Tag Archives: Cumbia

ZZK Records: How a “Random Gringo” from Texas Helped Latin American Dance Music Take Over the World

ZZK artwork.

The post-colonial evolution of cumbe, a Guinean courtship dance, into the cumbia, a dance phenomenon known throughout the Latin American diaspora with varying regional inflections, is a fascinating story. Though cumbe surely came to Colombia’s shores with enslaved Africans shipped in by Spanish and English colonists, it wasn’t until clarinetist and big band leader Lucho Bermúdez folded its rhythms into his pop-jazz orchestra’s repertoire in the 1940s and 1950s that cumbe began to transform into the cumbia. It became wildly popular throughout Central and South America, mixing with indigenous Andean instrumentation and Afro-Cuban rhythms in Ecuador, taking on heavy psych-rock inflections in Peru. By the end of the 20th century, the cumbia had become a solid cornerstone of Latinx diaspora family gatherings and celebrations, able to bring every generation together. And in the early aughts, its supremely danceable rhythms fused with electronic dance beats to become a stylistic darling of club nights around the world.

This latter-day cumbia phenomenon was fueled in part by pioneering mixes created by artists signed with ZZK Records. The unlikely tale of the Buenos Aires-based label—named after a Slovenian philosopher-psychoanalyst and founded by a Texan—begins in the library and on the radio.

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“It’s The Sex Pistols Meets Pérez Prado”: Inside Orkesta Mendoza’s Riotous Cumbia Punk

Orkesta Mendoza
Orkesta Mendoza. Photo by Josh Harrison.

Orkesta Mendoza’s adventurous second record ¡Vamos A Guarachar! paints a vivid portrait of Latin American folklore. It takes listeners on a celebratory journey, one where mestizo-infused genres like boogaloo, cumbia, chicha, and mambo intersect. “It’s like a little road trip of Latin America,” Sergio Mendoza boasts. Mendoza is the founding member of the Tucson-based ensemble, who embrace their Latino roots while showcasing an impressive musical range. “It was really hard for everyone to tell where the album was going, because there are a lot of different styles,” explains the 35-year-old bandleader.

Mendoza grew up between the first and developing worlds. He was born in Nogales, Arizona and raised in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico—two hinterland towns separated by a 45-minute drive, and divided by the US-Mexico border. The borderlands are a particularly diasporic, transnational region known for their rich cultural hybrids, which emerge as a result of the Mexican and Latinx immigrants who settle there in the hopes of crossing over to el otro lado (as the locals call the United States). Music from North America, Mexico, Central and South America intertwine and influence one another there—a cultural and geographical phenomenon that impacted Mendoza’s artistic development.

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