patterns behind the record and pretty much is the Poetas del Ritmo.

He’s also the band leader of Berlin-based crate-diggers, the Polyversal Souls and has his own label, Philophon, who release all manner of World treasures. There’s a nice little interview with the fellow here although it does suggest that he might be one of those musical kleptomaniacs who’ll be off somewhere else soon. The fact that this first appeared three or four years ago and there’s been no follow up that I can find, maybe confirms this.

Or maybe, they just thought “We’re not going to better this…”

Here’s a clip of another of his ventures with the Polyversal Souls and Ghanaian singer Guy One. It’s also pretty nifty…


So, about that bottle of Amontillado (not going to drink itself, after all…)

Mambo Loco

85191One of the best parts of going to any new city, here or wherever, is finding the record shops, and spending an afternoon having a good nose around the vinyl therein. My trip to Spain this time round was a little disappointing in most of the cities I visited – there were invariably record shops in each place but nothing very special.

Madrid was again the massive exception, with at least five absolutely belting record establishments, where I spent rather too much. My favourite of all of these was a place called Discos Babel, looked after by a very friendly and helpful feller whose English was thankfully better than my Spanish. I remember it from my previous visit to the city and last time, I bought just the one record (Uruguayan beat sensations, The Mockers, as you’re asking). This time the damage was a little heavier.

I’m still investigating the Vainica Doble record I found there, and a couple of other things but currently occupying the (sadly virtual) turntable at our house was this great little compilation from AnalogAfrica, not exactly a crate-diggers bargain, but a scorcher nonetheless…

Aníbal Velásquez y su Conjunto

a3951239925_16Aníbal Velásquez is, I gather, your genuine Colombian living legend, with a 60 year career behind, which began in the 50s. He reached a bit of a peak in the 60s having founded his own conjunto with brothers Juan and Jose, playing what I think of as Cumbia, but seems to have a number of other names to them that know these things. He has a reputation as an innovator and a number of instruments have been revived (or even created) under his auspices. Not least of these, is the accordion itself:

“When I started to play the accordion, the instrument was not very popular – it had not become a main part of Costeño culture, and it was considered a second class instrument – a bit foreign and awkward”

CS388341-01B-BIGSince those days, despite the gradual decline in interest in Cumbia, his own reputation has actually grown, playing in and gradually becoming the star turn in various local and national festivals. His stature even appears to have withstood a 19-year period of self-imposed exile in Venezuela.

The record is a wonderfully jittery one, easily as clangy and shouty as the Aliboria record in the last post, each track parading its own stroppy but catchy rhythm which won’t be denied.

Watch this video about the making of the title track, Mambo Loco:


As you can see there’s a right old troop of bangers, tingers and scrapers furiously doing their thing, with the man himself struggling to be heard over the racquet. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s damn hard to sit still.

It’s not all about the rhythm, though, the keys and at times guitar work weave carefully in and out of the rhythms behind them. Velásquez’s muscular finger work is pretty impressive too. I love the sound of the accordion, full stop; partly because it does still sound foreign and awkward (even cheesy at times), but I think the man does have a glorious driving style of his own. By now in his eighties, he’s still something of a local celebrity in Baranquilla and still performs live.

I bet he’s great.


downloadBeen looking around for something modern I liked from Latin America. There’s a few western-sounding bands around, all sounding pretty good but not exactly Latin. Here’s something though…

Anarkia Tropikal

Anarchy Tropical are a Chilean band of ne’er-do-wells, who, if the YouTube clips are anything to go by, seem to be having an immoderate amount of fun arsing around with punk and Chicha rhythms. Wheedling farfisa sounds and impossibly brittle Chicha guitars, wind themselves around off-beats and loping Cumbia bass lines, wrapped in by the all-encompassing rhythms of what looks to me like a man playing a cheese-grater but which is of course the merengue staple rhythm instrument, the guiro (as any fule know…)

Listen to the crazed, high spirits of “Ayahuasca”, and you’ll get an idea of how exciting a mixture it is:

This track appears to be free to download from their SoundCloud page along with the whole of 2013’s “La Verganza de los Brujos”, an album chockfull of witches, wah-wah and Cumbia zombies. It must be a helluva experience seeing this lot on stage. I’ve seen them billed as “anarcho-cumbia” and once you’ve seen the clips, it’s hard to argue with that…



Oh go on! Here’s another – their tribute to the Mirlos:


What’s My Name?

Chicha+Libre+chicha_libreI kinda think I should be over all this, by now. Probably need to hear some skinny white guys playing Stooges covers soon…

Chicha Libre

Chicha Libre are a Brooklyn band fronted by a Frenchman , called Olivier Conan, who founded the Barbes label and was the brains (and the curiosity) behind the Roots of Cumbia collections that I’ve been playing to death these weeks.

I’ve just bought their most recent record, Canibalismo, which is a suitably goofy collection of Chicha rhythms, surf / wah-wah guitars and dubby effects. Think of Conan as a French/Peruvian Joe Meek (or maybe just watch this:)

There’s also a terrific interview with Conan, here, which includes a video section as well. It’s well worth a read.

And here’s a live session, at KUTX in Austin:

Rotan las estrellas y suena tambo…

Cumbia Soundway(OK, that’s a best guess…)

I feel that life is passing me by… No Green Man this year (best weather ever…). No End of the Road. A gaggle of pals at Psychfest. Nothing to post on this Blog…

Ho Hum

Actually, one of the reasons I’ve not posted anything for … oh absolutely ages, is that I continue to be enchanted by the sounds of Cumbia. And you can’t keep posting YouTube links to Peruvian songs from the past… You’d’ve thought, wouldn’t you?

I’m currently wading neck-high through the Amazonian currents of Soundway’s 55-track (yes…!) compilation, put together by dance producer Will “Quantic” Holland, which is rather grandly titled “The Original Sound of Cumbia: The History of Colombian Cumbia & Porro As Told By The Phonograph 1948 – 79”.

It’s fabulous, much more traditional than the previous Chicha records I’ve been enjoying, and conspicuously unsullied by the wah wah…

I had hoped to link to a mix Soundway have posted on Soundcloud, but the site is particularly obstinate (is it just me?), so until Soundcloud sort themselves out, this’ll have to do…

Pasión Oriental

destellosCan’t shake this damn chicha bug, buzzing around my brain…

Los Destellos

Los Destellos (the Twinkles) are credited with starting the whole Peruvian Cumbia ball rolling, although ace guitarist Enrique Delgado Montes is actually the man who gave this whole new thing its unique buzz.

The first track (not a real video I’m afraid) is my absolute favourite off the Vampisoul Cumbia Beat compilation I’ve just acquired. It’s a corker, Peruvian surf guitars a-go-go!


Then there’s this clip from the nineties showing a rather cuddly, bespectacled shopkeeper-type tentatively wielding his guitar who surely can’t be the same psych-Chicha fiend?

(Until you see his fingers on the fretboard, that is…)

Previous Older Entries