Not to be confused with Cumbria, Umbria, Cambria, or Cambrian.

Cumbia [ˈkumbja] is a dance-oriented music genre popular throughout Latin America. It began as a courtship dance practiced among the African population on the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Panama. It later mixed with Amerindian and European instruments, steps and musical characteristics and spread throughout Latin America and abroad.[1] While other genres of Latin American music have remained associated with specific countries or regions, cumbia has grown to be one of the most widespread and unifying musical genres to emerge from Latin America.[2]

Cumbia across Latin America

The diverse types of cumbia throughout Latin America


Main article: Cumbia (Colombia)

By the 1940s Cumbia began spreading from the coast to other parts of Colombia alongside other costeña form of music like porro and vallenato. Clarinetist Lucho Bermúdez helped bring cumbia into the country's interior. By the 1950s cumbia was migrating across Colombia's northern and southern borders, first to Ecuador and Peru, then Mexico and Argentina, and eventually into the rest of Spanish-speaking Central and South America.[3] The early spread of cumbia internationally was helped by the number of record companies located on the coast. Originally a working-class populist music, cumbia was frowned upon by the elites, but as the music pervaded class association with the music subsided in Colombia and cumbia became a shared music in every sector of society.[2]

Today, the best representation of traditional Cumbia is shown every year on the Festival de la Cumbia in El Banco, Magdalena.[4]


As Colombia's southern neighbor, Ecuador was among the first countries to adopt cumbia as a native genre. Ecuadorian cumbia initially drew heavily upon the Meztizo music of the Andes and gradually absorbed more Afro-Cuban instrumentation and rhythm throughout the 1960s and 70s.[3]


Nicaragua became a stronghold of Cumbia music during the 1950s and 1960s. The country has its own variation of cumbia music and dance.[5] Mostly known for its cumbia chinandegana in the northwest of the country, it has also seen a rise in cumbia music artists on the Caribbean coast like Gustavo Layton.


Separated only by its border with Colombia, Panama's costal tri-cultural people developed cumbia alongside their counterparts to the south.


As in Ecuador, Peruvian cumbia initially drew heavily upon Andean music and gradually absorbed more Afro-Cuban instrumentation and rhythm as it developed.[3] In the 1960s Peru underwent an oil boom that drew many workers to the Amazon region, including many North Americans who brought music that was popular in the United States, such as at first surf music and then psychedelic rock. This infused cumbia with electric guitars, Hammond organ, and other new sounds giving Peruvian cumbia its own distinct identity and name: Chicha, also called "cumbia chicha" or "psychedelic cumbia."[2]

Cumbia in the United States

Cumbia first came to the U.S. from the Colombian and Central American in the mid-20th century snd/or during the 1980s. Another wave of enthusiasm for and knowledge of the music arrived with the Colombian immigrants fleeing the turmoil of the 1980s. Since then, cumbia music scenes have grown up and thrived in U.S. cities within the significant Latin American populations of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Corpus Christi. Cumbia music has also caught on with musicians beyond the Latina Diaspora, resulting in fusions of cumbia with other genres such as Afrobeat, punk rock, and brass band music.[3]

See also


  1. Luis Vitale. Música popular e identidad Latinoamericana.
  2. 1 2 3 Garsd, Jasmine (Feb 18, 2015). "Cumbia: The Musical Backbone Of Latin America". National Public Radio. Alt Latino. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Hernandez, Deborah Pacini (2010). Oye Como Va!: Hybridity and Identity in Latino Popular Music. Temple University Press. ISBN 9781439900918.
  4. Narvaez, Robert (February 3, 2016). "CARNAVAL: The Cumbia Serenade 2016". Barranquilla Life. Sixteen contestants, represented by the various towns in the Department of Atlantico, competed for the title and had an opportunity to represent the Department of Atlantico in the Festival de la Cumbia in Banco, Magdalena.
  5. National Geographic Cumbia Music

External links

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