Tag Archives: ZZK Records

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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