Cumbia All Stars ‘Tigres en fuga’ (World Village) 4/5

Cumbia-All-StarsIf the Buena Vista parallel in terms of old veterans reuniting is all too obvious, then that is where the comparison ends. Cumbia originated in Colombia and in recent years its rich musical legacy has been re-examined with a whole slew of re-issues including those on the prestigious Discos Fuentes label. However, Peru’s own take on the cumbia genre has been little chronicled outside of Latin America and this is why this brand new recording is such a treat. In the 1970s Peruvian musicians began performing their own take on the Colombian original sound and cumbia with a distinctive Peruvian twist that is now regarded a national musical genre in its own right. As the inner sleeve notes indicate, this is a trip back to the roots of psychedelic cumbia and in practice this means that the horns that normally predominate in the Colombian version are replaced here by guitars and the biggest compliment one can pay to the Cumbia All Stars is that you do not miss at all the sound of the reed instruments because there is so much to appreciate in the intricate guitar work. Instrumentals such as the opener ‘Lobos al Escape’ immediately hit a bubbling groove with the unusual use of wah-wah guitar for cumbia and this gives the album as a whole something of a central African flavour with 1970s Congolese guitar bands such as Zaiko Langa Langa quite possibly influencing the All Stars. Strong collective vocals and some exquisite guitar soloing greet the listener on ‘Quiero que amanezca’ and on the riff driven ‘La fiesta de la cumbia’ where there is a lovely contrast between, on the one hand, the rustic feel to the vocals and on the other, the excellent sound quality of the instrumentation. A more traditional Colombian-style tempo of cumbia is adopted on ‘La primavera triste’, yet even here the guitar work sounds like no previous cumbia you have heard. The combination of vocal and instrumental numbers adds some welcome variety and ‘Caballito de 7 colores’ is a strong uptempo instrumental. The Cumbia All Stars will be performing during July and August at various dates in Europe including on 25 August two concerts in London, the August street festival in the morning, and the Forge at Camden in the evening.

Tim Stenhouse