The Nightlife Review Pt. 3: Cyber Aztlán by Vita Dadoo

The third entry in our new 10-part nightlife editorial series, produced by Dirt & Elsewhere


By Vita Dadoo@vitachronicles

Amid flashing lights, lasers, and smog machines, paired-up dancers emerge from a circle of spectators at Mi Sabor Café, a restaurant-turned-dancehall in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. Beneath this intersection of the M and J subway lines, where botanica shops meet Dunkin’ Donuts and flower shops are used as fronts for sea-foam green cafés, the hypnotic beat of the guacharaca— a repeating chik-chika-chik-chika-chik rhythm, central to the tropical genre of cumbia— booms from heavy speakers.

Suspended on a small stage, Turbo Sonidero, a cumbia DJ and producer from California, and Bronx-native, hellotones, perform their duties as bicoastal musical bricoleurs, readily dialing up the bass for a well-outfitted crowd inside the club, donning cowboy-inspired outfits, Tecate Beer crop-tops, and Virgin of Guadalupe paraphernalia, and those outside catching a smoke break under the fluorescent lights of a taco truck.

Once the IRL moveable sound systems come undone on the dancefloors of Brooklyn, San Jose, California, and Mexico City, these cumbias live on as part of Kumbia Net, a digital, global repository of futuristic cumbias with roots in the US and Mexico.

Originally a genre developed in the Colombian Caribbean, cumbia and its many iterations have become the musical lingua franca of Latin America. But to Mexicans living across Mexico and the United States, cumbia has become a transnational movement that fuses together popular iconography to develop a singular visual identity, often wrapped up in the mythology of the two countries.

“Born out of the most remote corners of the Deep Web,” Kumbia Net is further transforming this blended cumbiero identity. It is a “Kumbiero Cyberspace, where “any dancer can hack the dance floor” to the tune of “the most hallucinatory synthesizers, the most infernal congas, and the raspiest güiros.”

Founded by Turbo Sonidero and producer Arrabalero from the UK, Kumbia Net is a real community built with digital-native sensibilities. With its crew of over seven producers making cumbias in The Bay Area and Southern California in the US, and Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, Mérida, and Mexico City in Mexico, Kumbia Net delivers the heaviest and darkest cumbias from a place called Cyber Aztlán.

But prior to Aztlán becoming Cyber, it was simply Aztlán, a promised land for the Mexica people. It was believed to be the location where the imperial capital of Tenochtitlán was established in the 14th century, which encompasses modern-day Mexico City. The city was destroyed by Hernán Cortés and his army two hundred years after its founding, but the myth and search for Aztlán persisted for centuries.

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