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A Renaissance of Mexican Cumbia, By the Eyes of a Fan

A Renaissance of Mexican Cumbia, By the Eyes of a Fan

A Renaissance of Mexican Cumbia, Through the Eyes of a Fan

LOS ANGELES — A tiny room behind a dingy workplace constructing, LaPau Gallery has the underground power of a ’90s indie document retailer. Even the buoyant particles of mud appear suspended in time. Within the nook, tender music spills from the audio system of a CRT tv. A person sings into his microphone as he paces the grainy display screen. The partitions maintain pale pictures, document sleeves, posters, rigorously ripped information clippings, and a cassette tape with a marked-up tracklist in daring sans serif: the mementos of Toño Estrada.

Estrada is a documentary filmmaker, archivist, and aficionado of the cumbia scene in northeastern Mexico. Pioneros Vallenatos y Tropicales; The Story of Toño Estrada presents ephemera from a pivotal second when Colombian cumbia music hit Monterrey, Mexico within the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s. Estrada’s private archives, lovingly organized on the partitions, depict the beginnings of a Mexican cumbia renaissance by way of the eyes of a fan — visible relics of a cultural historical past typically heard however hardly ever seen. 

Toño Estrada, “Market of the bridge of Papa, in Nuevo Leon Monterrey” (1992), copy of matte Epson print, 18 x 40 inches (courtesy Toño Estrada Archive/edited and digitized by CDC, photograph Isabella Parlamis/Hyperallergic)

When envisioning Mexican cumbia, slicked hairstyles, XXL shirts, and dishevelled pants usually come to thoughts. These are the trimmings of cholombiano subculture: a famed sartorial motion from the 2000s, adjoining to cumbia, that blended Chicano style with Colombian sound. The exhibition, nonetheless, portrays a barely earlier period, hearkening to a time when cumbia and vallenato — folks music from Colombia’s Caribbean coast — vibrated within the mountainous outskirts of Monterrey. Estrada’s archives hint this missed interval of musical transmission by way of the rise of the well-known Colombian vallenato group Binomio de Oro. On the wall, one in every of Estrada’s colourful posters advertises the group’s Mexican debut on the 1998 Pageant Voz de Acordeones in Monterrey. Throughout the room, a muffled and blurry VHS, like a foggy reminiscence, brings us again to that very live performance. Among the many 40,000-person crowd pictured on the partitions, Estrada together with his vueltiao hat stood in awe and in love: one of many fiercest followers in Monterrey. 

Set up view of Pioneros Vallenatos y Tropicales; The Story of Toño Estrada at LaPau Gallery, 2022 (courtesy LaPau Gallery, photograph by Jorge Balleza)

Because the years went on, Estrada continued to doc the expansion of a distinctly Mexican cumbia custom, compiling live performance posters, cassette tapes, and information from influential bands — forming a kind of visible accompaniment to the distinctly Mexican sound. The exhibition shares its title with a 1991 compilation of Colombian cumbia from Estrada’s vinyl assortment, Pioneros Vallenatos y Tropicales, an album credited for popularizing the style all through Mexico. The album sleeve is displayed on the wall above two distinguished information from Monterrey: El Disco de Oro (1979) and Mexican cumbia pioneer Celso Piña’s eponymous album (1985). The primary shows a cheerfully easy monochrome cowl, whereas the latter two ooze rhythm and get playful with typeface, graphically suggesting an evolution from cumbia’s conventional roots in Colombia to an underground, experimental scene in Mexico.

Set up view of Pioneros Vallenatos y Tropicales; The Story of Toño Estrada at LaPau Gallery, 2022 (photograph Isabella Parlamis/Hyperallergic)

Estrada adopted Piña from live performance to live performance together with his digital camera in hand. They seem collectively in {a photograph} on the wall, Estrada proudly clad in his signature hat. The picture is a part of a montage of twelve small pictures organized round a cassette tape of rebajadas by Sonido Dueñez. Cumbia rebajada, a uniquely Mexican subgenre, was invented by Gabriel Dueñez (of Sonido Dueñez) when throughout a set the motor on his turntable overheated and the music slowed down. The pictures are snapshots of life in Monterrey throughout cumbia’s heyday, and the chopped and screwed tape is the town’s soundtrack.

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Estrada’s archives paint a uncommon portrait of a short and delightful interval of Mexican cultural creation. His reminiscences transport you from the petite Los Angeles gallery to the steep streets of 90s Monterrey, the place the regular rhythms of a caja drum, accordion, and guacharaca whisper to you thru your walkman.

Pioneros Vallenatos y Tropicales; The Story of Toño Estrada is on view at LaPau Gallery (3006 West seventh Road, MacArthur Park, Los Angeles) by way of April 16, 2022. The exhibition is organized by Cumbia Documentation Middle (CDC) and Sabotaje Media.

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