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El Hijo, El Antropólogo De La Cumbia, Returns

El Hijo de la Cumbia.
Courtesy of the artist
El Hijo de la Cumbia.

Cumbia has become the lingua franca of Latin American music. A 2/4 beat that started in colonial Colombia, it has spread throughout Latin America, varying funkily throughout the continent.

So it makes sense that the artist who calls himself El Hijo de la Cumbia ("The Son of the Cumbia") lives in... Malmö, Sweden?

Originally from Buenos Aires, El Hijo de la Cumbia is one of the most respected names associated with the so-called Nu Cumbia movement, which has combined the form with dancehall and other urban influences. El Hijo has only released one album, but his creative approach to combining cumbia with other approaches has made him an in-demand producer in the U.S. and Mexico.

El Hijo's new album, Genero, Genero, is a perfect exploration of his musical mind. He calls himself a musical anthropologist and, in a statement released with the new album, says that the new record "is, without a doubt, a new beginning for me... I spent 10 years traveling the world, learning and absorbing new styles and rhythms."

"Che Revolution," the album's first single, is a collaboration with Cuban vocalist, flautist and emcee La Dame Blanche. A very-dancehall horn riff bounces behind Blanche's effect-dripped vocals, riding a deep cumbia groove both familiar and new.

Other collaborators on Genero, Genero include the Mexico City-based electronic masters Mexican Institute of Sound, Argentine-Jamaican dancehall sensation Alika y Nueve Alianza and accordion master Celso Piña on the record's standout track, "Ritmo Realidad."

On Alt.Latino, I've mentioned many times just how fascinated I am with studio magicians, artists who can manipulate sound to create soundscapes like brave new worlds, where the depth of what we hear flexes and breathes from one listen to the next. Take a listen to "Buen Dia, Buenas Noches" — with headphones, preferably — for just such an experience. The deep hints of cumbia dissolve into funk, driven by the song's bass, before floating away on a typically cumbia-associated accordion riff.

I'll be listening to El Hijo's Genero, Genero very slowly but surely, absorbing the intricate nuances of his studio wizardry. I hope you enjoy too.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.