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  • Cumbias Internacionales (lp)-1
    LP VAMPI 186
    16,00€ NOT AVAILABLE
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Arguably the strangest (yet coolest) concept record in the Discos Fuentes catalog, this compendium of trippy tropical madness masquerading as “international” cumbias features the venerable Argentinian showbiz couple Tita Duval and Roberto Rey. Dominga Salazar Azula (1924-2008), aka Tita Duval, was an Argentinian born accordionist, saxophonist and singer based in Medellín, Colombia, known first for bringing live tango music to the cold mountain climate of her adopted Antioquian city in the late 1940s. She was also enamored of the tropical genres from Colombia’s steamier coastal regions, and had hits later in her career in this vein; thus she was equally lauded for her abilities interpreting both her native tango as well as the cumbia of her immigrant home, a skill perhaps as unprecedented and unique as it was improbable. Recorded with her husband Roberto Rey (Adán Azula), the well-known Argentinian music empresario who had also emigrated to Colombia, “Cumbias internacionales” was an attempt to fuse foreign hippie peace ’n’ love bubblegum pop sensibilities with the tropical Atlantic music that Duval was famous for interpreting in previous decades.

The album combines a heady mix of Afro rhythms, breezy choruses, social commentary and psychedelic instrumentation such as the electric Varitone sax with wah-wah and fuzz tone effects, echo-drenched flute, Beatles-esque Mellotron and spacey organ, all of which transport the proceedings to another level. The record starts out innocently enough with the upbeat and thoroughly Colombian ‘Oye mi cumbia’, albeit with freakily processed electronic reed section, but the tunes get progressively weirder from there. Next up is a pseudo psychedelic disco-Afrobeat cumbia with heavily-accented English lyrics that sound like some sort of cult chant enticing you to join the ritual ‘Safari, safari’ festivities. The amazingness continues with a protest lyric about the plight of ‘The poor man’ (‘El hombre pobre’) fighting for justice, over a heavily processed loping reggae/porro hybrid, but then the drum breaks bring to mind American funk! This is followed by a totally creepy walking dead boogaloo with the genius title ‘Zombie Rock’ – perfect for a twisted Halloween celebration or black mass after-party, take your pick. The side finishes out with a Quaalude-induced chill-out jam of epic proportions that has to be heard to be believed because it morphs into another seemingly impossible mix of cumbia and soul, complete with Stax horn stabs and a post-beach party lyric.

Side B kicks off with the best cut on the LP, the thumping Afro-funk burner ‘Batukacuto’ – a makossa jam that has had DJs fighting over the OG vinyl for ages – plus, its floating pied-piper flute will have you traipsing after it across the horizon as the tune ends. Tita Duval herself brings us back to Earth (slightly) with the ethereally sublime ‘Cumbia mujer’, which she sings in a sweet voice. Then comes surely the weirdest version of ‘My Way’ ever recorded, also featuring Tita’s echo-drenched warbling. We end on an up note with the most “traditional” sounding tune of all, ‘Claudia’ – and yet it’s still kind of freaky because it combines cumbia lyrics and costeño style clarinet with Dominican merengue beats and unison Varitone horn lines – indescribably delicious.

All in all a satisfying trip to be sure, but still a head-scratcher – how could they come up with something as nutty yet beautiful and actually get it past the “suits” in management? Maybe it was a coldly exploitative move to try and key into the nascent hippie/beach/counterculture happening in Colombia at the time, the era of “Colombian Gold” and all that. In retrospect, the album is a brilliantly hip, exotic, experimental Afro-psychedelic brew that’s even more mind-blowing when you consider Duval was 50 and her husband 60 at the time it was recorded. We’re just thankful it got put to wax, and super psyched to bring it to an international audience that will undoubtedly be more receptive to its mysterious charms second time around.

Pablo Yglesias aka DJ Bongohead

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