Stream a selection of tracks compiled by Gabriel Stargardter, author of The Wire 346 Global Ear, looking at the cumbia sound systems in Mexico City's Tepito neighbourhood.
"Ay No Se Puede”
"I have no idea who sings this version of this traditional Ecuadorean cumbia, but I find the androgynous voice both eerie and full of longing, while the guitar riffs, coupled with the brass and the accordion, make it soar."
Celia Cruz con la Sonora Matancera
“La Bemba Colora”
"The queen of salsa, this time with one of Tepito’s favourite groups, the Sonora Matancera, doing what they do best. Funky, savage and vulnerable all at once, this is true, high-end salsa."
“Del Rebelde Barrio”
"A modern take on an old sound, this excellent slice of underground tropical pop blends cumbia with self-aware Chilango hip hop. When researching this piece I came across this track, played by La Changa in a Youtube video. I emailed the group and they kindly sent it over. I’m still playing it."
"Taken from a La Changa compilation, this is a good example of old records, played at the languorous, drank-spiked Tepito speed, with the pitch turned down low, that birthed the neighborhood’s distinctive dancing style."
"In Tepito, Hector Lavoe, the sensationally talented Fania records singer who scored hit after hit with Willie Colon, is king. They love his voice, identify with his struggle with drugs and mourn his tragic early death. This song, "The Singer," is his greatest statement of intent and in many ways his crowning achievement."
"Taken from my personal collection, this classic porro is the sound of Colombian proto-cumbia, a 1950s high society courtship dance that manages, like the best Jamaican skas, to be both elegant and thugged out."
Afro Cuban All-Stars Feat. Félix Baloy
“El Son De Baloy”
"I played this at a party recently, and the effect was incredible. Everyone hit the dance floor, and an epidemic of smiles vanquished the room. If only more tracks I played had that result."
“Cumbia de Colombia”
"A very early cumbia by one of the genre’s earliest stars, Chico Cervantes. This is probably too old-fashioned sounding for more modern tastes but the old cumbias remain an indispensable weapon for all sonideros."
Bobby Cruz & Richie Ray
“Cha Cha Huele Chango”
"An absolutely stunning tune from one of the most avant-garde, challenging but rewarding salsa albums of all time, Bobby Cruz & Richie Ray’s "El Bestial Sonido.""
“La Plaza Mexico”
"Interesting slice of probably improvised Latin jazz inna mariachi-style. Mountainous Mexico City jamming with its tropical, dubby cousins."
Mario Gareña (composer)
“Yo Me Llamo Cumbia”
"I can't be sure who sings this version of Mario Gareña’s famous cumbia, but I stumbled across the compilation in a salty souk in Tangiers of all places, and haven’t stopped playing the record since."
"With tinny brass, and Casio keyboard shuffle, this quaint, slightly tacky cumbia rubs me up the right way. This is simple, unfussy music that hits all the right notes, despite rarely doing so."