New Yorkers can't seem to get enough cumbia. The sauntering beat from coastal Colombia is everywhere these days, from the Barbés back room to steamy weekly dance parties at Santos Party House. The globetrotting musician DJ/rupture weighed in with his take on cumbia earlier this year. But while bass-heavy cumbia remixes abound, there is only one group in New York band that offers a taste of an old-school cumbia block party, La Cumbiamba eNeYé.
"We play Afro-Colombian music with a twist of New York," bandleader Martin Vejarano told John Schaefer on WNYC's Soundcheck.
The band's sound and instrumentation emulates the style of the so-called cumbiambas that play open-air festivals in Colombia, but, according to Martin, they bring elements of jazz and rock into the mix.
The band also performs in an even more traditional format, using only the flutes and drums found in the original cumbia developed by Afro-Colombians centuries ago.
The nine members of La Cumbiamba eNeYé crammed into the Soundcheck studio for a live performance. They played selections from their debut two-CD album, La Palma, replete with clarinets, trumpets, and plenty of percussion.