Cumbia has long been one of Latin music's most prolific and itinerant styles. Which makes sense, given the genre's multifaceted history: originating on the coast of Colombia as a hybrid folk blend of European, African and native characteristics before gradually spreading out across Latin America, the sound has dipped into vastly disparate styles, from big band-influenced dance music, Mexican regional pop, Peruvian psychedelic rock and Chilean alt-rock. Mexican cumbia and Colombian cumbia in particular have each solidified into their own individual, massively popular genres, and each regional adaptation of that classic rhythm has its own style and stars. But whether delivered as a sultry slow dance, a rootsy folk tune or a lightning-fast out-and-out breakdown, all points in this universe are linked by that distinctive chugga-chugging beat.
This playlist traces contemporary cumbia from Colombian heartthrob Carlos Vives to the regional pop output of Mexico's beloved Quintanilla family to Bomba Estereo's alt-dance grooves -- and everything in between. Consider it a jumping-off point, from which you can dive deep into the cumbia universe.