Monday, 10 March 2014

The Original Sound of Cumbia: The History of Colombian Cumbia & Porro as Told by the Phonograph 1948—79

compilation, research and liner notes by Will Holland

If Diablos del Ritmo focus on Afro-Colombian fusion styles other than cumbia, The Original Sound of Cumbia, as the title suggests, is mostly cumbia. This monumental 55-track compilation is the result of five years research by Will ‘Quantic’ Holland, the English DJ now based in Colombia. The first CD (or, if you prefer vinyl, the first three LPs) contains some of the earliest cumbia recordings, of 1940s and 1950s, taken from the original 78s, while the material for the second CD (the second triple LP album) is derived from the later 45s and LPs. If I had a permanent address and a turntable, I would certainly go for the vinyl version which come with free MP3 bundle and has, well, vinyl-only bonus tracks: Cumbia Alegre by Angel Martínez con Los Sabaneros and Cumbia Linda by Heber Macias.

In a post-internet world of traffic light CD compilations and auto-tune Tropi-pop, the 78 format is out of both context and fashion, rather like asking for Edison wax cylinders in your local HMV. But the 78 format does seem to provide some respite in the digital audio circus; it’t that old workhorse that keeps on pulling, the cartwheel that keeps on turning regardless of losing its tread. It’s for the same reason that sound engineers still use microphones engineered in the 1950s and children still marvel at the sound of a spinning disc with a vibrating stylus, an effect that no-one can truly replicate, no matter how many ‘i’s you put in front of the name.
By the way, I learned from the very informative liner notes that “Colombia continued to produce 78 rpm records well into the late ’70s, partly due to the country’s network of jukeboxes that still utilised the 78 over the 45”. This probably also explains why Holland was able to acquire his 78s on Colombian flea markets well into the 21st century.

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