Cumbia Has Never Been Funner, Better, and Badder Than With KUMBIA QUEERS | Kesta Happening DC

Cumbia Has Never Been Funner, Better, and Badder Than With KUMBIA QUEERS

Maracuyeah and Anthology of Booty, join forces to welcome Mexican-Argentine artists Kumbia Queers on March 7th at Judy's Restaurant for their DC Debut!

Posted on Sunday, 02/03/2014
By:Rocksario Garcia

By: Rosario Garcia

Earlier this week I had my first and definitely funnest Google hangout with Ali Gua Gua (singer and guitarist of the tropi-punkeras, Kumbia Queers), as well as, Mafe and rAt of Maracuyeah fame, and DJ Natty Boom representing the Anthology of Booty collective.  Their excitement about the upcoming show on Friday, March 7th at Judy’s Restaurant was infectious and flowed visibly through their smiling faces as we turned on our webcams for this epic chat.

DJ Natty Boom plays with Google hangout icons as we all start our epic chat.  Photo by DJ Rat.

My first order of business was to ask if we could re-title this show, “FINALLY THE KUMBIA QUEERS COME TO DC!” tour. The answer was a resounding YES.   If this is your first time hearing about Kumbia Queers, keep reading because you will not want to miss their upcoming US tour, especially their first and only date in DC.

While we worked out some technical issues with Ali Gua Gua’s spotty Wifi connection in Mexico, I started chatting with DJ Natty Boom and asked her how excited she was for this show.  

Kumbia Queers in DC

“We’re all sooo excited. Kumbia Queers was one of the first groups I learned about when starting Anthology of Booty in 2008. We were just a group of friends that solidified our friendship by sharing music with each other. One of the bands that we would constantly share was the Kumbia Queers.  It was my first time hearing about cumbia, and I was just starting to recognize Spanish words –a good refresher from taking Spanish in High School.  So for me it is very exciting to work together with Maracuyeah and be able to host this band that has been a part of this movement since the beginning.”  My next line was, “I’m so jealous, I wish I had been introduced to cumbia by the Kumbia Queers!”

Natty laughed and said, “YES, and in the past 7 years I’ve definitely learned a lot more about cumbia, learning the subgenres and the general history of cumbia.  I think Kumbia Queers have definitely helped me appreciate the variety of the genre.  I’m a fan of rock music, and electronic music too so seeing them incorporating the fuzz and different pedals into their music was very exciting.”

Kumbia Queers in DC
Kumbia Queers pictured above during a live performance.

Kumbia Queers (sharing members from Mexico and Argentina) self define themselves as 1000% Tropi-punk. When I asked Ali Gua Gua how they break down that percentage, she laughed and said, “It’s funny because the Argentineans like to exaggerate things, to them it’s not 100% it’s 1,000%!  I think Pablo Lescano (from Damas Gratis) who produced our second album really said it best when he used to tell us, “You know when I close my eyes I hear a cumbia band, but when I open them I see a rock band.”

We all laughed and then Ali added, “Yeah we’re strange.  But it’s a combination of strange and power, without focusing too much on one musical genre or the other.  Music is universal.”

This much is true since all members of Kumbia Queers have a rock past.  Ali Gua Gua was part of one of my favorite Mexican rock and roll punk bands, Las Ultrasonicas.  While her partners-in-crime in Kumbia Queers all have a rock edge from Pila Zombie (guitar), to Inesphektor (drums, percussion) & Pat Combat Rocker (bass) from the Argentinean band “She Devils“. Juana Chang (charango, vocals) and Flor Linyera (keyboard) complete the lineup.

Ali Gua Gua shares that the band decided to play cumbia early on but it was a challenge to adjust. “In reality when we got together to jam in Argentina back in 2007, we didn’t know how to play any cumbias. During our first practices we would ask each other, ‘well what do you know how to play?’ And someone would say well I can play The Cure, and then someone else could play The Ramones or Black Sabbath.  That’s really how Kumbia Dark (which is a cover of the Cure) first came about.  In a sense, we took a punk approach to cumbia and little by little we worked to create our own songs.  We’re very in favor of breaking barriers, disregarding genres, and inviting everyone to the party.  All genres and nationalities are welcome.”

Kumbia Queers is definitely thinking big as they gear up for their first extensive US Tour.  “We came to the US previously and played a couple of shows in NYC and Chicago before heading to Canada and going to Europe.  But I’ve definitely been anxious to get back especially since I’ve done some shows in the US as DJ Ali Gua Gua, (including a recent show in 2013 here in DC with the Maracuyeah crew).  I feel a real warmth when thinking about coming back to DC.”

Kumbia Queers Tropi Punk Tour

 “We’re also very excited because we’re playing several shows at South by SouthWest (SXSW) in Austin, which is a great opportunity for us and then we’re going to be making our way to California as the supporting act for Chilean rapper, Ana Tijoux, who is one of my favorite rappers.  We’re beyond excited to be a part of that and have the chance to play our music for a wider audience while playing some bigger venues.”

Over the years thanks to the increase in international music being played at parties, clubs, and concerts by collectives such as Maracuyeah and Anthology of Booty, it’s no wonder that the Kumbia Queers appear to be busier than ever.

“After we’re done with the USA tour, we will be in Argentina touring for a month playing with Chico Trujillo who we’re also big fans of.  Then the idea is to really start working on our next album and releasing some more videos.”

I asked Ali to expand on this, since she’s in Mexico while the rest of the band lives in Argentina, I asked her how they accomplish writing music.  “We’re always working on things and we just rely on technology to share ideas.  We email each other songs, so when we finally do meet up, we have a base and somewhere to start our recording.  It’s something that works for us.”

Kumbia Queers’ last album, Pecados Tropicales (2012) was well received and is one of my favorite Kumbia Queers albums. I commented that it has the most songs with lyrics I’d like to see on a T-shirt or a bumper sticker.  Since Kumbia Queers is well-known for their quirky sense of humor and one of the most creative merch stores of any band I know, I asked Ali if I could share some of my ideas for t-shirts.  She laughed and listened attentively as I read her my big ticket items.  Picture these in big zombie letters on a t-shirt.....

“Con Tu Pareo, Yo me Mareo” right?!

 “Sera el Sereno O Sera el Karma?”

 “Kum Kum Kumbianchera”

 “Una Motochorra Se Robo Mi Corazon”

Feel free to ask for these exclusive T-shirt ideas at the next Kumbia Queers show or at their online merch store and tell them Rocksario sent you. :P  No pero seriously, I have dibs on the Kumbia Zombie shirts which I’m pretty sure will be available for purchase at the upcoming March 7th show.

Kumbia Queers Store

“Lo chingon, is that Pilar who is our guitarist, used to work designing logos and merchandise and she loves creating fun and unique designs.  Some of my favorites are the Kumbia Zombie, or one that looks like the Ramones logo, and some are more tropical, while some are more dark like the one with the Misfits playing el “guiro”. She likes to juxtapose things and bring different worlds together,” shares Ali.

Since we were talking about branding, I asked Ali what reactions people have to the name “Kumbia Queers” since it’s quite unique.

 “It’s funny because in Latin America we always get asked ‘what does Queer mean?’ while in Europe and other countries we get asked, ‘What does Cumbia mean?’ People in Mexico sometimes call us “Kumbia Queens” because they don’t understand the term.  Just from the way we look people can usually figure out that we identify as queer but at the same time I feel that once we start playing that’s forgotten.  We’ve literally played in every kind of environment from elderly homes, to kid’s birthday parties, to clubs, to street performances, and we can really adapt to play to any crowd and pass on our energy.”

If anything, Ali shares that sometimes the Kumbia Queers get slighted for playing cumbia more than for the queer side, “Other musicians will say ‘oooh you play cumbia, that’s really easy to play’ when in reality it’s quite the opposite.  I think it’s because we have a sense of humor about ourselves in our videos and our name, people think we’re not serious musicians, or that we can’t play, but when we’re on stage we take it very seriously. It’s a whole other show when we’re live.”

Kumbia Queers in DC

With fun, energetic, tropi-punk cumbia, the Kumbia Queers share the love through their music. “We want to win everyone’s hearts so we can come back to all the cities we visit.  At the same time we’re very grateful to all our friends who have reached out to us in every city to make this tour happen!  We hope to have everyone shaking what they got and we’re very excited to return to play in DC!"

Maracuyeah DC
rAt & Mafe at their favorite hangout, Judy's Restaurant, where there ready to wreak dancing havoc again this Friday 3/7/14 - Photo Credit: Hugo Najera

DC is indeed special for Ali Gua Gua who forged a great friendship and partnered up with the Maracuyeah Crew last October for a special MexiCrash Tour.  Mafe and rAt shared that it was a lot of fun to play for Mexican crowds and they learned alot (besides trying various types of Pulque for the first time) especially that gigs aren’t over just because the club is closed, they DJ’ed til the next day at the afterparty which started at 7am.  Daaaaamn.. we have our work cut out for us here in DC! 

Maracuyeah Pulque Tour
MexCrashTour 2013- "Ali introduced us to Pulque and we fell in love. Heres a mantra we found in a Pulqueria we played:)  Foto by rAt.

Kristy aka DJ rAt is a part of both Maracuyeah and Anthology of Booty collectives. "It was close friendships and an obsession with music that is at the center of both of them. Maracuyeah came out more in the interest of booking and bringing artists to DC.  While Anthology of Booty was about expanding friendships, learning about music, and creating intentional spaces.  I do think those things have all mixed and it’s all part of both of our collectives.  But we were all commenting the other day that we really haven’t had many opportunities to collaborate in such an exciting way, so this show means a lot in that sense where we’re really joining forces, and putting together a concerted effort and what better way than with the Kumbia Queers.”

AoB + Maracuyeah + NYC Iboma crews together at a 2013 Backdoor Party hosted by Anthology Of Booty. Photo Courtesy of DJ Ushka

When I asked if they were planning on having separate sets or mixing it all up throughout the night on March 7th, stage manager Ebony (a.k.a DJ Natty Boom) told me I was putting her on the spot since that was still undecided. “It all depends on what we’re all feeling for the show and how that flows with what the next person is going to play.  Organizing all that is on my to-do list”.  Judging from their last parties be prepared for non-stop dancing throughout the night.

Anthology of Booty
Anthology of Booty - Photo credit Dakota Fine

Anthology of Booty is a female collective of DJs seeking to create unique and welcoming events throughout the area. AoB is a mix of people from many different backgrounds, committed to resisting negative forces such as racism, misogyny, and homophobia in social spaces like dances, clubs and bars.  With an expansive repertoire of music from Kenya, Peru, Pakistan, America and other parts of the world which include multiple genres including Grime, Reggaeton, Bhangra, Electroclash, Disco, Cumbia, and much more they promulgate dancing, enjoyment and relaxation with an emphasis on inclusion and respect. As a music lover and someone who recently came out as bisexual myself, I can definitely appreciate their mission and feel supported by their very existence. Yay!

Anthology of Booty
Anthology of Booty photo by Asher Torres.

Anthology of Booty is famous for hosting killer parties and then reinventing themselves.  Natty Boom tells us, “We don’t ever want to overstay the party.  If the party is changing into something that is not in line with our mission, we are not afraid to take a break.  We check in with each other and make decisions together to make sure we always stay in line with our mission. “It’s been really interesting if you came to a party back in 2008 versus if you come to a party in 2014.  We’ve learned how to experiment more, how to create a set to generate the vibe we want for the night, and we’ve also all made the transition to digital so not carrying around records, CD’s, and turntables has been a big difference.”

Maracuyeah DC
Mafe & rAt on one of their many travels- at SXSW, reflecting on color there. Photo by rAt 

On the Maracuyeah side, they shared their mission to celebrate, cultivate, and remix (within) exciting Latin/Caribbean/African cultures in DC. Their specialty is fiestas, underground international and DC-based musicians, and community-building.  Maracuyeah has brought artists such as Chancha via Circuito, Lido Pimienta, Alika, Boogat and other Latin alternative DJs and artists to DC. Maracuyeah have also shared the stage with such Latin giants as Bomba Estereo, Fonseca, and Carla Morrison among many others.  Kristy tells us, “We pick music also to highlight the lady and queer artists we love among all the artists we love, and to try to rep a range of what it means to be Latina or Latino- it's a lot of stories!”

Maracuyeah DC
The Maracuyeah crew has adopted this picture as their official logo which also represents some of the spirit of both collectives- colorful and bootified dancefloor takeovers in posses with fun consent. Photo Credit: Zuzuka Poderosa (Who took it during her show with Maracuyeah in DC)

“I would say that goes for both Maracuyeah and AoB. For Maracuyeah- our Mixtapes are a bit of a reflection of that multi-mestizajeness. Also in the title and the lyrics of the mixtapes you can also understand a bit of our ideas behind a lot of things- navigating the music world and regular world- what it means to be Latinas, some crazy shit many of us encounter like "what?" Or "not again" or "wow awesome", and some ideas we are trying to build too. Maraculeando is about spacemaking and body shaking in a way that's ours and our peoples,” shares rAt.

On March 7th, Anthology of Booty and Maracuyeah tell us yet another story while they celebrate the debut performance of Kumbia Queers in DC. The show will take place at the one and only Judy’s Restaurant on 2212 14th Street NW from 10pm until 3am. Tickets are $10 and are available at Tickeri.

Special video invite from Ali Gua Gua!

Y las Maracuyeah No Se Quedan Atras! Sadly Ms. Natty Boom had already left the chat to attend to another meeting but I'm sure she sends her shoutouts!
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