Cumbia is, with salsa, one of the most important popular musics of Colombia. It is associated with the coastal cities of Cartagena and Baranquilla but it has also rural qualities. That’s where you find yodels ! You can hear the rhythms of the horses and the yodelled calls of the cowboys. The origins are African but also Indian and European (the Spanish melodies). The style spread over time into a wider population and by the fifties, every dance band played cumbias. There are influences from salsa and vallenato (those high-pitched cowboy voices). The dance is simple and the songs are about love or sex. Most of the songs presented here come from the Discos Fuentes label, the dominant national record company for decades. (More info about cumbia here).
Why do they yodel in cumbias ? I’ve no answer for the moment. It could be the African influence or the cowboy calls… If you have more info, tell me !
There is quite a buzz now about nueva cumbia, a new scene emerging in Argentina where producers rediscover old cumbias and mix them with electronic sounds and hip hop beats. (For more info, you can go to La onda tropical or Mudd up !)
Conjunto Tipico Vallenato is a vallenato group. But this accordion style is very close to cumbia and groups often play both. Cumbia Cienaguera sounds really rootsy, with the percussion played on cajones (tuned boxes) and guarachaca, a wooden scraper, and with the accordion and the flutes. For the yodel, you have to wait for the end of the song. It was composed in the fifties by Luis E. Martinez and was sung by many different artists, but often without yodel, like the second version here, very different in style, more big-band like.
Lito Barrientos was born in San Salvador but made music all over the Latin American continent. In Colombia he recorded cumbia in a big band style in the 1940s and 50s. In Cumbia en do menor, the yodel is very short in the song but there is one ! The song is a real classic that lingers in your head for a while…
Los Gavilanes de la Costa (composed by José Castro, Policarpo Calle, Eusebio, Cástulo Padilla, Armando Barrios and Esmelín Zambrano) is a group from the northern coast of Colombia. They seem to have recorded only one album in 1965, Dame el café, with gaitas (a style close to cumia), cumbias and merengue. That’s them on the photo ! Here are two songs from them, in a rural style with accordion and percussion, and with yodel.
No more examples now because of a very slow internet connection… Lots more to come !
Conjunto Tipico Vallenato – Cumbia Cienaguera
Luis E. Martinez – La cumbia cienaguera
Lito Barrientos y su Orquesta – Cumbia en do menor
Los Gavilanes de la Costa – Los gavilanes
Los Gavilanes de la Costa – Cumbia milagrosa