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Punk music was buried on 1979. On the same year, rumbia was born, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the new century that it showed its name or face. While in London the tug of war between the Iron Lady and angry youngsters bloomed into an infectious and striking rock & roll, at Gallecs(1), backbone of el Vallès(2) the most successful mutation of rumba music, rumbia, was taking shape.
There are no coincidences, and so, a group of artists living there were waiting for the end of the mean streak to give birth to a pretty and smiley girl, restless and friendly like no other. On the Nit de Sant Joan(3) 1979, Gato Perez, a man who had taken rumba music by the hand and had brought it a bit further, performed at Gallecs Festivals. Master Arnella, founder of calypso as the general pattern for boy-scouts’(4) songbooks, took the chance and planted a seed. The earth, well seasoned, allowed it to sprout slowly. First a shoot, then a bush and finally a very beautiful tree took root in the region where Formula 1 runs, where they make doughnuts(5) and dance Balls de Gitanes(6).
It grew and bore fruit: rumbia. And it is tasty! It has the Antillean smell of Habaneras(7), tobacco and rum: simple and effective. When you take a bite, its juice invades your throat and makes you shake your hips. I’d even say that, if you don’t need to share, you enjoy it the most with your eyes closed. Now, if the Diada(8) asks for a big celebration, you can serve a good amount in wide baskets, so that everyone can enjoy and take it in slowly.
Music lovers out there will find in rumbia traces of cumbia, as Galician as it gets; and a good amount of rumba, in its most rock’n roller trend. It’s a good stew where the finest palates will be able to detect Master Arnella’s original calypso, Gato Perez’s philosophical rumba, Flaco Jimenez’s Tex-Mex cumbia and some “Tots som pops” of our beloved Sardana(9).
Just as in Jamaica rhythm-and-blues turned into Ska, thanks to the slow motion effect caused on the guitarist due to much smoking; the intimate beat of Sardana turned into the “going on” of cumbia with suspicious ease. We find a “Tots som pops” and then in rumbia we find a “Pops! Tots som”
The mycological nature of our people makes us pop up like mushrooms on all sorts of events. Mountain races? As many as you can think of! Trial! Come on, let’s go! Rumbia? Fun for everyone Dregs of songbooks, memories of Festival dances, punk’s most straightforward traces and delicious aromas coming upstream from Barcelona converged just at the turn of the century; and some groups of young people wove a flag for the good living: rumbia!
The guitar already knew what it was all about; rumba, calypso and rock’n roll; but it needed a travel companion to go further, deeper. And it found it in the shell of a diatonic accordion, the smallest of them all, where the push and pull of London’s “Police and Thieves” had moved. There you won’t find anything but smiling faces, deep red and sweet like cherries. From the Maresme(10)’s harbours and frozen rivers, a ferocious beast arrived bearing cumbia in its body. Bound together, with a child waiting inside the belly of an ox(11), they would be the perfect match for everyone’s joy and delight.
Rumbia wasn’t well known until it travelled abroad. But it wasn’t an unknown abroad. In Holland, head of our counties before they were Catalan, and nursery for classic Catalan soccer– may it rest in peace- La Troba Kung-Fú baptized the child… and nothing can stop it now! Just like kids in the park, we had been playing without knowing each other’s name. But we finally had to name it so that we could spread it elsewhere: to extraterrestrial communities who’d want to enjoy it and to all living beings with whom we share the ecosystem.
Rumbia, like bramble, scatters throughout, stings and bears blackberries, it’s a healer and its roots grow at the ends of branches.
It has the power of Joaquin “Purito” Rodriguez(12) and Miquel Poblet(12)’s endurance, may he rest in peace.
Feliu de la Rosa, Raval Amalia’s chronicler
La Salut, spring’s summer 2013
(1) Agricultural village near Barcelona.
(2) Region NE of Barcelona.
(3) Popular festival celebrated around Saint John’s day’s eve (23 June) where people gather and create large bonfires.
(4) During the 60s and 70s, boyscouts in Catalunya were a linguistic and cultural stronghold which kept popular. catalan songbooks alive.
(5) In this region we can find the Montmeló Circuit and Bimbo, a popular pastries manufacturer.
(6) Traditional catalan dancing.
(7) Name used outside of Cuba for the Cuban contradanza, a genre of popular music of the 19th Century performed with sung lyrics.
(8) National Day of Catalonia, on 11 September. It commemorates the 1714 Siege of Barcelona.
(9) Popular slang onomatopoeic expression, emulating the syncopated rythm of Sardana, a type of circle dance typical of Catalonia.
(10) Region by the sea, North of Barcelona.
(11) Popular tale where Patufet, a very little child the size of a rice grain, gets eaten by an ox while sleeping under a cabbage.
(12) Catalan professional cyclists.