Recording Studio: Cumbia

Recording studio: When the drumbeat cries out in celebration, it radiates deep history and tradition from the banks of the Magdalena River in Colombia. The sound of the flute pierces the air like the call of an exotic bird and emits excitement of which every Colombian feels, either at home or abroad when he or she hears the exquisite melodies of cumbia.

Recording Studio: Cumbia represents Colombia

Cumbia is one of the most melodic representative expressions of Colombia. It brings together three cultures – African, Indigenous and European. The African influence gives the rhythm of the drums while the Indigenous based flute blends in the melody. The European influence provides some variations in the melodies, choreography and costumes of the dancers.

Recording Studio: Cumbia’s Origins

The origin of cumbia music comes from the days of slavery in the late 17th century and is derived from the African word cumbe which means dance. Another word was derived later in the Antioquia region of Colombia called caracumbe and was coined by African slaves who worked in the mines. A third variation of the word called paracumbé emerged and then disappeared as well as the term cumbancha which in Cuba means party. However, one thing is for certain, cumbia was born of a cultural mix of black and indigenous backgrounds. The music got very popular in the 1950′s and 1960′s in Colombia as it evolved into what we recognize today. *There has been a recent movement in Medellin, Colombia by young artists and dancers to revive the original sounds of the earlier decades. These performances can be seen throughout cultural centers in Medellin including the José Gutiérrez Gómez Metropolitan Theatre.

Recording Studio: Cumbia’s African Roots

Slaves brought traditions over from West Africa in which a man would dance in front of the lady trying to get her attention while she pretended not to be interested
The birthplace of cumbia is a subject of discussion by many scholars of folklore. According to the master José Barros, cumbia was born in indigenous country somewhere around the region Pocabuy Banco or Magdalena. Others argue that the cumbia must have been born in Cienaga (Magdalena) or Soledad (Atlántico). The only sure thing is that it was near the settlements of African descendants, brought as slaves to Colombia.
Narciso Garay, a Panamanian writer discusses in his book “Traditions and Songs of Panama” details about the dances and celebrations of the cultural music. He also talks about the ancient tradition and life in Panama of the music, to the point that he makes readers believe that cumbia was born in Panama. The fine writer must have forgot that Panama once belonged to Colombia up until the early twentieth century.
In Mexico, as in several Latin American countries, Colombian cumbia has received acceptance on a large scale. There are many musical groups that have now recorded cumbia. However, these compositions and performances are a far cry from the original musical melodies and incorporate non-traditional instruments.