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In Lima, Digital Cumbia is Having its Moment

THUMP's short film dives into Lima's buzzing digital cumbia scene.

"Just like Detroit has techno and Chicago has house, Lima has this new sound that's growing," says Deltatron, a central figure from the Peruvian label Terror Negro. "It's a rhythm that unifies all of Latin America."

In this installment of Sub.culture-directed by Mariano Carranza-we scratch the surface of the digital cumbia movement taking hold in Lima, Peru. Over the course of seven short minutes, we meet a cast of DJs, producers, label managers, and promoters who are emanating excitement and urgency as their sound blossoms in the city's nightclubs and studios.


With roots in Amazonian communities and a history that dates back to the earliest periods of slavery and colonisation, cumbia tells the story of an entire continent. "It's a mestizo sound," Deltatron continues. "It's a mixture of rhythms and instruments from the whites, blacks, and Indians."

The diverse nature of digital cumbia's influences makes it feel like nothing else. Take house's hypnotic loops and the heavy bass spiritualism of dub reggae, then weave it around a syncopated, percussive backbone, and you've got the futuristic New Age swagger of digital cumbia. "For me, it's something more than affection," says Andrea Campos of the ZZK Records duo Animal Chuki. "It's a very social phenomenon."

Young producers mixing digital cumbia in their studios are drawing from a dense history of Peruvian cumbia that goes back to the 1960s-or further, if you go beyond its appearance in commercial recordings. Many of the tunes you're likely to hear on a Friday night in Lima are sampled from classic records by bands like Los Mirlos or Juaneco y su Combo. We meet the man behind INFOPESA, the "emblematic Peruvian cumbia record label," who takes us beyond the resurgent digital sound to school us on the origins.

"The dance scene of the future is going to be diverse," says Alfredo Villar aka DJ Sabroso. "If it's not a mixed dance scene, it's going to condemn itself to death." With such an experimental attitude and an openness to influences new and old, Lima's digital cumbia sound has the city's nightlife contingent buzzing, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Watch the video above and for more info. For more background, check:
Our mix from Peruvian group Dengue Dengue Dengue
Our profile of the buzzy live duo Animal Chuki