Viento Callejero Reinvents Cumbia Classics With Urban Sounds
Piero F. Giunti
Growing up messing around on the streets in Boyle Heights, guitarist Gloria Estrada remembers her mother saying "Como eres callejera!" An accomplished musician, Estrada later found herself at a crossroads after leaving the rapidly up-and-coming band La Santa Cecilia. Assembling the pieces of her new trio Viento Callejero in the aftermath almost didn't happen. "At the time, I really thought I was going to leave music altogether," Estrada says. "I was trying to take a break." Luckily for cumbia lovers, she kept on strumming!
It's not that Estrada had much of a choice. Musicians kept blowing up her phone inquiring about gigs. One day, bassist Federico Zuniga left San Jose and his cumbia group Tokeson for Los Angeles and hit up Estrada to see what was active on the scene. Instead of pointing him somewhere else, the guitarist teamed up with him. She had a new idea in mind.
"I've always wanted to resurrect these old classic cumbias by Lucho Bermudez and the big band orchestra sound," Estrada says. They found a Colombiano in Chicano Batman drummer Gabriel Villa to round out their trio. With all the pieces in place, the stripped down urban cumbia experiment started just last year. "We are out a lot and bringing a party," Estrada says of the "street" side of the band name. "At the same time, it's a breeze that soothes. We are the vientos that match the callejeros."
"We're not just playing regular cumbia," Estrada says. "We're definitely giving it a funk, hip-hop, psychedelic, rock and chica flavor." A recording studio served as a laboratory for the concoction. Viento Callejero started out putting together a three-song demo, before becoming more ambitious with their collaborative outlook.
Martha Gonzalez (Quetzal), Leah Gallegos (Las Cafeteras), Eddika Organista (El Haru Kuroi) joined as a guest musicians and vocalists. As a demo turned into a full length album, the band turned to Kickstarter to recuperate the debt. A litmus test of their name recognition and buzz, the campaign exceeded its goal and the album was released this year.
On the self-titled debut, Estrada's stellar guitar skills are back in action. Zuniga and Villa are lockstep as a rhythm section. Viento Callejero achieves its aims kicking off the 11-track effort by re-imagining Bermudez's brass heavy "Tolu" with a stripped down sound that captures the spirit of the original, all with a twinge of psychedelia and rock.
"We're small but we're packing a punch," Estrada says. "We're trying to create a musical comradery that I feel has been lacking." And that includes the audience. Viento Callejero promises good times for all who come to the annual Música en Movimiento outdoor fest in downtown SanTana this weekend.
"We're going to bring the party! Cumbia is like Latin two-step. You can't help but start moving even if you aren't a great dancer," Estrada says. "Cumbia has that seduction behind it. It's hypnotic!"
Viento Callejero performs with Chicano Batman, Cuauhtemoc, Nancy Sanchez, Aparato and more as part of Música en Movimiento at 313 N. Birch Street, Santa Ana, Sat., noon - 10 p.m. $5 suggested donation. All Ages. Follow us on Twitter at @OCWeeklyMusic and like us on Facebook at Heard Mentality.
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