jueves, 14 de abril de 2011
"la gira loca/ the independent KUMBIA QUEERS
Aqui la nota de Sarah Gill para The Independent. Thanx!!!!
foto por Lautaro Aranguiz.
It takes some nerve to tackle Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ on the ukulele-like charanga but de puta madre this band has the balls to pull it off. Six girls, a shit tonne of attitude and free tequila on the door: tropi-punk rockers, the Kumbia Queers, are restyling the South American music scene, playing gigs everywhere from Ezeiza prison to Mexico City’s Gay Pride parade and they show no sign of slowing down. Hot off a Brazilian carnaval tour, the boisterous love kids of punk rock and cumbia are now gearing up for the international launch of their second record, ‘La Gran Estafa del Tropipunk’. Their tongue-in-cheek lyrics, foot-stamping rhythms and infectious energy are attracting a global following from Vienna to Vancouver and I’ve hitched along to find out what makes them tick.
The magnificent Ali Gua Gua (vocals), often spotted in broad navy stripes, red lipstick and a sailor’s cap, cut her teeth on the Mexican music scene in garage punk band, Ultrasónicas. Her collaboration with Pilar “Zombie” Jackson (guitar, chorus), Inespector (drums, percussion) and Pat Combat rocker (bass) of Argentine rabble-rousers ‘She Devils’; along wtih Juana Chang (charango, vocals, guitar) and Flor Lliteras (keyboard, chorus) six years ago, would seal the partnership of the two biggest female punk groups in their respective countries.
Kumbia Queers (Photo: Lautaro Aránguiz)
The band has a strong gay following both at home and abroad but are quick to clarify that they don’t define themselves by their sexuality, so much as their personalities and strength of character. “We’re six different girls, we represent ourselves with all of the decisions that we have made in our lives,” says Patricia. It’s queer in the sense of crazy, Ali Gua Gua has said in the past, which anyone who’s seen them live can confirm.
Their song ‘Huracan’ talks about their music as “hurricane cumbia for lovers”, which really captures something of the KQ live experience. As usual the club is deserted until just before the band supposed to be on stage, when fans finally start tumbling inside, and, as usual, the band doesn’t turn up until about an hour later. By the time KQ sprint onto the stage, brandishing guitars and drum sticks to the sound of pounding cumbia beats, the Fernet-fuelled crowd goes nuts. There’s such a celebratory vibe and the girls are having such an unashamedly good time on stage that, in spite of themselves, even the cheto cool kids idling at the bar can’t help but join the fracas, cheering and bellowing to the lyrics along with everyone else.
Onda cumbia and the genesis of Tropipunk
Kumbia Queers rocking out (Photo: Lautaro Aránguiz)
So how did Tropipunk evolve? As punk rock veterans, the band admits they didn’t really know how to play cumbia when they first started out. Ali played electro cumbia in Mexico previously and Ines had experience of cumbia sonidera, a Mexican strain of the genre mixed with electronic effects, but there was a lot of experimentation in the beginning. The good-time, rhythm-led carnival sound of cumbia music originally comes from Colombia but has since filtered down through South America to the point that it’s difficult to walk two blocks anywhere from Caracas to Ushuaia without hearing its tinny beats coming from windows and car stereos. Sceptical that punk rock and cumbia could ever be happy bedfellows, let alone attract a loyal following, I have to concede that the effect is absurdly catchy, the lyrics brilliantly irreverent and the sound completely unique. Listen to their ‘Isla con Chicas’ rendition of Madonna’s ‘Isla Bonita’ if you don’t want to believe it.
The girls basically invented the Tropipunk genre, learning melodies by ear and initially treating the whole thing as a massive joke. Six years later, nobody is more taken aback by their success than the group itself. “We started to play around with our favourite songs – we had a strong PR background and we moulded it to cumbia vibes and when we started playing it live it created a kind of explosion!” says bassist Patricia, who played an important role in the development of 90s counter culture in Buenos Aires, working for Resistance magazine and continues to play in acoustic duo Barflies outside of KQ.
The band obviously didn’t take long to make the genre their own, leaving a long trail of footprints around the globe as they started spreading cumbia love with their first album Kumbia Nena. Early covers of their favourite songs, including The Ramones’ Sheena Is A Punk Rocker and Love Song by The Cure were so successful that they’re now writing their own material. They’ve played a number of prison gigs, including Ezeiza Women’s Prison, were first on stage in ‘Plaza Zócalo’ playing for a crowd of thousands at the climax of the Pride parade in Mexico city and recently performed in the beating heart of Recife’s carnival celebrations in Brazil. The band spends weeks travelling from gig to gig in micros, Greyhounds, planes, ferries, taking trains to Bahía Blanca and back and not hesitating to hitch a lift when the camioneta breaks down. Divas they certainly aint.
Based on a string of sold-out shows, an upcoming second bite at the European tour circuit this June and how hard it is to pin them down for an interview, it looks like things are pretty helter-skelter at camp KQ. “We started touring for three months in Mexico, which became like a crash course for what is basically our way of life with the band,” says Patricia, sounding as though they’re adept making it up as they go along. I wonder whether that “way of life” can get stifling after weeks on the road but Patricia knocks that on the head, saying success hasn’t altered the friendships the group was forged on. “We have an implicit understanding that each of us will drop our own projects to do what’s best for the Kumbia Queers and until we reach a point where that can’t be our way of life anymore, we’re going to keep on putting everything into it,” she says, “music aside, we love and respect and have a lot of mutual admiration for each other at the root of everything – KQ wouldn’t exist if we didn’t.” I ask whether they had anticipated today’s popularity when they first started messing around with instruments and their favourite songs. “The truth is we had no idea. We just came together, got on really well, and even better drunk and going to gigs and the rest came from there.”