Ñu-Cumbia: New Sounds from Old, Forbidden Rhythms

About a decade ago, cumbia experienced a “ñu” makeover. The traditional genre that was once the soundtrack to Latin America’s ghettos bridged the gap between the old and the new, the poor and the rich. Refashioning themselves as ñu-cumbia, a fresh generation of cumbia-thriving musicians and producers replenished this once-marginalized genre by injecting it with an array of riveting sounds, from reggae to EDM to jazz and even balkan. Uruguay’s Campo, who adds tango’s sophistication to the breezy “La Marcha Tropical,” introduces his beats to sound system block parties and South American resorts alike; Bomba Estéreo, the feisty Colombian duo known for igniting global dance floors, inspired Will Smith to start rapping again after a ten-year hiatus in the EDM-tropical “Fiesta (Remix)”; and ZZK Records, Buenos Aires’ pioneering digital cumbia label home to Nicolá Cruz, La Yegros and Fauna, keeps spotlighting this Latin American music explosion, now in an upcoming documentary series. While some setlist-featured musicians maintain the cumbia rhythm in its original güiro and accordion-driven format, others let experimentation lead the way. These are the new sounds of the old forbidden rhythm.