As of today, it is officially winter and up-North in the Northern Hemisphere where I live, that means colder and harsh weather with each passing week, frost at night and hopefully soon, the streets and roofs will be covered with snow.
In Western culture, the romanticism of Christmas (with warmly lit and heated homes, exuberantly decorated Christmas trees, open fireplaces and dining families etc.) has become so much associated with winter and snow that it may be hard to imagine that Christmas in Latin America too is a day of warmth, joy and happiness, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world.
A couple of years back, a friend of mine, an exchange student from Mexico celebrated Christmas with me and my family and he told me about the posadas tradition. The details differ per region but basically, groups of kids, often with candles or lanterns, sometimes dressed up as pilgrims from Biblical times, with Joseph and Mary among them, go from door to door, reenacting the their search for a place to stay in a Bethlehem inn (‘posada’). They ask for entrance by singing songs and are refused entrance, until they arrive at the host of the posada, who invites them inside the house, where a wonderful party awaits.
As my friend told this, I was seriously moved to tears, imagining how beautiful this must be. I hope I will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in Mexico one day to experience it myself.
The posada party is one of the main occasions where there is a piñata. This colorfully decorated star, with inside a clay-jar filled with candies, which has to be smashed with a stick, (also featured in the music video of El Dusty’s ‘Ke Le Pasa’) is the epitome of warm memories and fun in Mexico and central America. other ingredients of the festivities are family and friends, traditional food, and.. music and dancing. Often too, firework is set off outside on the streets.
I cannot speak for all of Latin America of course, but I know for Colombia at least that the cheerful atmosphere, the dancing and the firework are very similar – with delicious buñuelos and natilla added…! (Also a good occasion to share one of the most heartbreaking Colombian movies of all time, which pictures the tragic life of kids on the streets of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin in the 1990’s, against the background of all the Christmas festivities going on in the city..).
You’re probably not so surprised that cumbia can be heard at many of such parties. And indeed, with Christmas approaching, Youtube and Soundcloud casually clog with Christmas themed cumbia mixtapes in many different styles. And when Café de Calaveras once asked me if I knew a cumbia about Christmas or Snow, I found this excellent Colombian classic from Pedro Laza y sus Pelayeros: ‘Navidad Negra’ (‘Black Christmas’), which is not really about Snow, but takes an ironic twist to Christmas imagery.
When it comes to the new nu-cumbia that has appeared over the last week, it has been kind of quiet. That gave me the opportunity to introduce a couple of new musicians. But I’ll start with Dany F, who released a very skillfully produced track in the beginning of this week. ‘Alpino’ is more minimalistic than most other deep cumbia tracks from his hand. Less of a dance groove but thoughtful and meditative instead. That makes it the excellent tune to relax to!
The frequently blogged Argentinean formation Los Reyes de la Milanga posted this remix of a song of which I couldn’t find the original on the web unfortunately. But it basically takes the idea of the pop-cumbia we saw last week and turns it into a more quiet vibe.
When Searching for cumbia a little beyond the strict boundaries of what has been released in the last week, I was surprised by two great tracks I came across. I’m glad that I can still share them with you guys here. I believe I said it somewhere in an earlier post but over the last months I’ve become ever more fascinated by industrial electronic music, such as EBM, aggrotech and the whole cybergoth culture around it (i should actually do a post on that soon..). And apart from that, basically anything dark-ish underground can please me these days. That’s why hearing traces of any dark electronica in transnational bass genres is what one of the things that can make me most happy right now. Here two nice examples.
The first one is about three months old and produced by the creative producer Carecrowd, who’s got a great list tracks that fuses dark bass sounds with ‘mantric’ vibes, tagged with terms like ‘electronic world’ and ‘mantric dubstep’. This is is his (or her..?) interpretation of cumbia!
The second deliciously dark track is a bit more recent, released only a two weeks ago by the Mexican electro/bass producer RuidoconH!
No matter how great I think it is to trip on these dark vibes at the few moments I don’t have to study.. there’s a club night awaiting for you guys. That’s why I selected two tunes for you to get into the right mood.
Argentina’s cumbiaton reflip master Dj Tao is back with an edit of El Goloso!
And finally the ultimate banger of the week.. CumbiaDrive‘s euphoric cumbification of Knife Party’s ‘Internet Friends’!
Have a great night of clubbing or DJing, but most of all, have a blessed Christmas.. I hope I’ve been able to transfer some of the intensity of the Latin American Christmas spirit to all of you!