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5 Hyperlocal Dance Music Scenes From Latin America

by Josh Heller Mar 19, 2012
From Latino hipster DJs who’ve grown up listening to their parents’ tropical records, to the villas of Buenos Aires.
1. Moombahton

With electronic music, if you change literally one thing about a track you can create a whole new genre. Washington DC DJ Dave Nada played his cousin’s high school ‘ditch party.’ The kids in attendance weren’t into Nada’s Dutch House collection — they wanted something slower, more Latin to dance to.

So Nada slowed down Afrojack’s 130 beats-per-minute remix of the Silvio Ecomo & DJ Chuckie track “Moombah” to 108 bpm. Which is about the speed of a Reggaeton track…hence “Moombahton.”

Dave Nada made more remixes and started playing this music outside of ditch parties. He gained local celebrity and put his mixes online. Where the genre blew up.

Eventually, a Dutch bedroom DJ, with Dominican roots, named Munchi found it and started making it himself. Or as one journalist puts it:

“A Dominican kid from Rotterdam was globalizing the sound of a Latino kid from Maryland.”

Moombahton is Latino hipster DJs who’ve grown up listening to their parents’ tropical records mixed with forward-thinking left-field dance music.

2. Candombe

Candombe is a UNESCO recognized rhythmic musical style brought to Uruguay by African slaves during the colonial era. From the genre’s origin, it has been the music of Afro-Uruguayos, but during the 20th century it became a feature of the national Uruguayan cultural identity, adding familiar Latin instrumentation. But the root of the music is in the drum circle.

This track makes my mind wander to an open plain full of dozens of drummers drumming. Maybe these African descendants are playing the same music as their cousins in a similar terrain 8,000km across the Atlantic.

3. Kuduro

Last spring I saw Fast and the Furious 5 in the movie theater to celebrate a friend’s recent unemployment. Reggaetonero Don Omar is a member of the ensemble cast. The movie ends with some awesome car chase or something and the song “Danza Kuduro” sung by one of the stars of the film (not Vin Diesel or The Rock, duh).

This was the first time I’d heard the song. Had I spent the previous six months in Latin America, I would have been bombarded with it three times a day. It sounded like Don Omar was creating a new evolution of Reggaeton, but I later discovered this song was part of a longer musical journey.

Don Omar recorded the Spanish version of “Dançar Kuduro,” which was originally written by French/Portuguese performer Lucenzo. Lucenzo, the European, had himself appropriated the Kuduro from Angolan street dance music. Kuduro has its roots in Angolan Semba and the Caribbean musics of Zouk and Soca.

So the Kuduro essentially traveled from Africa, to the Caribbean, back to Africa, to Europe, back to the Caribbean, and to the rest of the world. Whoa.

4. Scatterblog Soundsystem

In my travels across the musical internets, I came across the Scatterblog Soundsystem, a Melbourne-based dance music collective and record label.

The aim was to provide a summary of the sounds we’ve pushed through our first 10 releases with flavours of cumbia, dancehall, techno, house, kuduro, funky, grime and 3ball.

Since Nortec Collective started making music in the late ’90s, I’ve always been excited about fusions of Latin + electronic music. They’ve found new beats to dance to for the sounds of a multicultural future.

Also, it really makes me wonder why Latin music is popular in Australia. Is it because they have the same climate as the Americas? Did these Aussies discover Latin riddims at discotheques along the Gringo Trail during their gap year? Or maybe this just reflects the new internet-aided future of creating a global subculture.

5. Cumbia Villera

Cumbia Villera is a musical style born of the villas miserias, poor shantytowns surrounding Buenos Aires since the late ’70s. The sound comes from the popular keyboard preset Cumbia Sonideras, and other Latin Tropical styles. Lyrically, they focus on partying, women, street life…you know, typical gangsta shit.

Cumbia Villera innovators Los Pibes Chorros influenced other Latin sounds including Rock en Español. I was excited to discover that one of my favorite bands, Molotov, had lifted a melody from the Pibes hit “Queremos Mas Perreo” on the chorus to their Grammy-winning hit “Frijolero.”

I love looking further up the family tree to discover the music that influenced the artists that influenced.

* * *
Check out these songs and more on this Spotify playlist: International Regional Dance Parties. There are too many regional sounds to discover on my own. Do you have any recommendations for tunes that move you?

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