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Argentine cumbia

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Argentine cumbia

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Argentine cumbia is an umbrella term that comprises several distinct trends within the same tradition: the dance and music style known as cumbia in Argentina.

Cumbia has been well-known and appreciated in Argentina for a long time, but it gained nationwide scope and attention when it became popular in the main urban centers, the large cities of the Río de la Plata basin, in the 1990s.

Among the most important cumbia bands and singers that popularized the genre are Ráfaga, Los Chakales, Amar Azul, Gilda, and other traditional cumbia bands like Los Palmeras, Cali and Trulalá.

Most bands are composed of synthesizer keyboards as main instruments, electronic sounds and percussion, and a musical score very charged with vocal harmonies, bells, and trumpets (usually electronically synthesized).


In the 1990s, cumbia first found a place among the lower classes, who attended large dancing locals called bailantas, often to listen and watch live concerts by cumbia groups. Some bands, most notably Ráfaga, chose a glamorous style with theatrically-presented messages about romantic love and sensuality, hope and despair. Others took to more explicit themes, such as sex, alcohol abuse and the cumbia subculture itself, often in a very light, irreverent style, sometimes intentionally humorous.

The rhythm and themes of cumbia then spread to the whole of society, as its romantic and humorous manifestations were adopted to lighten up parties and other social events.

Around the beginning of the 2000s, probably influenced by the Argentine economic crisis, romantic cumbia drifted slowly away from the spotlight, while the rest of the bands slowly gave way to the much more aggressive cumbia villera ("shantytown cumbia"), which was from the start mostly restricted to the urban lower classes.

Over 60 years of history, cumbia in Argentina was very influenced by other Argentinian folkloric kinds of music, like chamamé, guaracha and cuarteto. Cumbia songs tell stories about love and experiences of common people. Cumbia in Argentina also has different styles depending on the country region, like norteña, santafesina, cordobesa, sonidera, and other more recent styles like cumbia-rap and cumbia villera. In the present, cumbia bands play electric guitars, bass guitars, electronic percusion and sintethizers, all common instruments of rock bands, and there are also other instruments like bongos, trumpets, acordeones, etc... The clothing is also a very important characteristic of cumbia bands. Each bands has its own way of dressing, usually all members of the band wear the same special costume or exclusive clothes.

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