Although the music of veteran Chilean band Chico Trujillo is often described generically as cumbia, they incorporate many different musical styles from across Latin America into their unique sound. They call their style cumbia chilombiana, a play on words to be sure, but pretty accurate as a descriptor. The nine songs on their new album, La Rena de Todos Las Fiestas, are rich with layers of the traditional lute-like charango, brass band fanfare and rolling snares, electric and acoustic guitars, organs and accordions, drum-set and various percussion instruments, and strong group vocals. The album (out in the U.S. on Barbes Records) was recorded in Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Argentina, and it sounds that way.
There are a few tunes in non-cumbia genres, like the Mexican ranchera “Se Nota en el Ambiente Que Tenemos Que Partir” (We Can Tell From the Vibe That It’s Time For Us to Leave), and the Andean folk-style “Alturas,” featuring the composer of the tune, Chilean guitarist Horacio Salinas, founder of the famed group Inti-Illimani. But even on the more straight-forward cumbia tunes like “Los Nervios Que Te Di,” featuring Argentinian/American rocker Kevin Johansen, or “Malgeniosa” (written by Colombian vallenato legend Calixto Ochoa), Chico Trujillo utilizes a diverse stylistic and sonic palate, layering various rhythms and instrumental textures to deliver a nuanced, dynamic sound that ties together the entire album.
“La Cura del Espanto,” for example, begins with a soft snare drum roll, soon joined by gentle guitars. With the blast of a whistle, brash horns take over the melody, with block-party-in-July level intensity and flare. This gives way to swinging percussion and a suspenseful pause before the group vocals take over. Another delicious breakdown reveals the bright, rhythmic strumming of the charango, hanging just behind the beat, supported by bass, while the melody is carried by Andean wood flutes, wobbly organ and guitar.
La Reina De Todas Las Fiestas is definitely party music and it’s a party we’d love to be invited to. Wouldn’t you?