Cooking Chilean Cumbia

Chico Trujillo – Chico De Oro
Chico Trujillo

Chico De Oro (Barbes Records, 2010)

It’s Colombia that usually gets the credit for being the epicenter of cumbia and while that South American nation may have been the music’s point of origin, variations like Peruvian chicha show that it’s caught on with the neighbors as well. And as neighbors tend to do, they’ve taken liberties with what they absorbed while taking the party to newer levels.

Chile’s reigning cumbia kings Chico Trujillo have the Colombian-inherited clip-clop rhythms locked up, also drawing on, among other things, their roots as a ska band and a bit of the same psychedelia the Peruvians incorporated. Still, you need spunk, and that’s something Chico Trujillo has in gobs. Which is not to say that their every number has to be a roof-raiser like this album’s “Ahora Quien.”

The band knows when to lay back and just let the core of the music pop and sizzle before stabbing it full of horns, guitar, accordion, organ, surf rock inflections and wry vocals. When the tracks aren’t percolating infectiously (or even pensively, like the lamenting tone that begins “Cabildo”) they’re exploding forth with the energy of a band playing their last gig before the end of the world.

These guys are as propulsive as a Balkan brass ensemble, as meshugge as an unbridled klezmer group and never let the fun stop for so much as a second. Chilean it is but chill it isn’t. On the contrary- Chico De Oro is cumbia with the heat turned way, way up and well worth the sweat you’re going to break once your feet hit the floor.

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Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.


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