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Cumbia villera

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Cumbia villera

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Cumbia villera ("shantytown cumbia", [ˈkumbja βiˈʃeɾa]) is a typically Argentine form of cumbia music born in the villas miseria (shantytowns) around Buenos Aires and then popularized in other large urban settlements.



Ever since the 1930s there has been a strong migration from the provinces (as well as from neighboring Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia) to the Greater Buenos Aires area, with migrants bringing along their dance styles. The musical mix and the dynamics of big-city life eventually gave birth to new styles. Notably, chamamé from Corrientes was cross-pollinated with Brazilian and Andean rhythms and cuartetazo from Córdoba. Tropical was a popular catch-all term for this hybrid during the 1970s and 1980s.

Partly due to the popularity of Peruvian and Bolivian cumbia bands, the focus of tropical shifted towards cumbia just as middle-class porteños started attending upscale bailantas (tropical dance parties) in the late 1980s.

In the 1990s, commercial interests started promoting local cumbia numbers such as Amar Azul and Ráfaga, but their emphasis on attracting wider audiences caused traditional cumbia lovers to search for bands that could claim authenticity, and some did so by delving ever deeper into themes of crime and drug abuse. Foremost among those was Los Pibes Chorros ("The Thieving Kids"). Other bands in this vein are Yerba Brava ("Tough Weed", a play on words referring both to yerba mate and marijuana) and Damas Gratis ("Ladies' Night", literally "Ladies for Free").

The pauperization of vast segments of the population due to the economic slowdown that started in 1998 provided a social substrate for the genre. The term cumbia villera took hold in the media, and many bands were propelled into fame when emerging football stars from the shantytowns (such as Carlos Tévez) proclaimed their allegiance.

Present outlook

Radio and TV have incorporated cumbia villera into their offerings, notably on weekend omnibus variety shows, where music runs the gamut from folklore to tropical. The villeros are immediately recognizable by their long hair and bad-boy attitude, even though the more provocative lyrics are seldom broadcast.

An example of such lyrics, from Los Pibes Chorros (note that much of the meaning cannot be accurately translated):

Aunque no nos quieran somos delincuentes
Vamos de caño, con antecedentes
Robamos blindados, locutorios y mercados
No nos cabe una, estamos re jugados
Vendemos sustancia y autos nos choreamos
"Though nobody loves us we are mobsters"
"We are armed and have criminal records"
"We rob armored trucks, cybercafés and supermarkets"
"We're up for anything and have nothing to lose"
"We sell drugs and we steal cars"

In recent years, due to pressure from broadcasters and (allegedly) influence from Evangelical preachers active in the shantytowns, some bands have shifted back to love songs instead of, for example, commenting on the purity of the cocaine sold in the villa.

Influences and parallels

Whilst the arrangements of Colombian or Bolivian cumbia can be quite complex (even traditionalists like Pastor López use a full brass section), cumbia villera recordings are often made at the lowest possible expense. As this invariably entails the use of synthesizers, Argentine cumbia can be described, like Algerian raï, as a "low fidelity, high tech" genre.

Other than raï, cumbia villera also has obvious parallels with gangsta rap in the United States, the rhythms of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the explosion of punk rock and ska in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, and the emergence of bad-boy reggae in 1960s Jamaica.

Puerto Rican import reggaeton has made inroads into cumbia villera audiences, partly due to thematic similarities.

For years, Argentine rock and roll has had many working-class and shantytown heroes (notably Pappo and cult bands like Los Redonditos and Bersuit Vergarabat). This strain of rock is intertwined with cumbia villera in many people's preferences.

External links

Home | Up | Argentine cumbia | Cumbia villera | Cumbia rap | Mexican cumbia

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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