BLACK POWER: Azealia Banks & a cumbia boy band

Black Power isn’t just a way of life that involves the daily fight for dignity and some semblance of justice, it’s also a romantic cumbia boy band from Puebla, Mexico. Here is one of their love / holiday songs:

[audio: Power – Un poco de amor .mp3]
Black Power – Un Poco de Amor

a little love / a little peace / new year’s eve, the new year, and christmas are all coming close / …a soldier returns / he won’t leave tomorrow / a father suffers / a mother cries / a child comes back / let’s toast to that

This is one of five hundred songs I bought last week. Out in Brooklyn, 500 cumbia MP3s cost $20. Value such a slippery thing.

Black Power Cumbia
If you haven’t listened to Azealia Banks’s album Broke With Expensive Taste, I highly recommend it. It’s a tremendous piece of work, sonically challenging, incredibly focused even as Banks unleashes a wealth of singing and rapping styles. I’m shocked that more people aren’t talking about it. BWET would have been excellent even if Banks wasn’t busy doing stuff like discussing the relationship between capitalism’s slavery roots and identity politics on Hot97.

But that album. Few DJ mixes–much less actual albums!–achieve this level of direction-across-variation; as manifestation of a musical persona the parameters Azealia Banks establishes on BWET are wide, wide, wide.

Music remains a charged space to explore not just ideas of freedom but the inevitable, contagious beauty of its realization.

DJ Rupture – Enero 2013 Cumbia Mix

DJ Rupture - Enero 2013 cumbia mix

A 30-minute mix of “cumbia cumbia, not nueva cumbia” that was previously only available at a NYC taco shop. My man Talacha gets on the mic as sonidero.

I used all cumbias purchased in Brooklyn, so it skews heavily towards cumbias poblanas, mexican cumbias, tunes made in the States. Shoutouts include: Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, New Jersey, Virginia, Baltimore, Las Carolinas, Ellay… kinda functions as a map of where Mexicans are strong in the US! There’s no tracklist but that’s OK because everyone is always shouting out their name anyhow…

This mix was originally available as a physical-only CD at a taco shop in the East Village, along with another 30minute mix by Sonido Martines. Here’s the post on that.

Stream or download:

If you’re hungry for more of this stuff, you are in luck, as cumbias are almost always close at hand in the Americas… For starters, the 2009 Cumbia Mix I did for Rob Da Bank’s BBC1 radio show remains popular, and my 2008 Fader Magazine feature article on cumbia remains a good introduction the genre as well as what it’s like to speed around Buenos Aires with Damas Gratis’ frontman Pablo Lescano.

new cumbia mix! Rupture vs Sonido Martines

Internet, what internet? My new mix CD is available only at a taco shop in Manhattan.


Yes — Sonido Martines & I each made a 30-minute mix of “cumbia cumbia, not nueva cumbia” for your listening pleasure. The hourlong CD is available exclusively at Tacos Zaragoza in the East Village (14th + A), $8. Treating MUSIC as FOOD.

NOTE: some people have had problems with corrupted CDs. If you’ve purchased a CD and it doesn’t read well, leave a comment with snapshot of the CD. Be sure to include your email address in the field (only I can read it) and we’ll make things better…

For my half-hour I used all cumbias purchased in Brooklyn , so it skews heavily towards cumbias poblanas, mexican cumbias, tunes make in the States. Shoutouts include: Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, New Jersey, Virginia, Baltimore, Las Carolinas, Ellay… kinda functions as a map of where Mexicans are strong in the US! There’s no tracklist but that’s OK because everyone is always shouting out their name anyhow, and my man Talacha comes on as sonidero. Here’s the 1st 10 minutes of my mix.


This weekend we gave away physical copies of my latest mix CD. Today I’m offering it online. The mix is directly inspired by transnational Mexican sonidero culture, and uses its format to air the voices and stories of a group of dedicated rent strikers out here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Here’s a download of the mix and the story of how it came to be–

This past Saturday, friends & I threw a community-minded block party at Rainbow Park in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The basic idea was to air live music that reflects the population here (Latino, Chinese, Arab…), to bring folks together into a space with great sound as community groups offer info and services.

It takes much painstaking organization, discussion, and collaboration to create an open-ended space, any inclusive moment wide with margins of possibility. I think we managed to do it. Hundreds showed up, listened, participated.

[BTB – kids at Nuria Montiel’s print vinyl station, photo by Sound Liberation Front]

Planning for ‘Beyond The Block’ began in late spring and continued — with weekly meetings! — until this Saturday. Our we grew over time, expanding to include people from Beyond Digital, Dutty Artz, The Arab American Association of New York, CAAAV, La Unión, La Casita Comunal de Sunset Park, Sound Liberation Front, and various local artists and community members. Manhattan electronic music school Dubspot donated a grip of top-quality gear. On the day of the event, dozens of volunteers came to help everything flow.

[Undocumented youth activists. Ty Ushka’s instagram.]

We made posters for Beyond The Block in four languages: Spanish, Mandarin, English, Arabic. Musicians/DJs held extended conversations with community organizers working towards social justice. Various worlds shrank. We focused on local, person-to-person outreach — that’s why you didn’t see mention of this event on any blogs for example. Our digital hype/ “social networking” skills were put towards helping our partner organizations located in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge activate & amplify the word through their networks.

[Beyond The Block flyers by Talacha]

If the dominant mode of musical experience in 2012 is a web-sped diet of consume and move on, then Beyond The Block is interested in learning about the slow social manifestations of all this music that moves us, and asking how our excitement over these sounds can contribute, in a direct way, to the communities where its heartbeat comes from. And besides, I’ve lived in Sunset Park ever since I moved back to the US in 2006.

As we wrote in the mission statement:

Can a hype block party double as an opportunity to spread information about stop & frisk, immigrant rights, police surveillance, and housing? We say yes. As the championing of diversity, a global outlook, and a celebration of the local become increasingly common in today’s dance music scenes, we see an ideal opportunity to use the energy & open-ended vibe of a great party to connect musical ideas to their real-world analogs — to create a space where we can talk about – and dance to – an incredible musical selection while sharing useful information for our communities that are impacted by issues pertaining to undocumented workers’ rights, transnational identity, health care, police violence, housing and more.

How did it go? Fine late summer sun shone on nonstop music performances across a variety of styles and languages — including teen rappers from around the block, Omnia Hegazy’s English-Arabic guitar songs, Los Skarroneros’ Marxist ska-punk, Uproot Andy DJing, and a perfectly-pitched closing ceremony by Cetiliztli Nauhcampa Quetzalcoatl in Ixachitlan. (This last group had me wishing that DJ Javier Estrada was there, indigenous time rise up).

[photo by Neha Gautam]

In addition to the music were things like: a handball court transformed into a realtime street art gallery, Nuria Montiel’s incredible pushcart art station that let kids transform vinyl records in printing devices, a dozen or so community groups sharing info, $1 spicy grilled octopus from the Chinese food cart…

As fellow organizer Larisa Mann/DJ Ripley wrote, “the face-painting and mural-painting folks were total troopers mobbed by excited kids all day, the community organizations & folks at the tables were full of useful information and good humor and the basketball and handball NEVER STOPPED.” When Ashland Total Freedom came walking up I had to pinch myself. As it turned out, everything really did happen. We’re working on a website but until then you’ll have to peer into the soul-sucking abyss of the Zuckerborg to see it.

[painting produced on the day, Ty Ushka’s instagram]

The point is not to brag about this event. The point is to remind ourselves: this is possible. A few dedicated individuals can leverage a lot. Music can start & sustain conversations. You can throw a block party like this wherever you live, too. Getting the permits and such wasn’t that hard (despite NYC’s somnambulant bureaucracy); sharing the workload made everything easier; post-meeting tacos & micheladas formed their own satisfying world.

But about this new mixtape…

As the planning went on, I started thinking about ways to extend the outburst of energy that comes – then goes! – with putting on a party. Something that could spread slowly, perhaps in online worlds, after we tended to the here-and-now on one exquisite September day.

[Beyond The Block flyers by Talacha]

In helping to make this block party happen, I ended up working closely with people involved in the rent strike on 46th St. The mixtape idea clicked into place all at once: I would select made-in-the-USA cumbia instrumentals, and have those sounds serve as a backing track to the rent strikers explaining, in their own words, what is happening, why they are struggling. Most of the three rent striking buildings’ residents are Latino immigrants, many from Mexico. I mentioned my idea at a meeting — people were into it. Pues… ¡Vámonos!

[photos taken by rent strikers]

Noelle Theard introduced me to some of the principal rent strikers, then she and Dennis Flores, who had already been working closely with the strikers, conducted incredible interviews. As the Spanish-speakers among us will hear, one of the other great things about these interviews is how very different each person’s perspective on the rent strike is. It ranges from deeply personal accounts — say, of dirty water dripping on Eulogia’s stovetop — to broad political analysis examining the banks’ roles, to philosophical reflections on rights and dignity and how a just struggle can empower. If you don’t understand the Spanish then hopefully the deep cumbias will communicate.

The ‘Sunset Park Rent Strike Speakout Mix’ was directly inspired by Mexican sonideros. Sonideros (DJs/sound-people) talk on the mic and select tunes, narrating the party and activating the music, cracking jokes, taking requests to dedicate shoutouts to (often-distant) friends, family, lovers. They literally speak community into existence. Dozens of sonidero parties rock NYC each month, from private weddings to all-nighters in inconspicuous venues under the BQE. (Here’s an introductory article on cumbia sonidera in the New York Times from 2003, and an excellent Spanish language e-book published by friends over at El Proyecto Sonidero.)

Another nice thing about the voices gathered here is how they reflect the high level of women involved in the struggle for housing justice in Sunset Park. (With notable exceptions like DF’s Lupita de la Cigarita, sonidero culture skews heavily towards men on the mic).

But I’ve said enough. Here you go:

DOWNLOAD : Sunset Park Rent Strike Speakout Mix [25 minutes, 61MB] (mixed by DJ Rupture, produced by Noelle Theard & Dennis Flores)


A major anthology from friends over at El Proyecto Sonidero was just released! It’s a must-read for fans of cumbia, Mexican soundsystem culture, and anybody interested in how sonic and social spaces can form, enrich, and complexify each other. And there are nice photos, for all you gringos who can’t read Spanish. Contributors include Cathy Ragland, Mariana Delgado, and the book kicks off with a great sonidero prayer by Mexico City firebomb Lupita La Cigarrita. Quick excerpt:

Thanks, Lord, for giving me the gift of being a soundgirl.
Thanks because this profession has taught me how to love the world.
Thanks because for us sonideros there are no races or borders.
Thanks for giving me these hands – strong to setup my soundsystem and delicate to caress a record…

Download: Sonideros En Las Aceras, Véngase La Gozadera (PDF 15MB). They are working on a Kindle/e-book reader version as well, stay tuned…

Here’s “La Cumbia de los Saludos” by Monterrey band Javier Lopez y Sus Reyes Vallenatos — when I played this on my radio show, I referred to it as the type of cumbia that Jorge Borges would like: it’s essentially a list. A nicely heterotopic list of fans & crews (“toda la raza que apoya la musica colombiana”). The taxonomy begins about 2 minutes in.

[audio: Javier Lopez y Sus Reyes Ballenatos – La Cumbia de los Sonidos.mp3]

Javier Lopez y Sus Reyes Vallenatos – La Cumbia de los Saludos

Javier Lopez y sus Reyes Vallenatos were playing at the foundational 3ball club ArcoIris in downtown Monterrey on my second trip there, as I reported in the Fader feature on tribal guarachero, and John Francis Peters’ photo captures the kids holding up precisely the sort of shout-out saludo posters that are being read off in this song:

[photo: John Francis Peters for The Fader]

& an old favorite of mine, Jorge Meza’s Cumbia de los Sonidos, in which the bandleader shouts out a lengthy list of ‘sonido’ soundsystem crews.
Jorge Meza – Cumbia de los Sonidos

And intro text from el Proyecto Sonidero

Les presentamos el libro electrónico Sonideros en las aceras, véngase la gozadera, al cual aportaron generosamente el fruto de su conocimiento, su trabajo y por supuesto de su vida, porque todos los que colaboramos en esto no nos dedicamos a esto por obligación sino, por fortuna, debido al placer que representa en nuestras vidas. Muchas gracias por su confianza y por su amistad, estamos seguros que este esfuerzo será disfrutado por muchos lectores, y esperamos que también sea criticado.

El libro Sonideros en las aceras, véngase la gozadera lo pueden descargar gratuitamente desde AQUÍ (15 MB PDF)


On February 16th, friends at EL PROYECTO SONIDERO are holding a massive book presentation / party in Mexico City. As Mariana writes: “Así va a estar: una presentación con toda la banda del libro, y luego un baile con toda la Dinastía Perea del Peñón de los Baños, La Conga mismo, La Changa y el Sonido Martines. Sonideros 2000 streamingueará todo. Estamos bien emocionados.”

The book, Sonideros en las Aceras, Vengase a la Gozadera, is a beautiful piece of work with essays and photos. It will be available in the next few days as a free PDF. In the meantime, here is some slow & low Mexican New York cumbia sonidera to warm things up:

A soundboy’s lament. On the trials and tribulations of a being a sonidero.’Sonido Desastre’ means Disaster Sound.

Sonido Desastre – Soy Sonidero



[setting up at Norte Sonoro, Casa de las Culturas, San Pedro, Monterrey MX]

Gracias MTY, Gracias Nrmal,

Gracias Artesanía de Colombia in downtown Monterrey, where I picked up this music yesterday – they got the good stuff (dir. Reforma no. 541 Pte. entre Cuauhtemoc y Pino Suarez).

For the record, Mexicans make the best cumbias colombianas.


Cumbia de Monterrey

[audio: CUMBIA TERE.mp3]

Cumbia Terre


El Retorno de la Chida



Bailando la Cumbia


Problema Matrimonial

[audio: SE BAILA LA CUMBIA.mp3]

Jorge Meza – Asi Se Baila La Cumbia


[DJ Rupture y Los Enlace Vallenato at Nrmal‘s NorteSonoro, Monterrey]

[audio: MAMA CUMBIA.mp3]

Mama Cumbia

[audio: LA REVOLTOSA.mp3]

La Revoltosa

[audio: EL TAMBORSITO 2009.mp3]

El Tamborsito 2009



[Pablo Lescano]

A brand new tune from Damas Gratis arrived in my inbox direct from Pablo Lescano last week. And it’s awesome.

“La 3ra del Borracho”, a thematic appetizer for their upcoming album Esquivando El Exito, is a song about appetite and excess (“but I only had five glasses of red!”), institutionalization’s passivity vs. the self-guiding twitch of compulsion. Classic accordeon and horn lines sort their way around catchy, acidic keytar melodies, all chorused up with a reggaetonesque appeal to pa’tras pa’tras as the narrator escapes from the doctor to end up with a piba on the dancefloor, grinding against the wall.

I also appreciate the way Lescano flips cumbia’s convention of calling a followup/response song ‘2nda’ etc. so that, here, it edges into relapse, repetition…

[audio: la 3ra del borracho.mp3]

Damas Gratis – La 3ra del Borracho

+ + +

In other news, the Kumbia Queers just dropped a video, “Celosa,” from their Pablo Lescano-produced album, La Gran Estafa del Tropipunk, which brings in the reggaeton-edge more explicitly. Who cares about your glitz and glamor or your video’s cinematography/after effects budget/set design; the Kumbia Queers are awesome: radical and inclusive and punk in a way that makes those three tired words mean something again. And that is the big picture uniting both Damas Gratis and Kumbia Queers — they ‘sidestep success’ (esquivar el exito) by ignoring standard ideas about beauty and propriety to successfully create their own worlds, unprecedented before they arrived, now thriving such that the (cumbia) mainstream bends towards them, as it should…


…Or maybe there were no jungle drugs involved, just the standard strong magic of a good cut & paste. Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke does his “Lotus Flower” dance to the accompaniment of Peruvian cumbia classic, La Danza de Los Mirlos by Los Mirlos. Letting the private inner reveries out. #cumbia #psicodelica



I am up to my ears in non-blog writing, which means that I haven’t had time to feed the internet with my buzzing thoughts on cumbia; nueva cumbia; Lacanian cumbia trolls; why nobody talks about Super Grupo Colombia even when they come to play a heavily promoted New York City show; the subgenres I keep noticing –  like ‘songs about being drunk in the morning’ and ‘songs about cumbia reaching cities like Philadelphia and Miami’; and much much more. For cumbia is nothing if not generous.

I have a folder containing tribal guarachero tunes that sample Hossam Ramzy and I have another one with the tribal remix + cumbia original done up as nice little pairs, and I will share these things, but before we get to that, we need to do our homework.


This 2002 article, Cumbia Sobre El Rio: Celso Piña exports Monterrey’s new Cumbia Dub , goes deep. Required reading.

Here’s a high quality gift — a ‘Monterrey cumbia’ with a guy singing in English about the black man playing his drum. Songs like this were made for me. “The black man plays his drum and the women begin to shout / I want to dance la cumbia de Monterrey

[audio:14 Parranderos – Cumbia Monterrey.mp3]

Parranderos – Cumbia Monterrey

Los Reyes Vallenatos run things in Monterrey. This band played at the ArcoIris tribal party I covered in the Fader article (Erick Rincon pointed out that most of the bandmembers were in their teens!). Pablo Lescano and Damas Gratis have recorded with them as well. This cumbia gets a lot creepier if you live, like I do, a few blocks away from bars where these dollar dances happen.  


Los Reyes Vallenatos – La Cosita

and the man himself, Celso Piña — given the slo-mo scraper remix, sonidero melt, CUMBIA POWER. Can’t turn it off!

[audio:19 Celso Pina – rebajda Con Huaracha – Cumbia Poder.mp3]

Celso Pina – Cumbia Poder (rebajada con guaracha)