Andrés Gregorio Landero Guerra, born in 1931 in San Jacinto, Colombia, embodies like no other artist the spirit that made it possible to bring cumbia music to the world. Synonymous with the evolution of this musical genre, inevitably any selection of Landero’s best songs cannot aspire to do him full justice.
From the very first note he played, Landero managed to charm audiences through a complex weave of compositions, shot through with local nuances and diverse derivations from his native Caribbean province. A torrent of words and refreshingly original, he constantly sought to create his own language while remaining acutely alive to tradition. Driven by a strong personality and undeniable abilities, and solely governed by his desire to follow his musical vocation and write songs that faithfully reflect the stories of his pure native land, Landero left home at seventeen, manifesting his passion to take artistic creation to the limit while demonstrating his belief in freedom and communal living, expressed through the free rein he gives to transparent narratives in all of his songs.
In 1964 he embarked on his musical career with Discos Curro, the landmark costeño label owned by José María “Curro” Fuentes from Cartagena. Then, in 1965, he joined the line-up of artists on Discos Fuentes’ payroll. “Fiel Caricia”, his first album with this label, presents a broad and intense repertoire of merengue, paseo and, of course, cumbia music. Landero displays his compositional brilliance by combining naturalness and long-standing carnival tradition.
In 1966, he received the distinction of Rey Sabanero at the Sincelejo (Sucre) accordion festival. He was named King of Cumbia in El Banco (Magdalena), King of the Bolivian accordion festival in Arjona (Bolívar) as well as King of Cumbia in Mexico. Landero succeeded in winning over audiences with devastating ease. He constantly paid tribute to his native land with heart, with soul and the ability to stir the emotions, on albums such as “Cumbia en la India”, “Mujer querida” or “La fiebre”. This first stage of Landero’s work with Discos Fuentes is a vast compendium of rural dialogues of unswerving beauty, encompassing songs in the son, paseo, puya, cumbia, pasebol, merengue and gaita styles. Tender wild poetry that describes a delightful panorama of true stories, sea breezes and sun that unfolds timelessly.
Landero returned to Fuentes in 1979 with the album “Bailando cumbia”, followed by “El hijo del pueblo” and finally “¡Por ahí es que va... la cosa!”: three records that would guarantee more growth in this colourful parrandero territory, three records perfectly attuned to their time. The remainder of his discography comprises countless tracks of classic status that point towards an enduring musical heritage; a constant revitalisation of the accordion as a creative instrument. He recorded for Industrias Fonográficas Discos Tropical, Industria Electrosonora de Colombia Sonolux, Industria Nacional del Sonido, Codiscos Zeida, Fonocaribe, Delujo and Producciones Damar, heedless of financial feasibility or popularity.
Not one of the records released during Andrés Landero’s career is bad, mediocre or dispensable. His coherent and constant efforts to build on the foundations of the cumbia tradition form an extraordinary legacy rich in masterpieces of Colombian popular music. Sixteen years after his death, he continues to be the creative summit of an entourage of names associated with the folk music of the tropics. He is the author of a polyphonic blossoming whose beats still sound fresh today and the outstanding figure through which to appreciate, from a historical perspective, the syncretism of indigenous and African slave music from the Caribbean coast, namely cumbia.
Carlos Mario Mojica (Don Alirio)