Houston band gives Cumbia music their own twist

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The origins of cumbia music can be traced back to the 1800s in Colombia, where enslaved Africans there mixed their tribal sounds with music made by the indigenous peoples of the land. But the genre has grown to have many adaptations across the world.

Raised in Houston, Gio Chamba adapted cumbia to his own tastes, and this helped the band develop a local fan base by merging sounds, often layering electronic music, trippy psychedelic guitar riffs, vocals. bilingual and unmistakable high-energy percussion from Coffeeleaf. . Gio Chamba creates a perfect explosion of influences and sounds anchored in the past, while soaring towards the future.

“Back then it was difficult to document things, so there are a lot of different stories about how cumbia came about in Colombia,” says Fernando Giovanny Alejandro, who performs under the stage name. Gio Chamba, which is also the name of the group’s project. He will perform alongside band percussionist Joshua Guzman, which is called Coffeeleaf, at Karbach Brewery for their first Hot sauce party, a free all-day event that will feature local food and art vendors.

As a group, Gio Chamba draws a lot of inspiration from the creation of cumbia centuries ago. “The Spaniards gave them one day a week to go do their thing. The natives there played the flute, the Africans brought the drums and they started playing. All of this together was the start of cumbia. It’s like their two cultures come together in the free time the slave masters give them, and I really like that because it’s a story of overcoming tough times, ”says Alejandro, 32, who grew up in South Houston with his family. who was originally from Mexico.

Both members of the group are first generation Americans. Like so many children of immigrants, they were constantly straddling their family’s heritage and the American way of life, and all the experiences and soundtracks that come with it. The duo met years ago through the Houston music community and immediately hit it off.

“We are like yin and yang,” Alejandro says of his bandmate. “We balance ourselves out pretty well because a lot of times I’m cooler on stage and he goes crazy, and then every time I go crazy he gets cool. It’s like an ebb and flow. With Guzman, 38, and a native of Spring born to Colombian parents, the duo take on the sounds they and so many Latinos grew up hearing. They grew up to cumbia beats played at backyard parties and quinceaners, and combine them with more modern elements of hip-hop, rock-and-roll and electronics, perfectly reflecting the diversity of Houston itself.

“That way it becomes digestible for people who have never really turned into cumbia,” says Alejandro. “We make our own unique contribution to the cumbia tapestry.”

Growing up, they couldn’t escape the sounds of their respective countries, Mexico and Colombia, but were drawn to punk rock, an energy that still shines strongly in their live performances. Both performers play as if someone has a gun to their head, and their entire lives have depended on this performance.

“A lot of times whenever you’re not from a musical family you turn to punk rock, and especially when you’re in high school,” says Alejandro, adding that he didn’t realize growing up the immensity. of Houston’s cumbia culture. , and a large number of “cumbia heads” scattered all over town.

“I feel like cumbia in Houston has always been there and especially in a huge way with Selena …. the Astrodome. People love cumbia in Houston,” he says. Many cumbia artists, including the legendary Fito Olivares, live in Houston, but they often perform outside of city limits, or in pulgas (flea markets) where the general public may not be present, suggests Alejandro.

Gio Chamba’s particular style of cumbia is almost impossible to listen to without unhooking certain joints in the body and engaging in a dance, big or small, as the music taps into the primitive spirit within.

“You put it together and mix it with live music, and it feels more like an experience,” Alejandro says of a cumbia show. “You can dance with your partner or alone and get lost in the music; and i think with cumbia it’s always been like a ritual.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alejandro has experienced major changes in his life when he moved to Colorado and recently welcomed a son, but he and Guzman have made good use of their time despite the distance. , to release a constant stream of new singles on LennonMX including their most recent version, “Bailale. “The group is delighted to be in Houston for a concert, the first since the start of the summer.

“Gio and I share a very similar passion for musical creation, performance and life in general,” says Guzman. “We express each other and manifest our dreams of performing and creating music as much as possible. Every time we meet up, it’s always like that. It’s incredible.”

Gio Chamba will perform on Sunday December 5 at the first hot sauce festival at the Karbach brewery. Karbach Biergarten, 2032 Karbach St., show time is 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Release. For more information visit www.karbachbrewing.com.


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