Cumbia + swing = Grammy

The World
Monsieur Periné at the House of Blues Boston.

Monsieur Periné at the House of Blues Boston.

Marco Werman

I'm always open to new sounds and recently the band Monsieur Periné from Bogota, Colombia blew me away with their new sounds.

Catalina Garcia is the band's lead singer, and one of its three founders. She met the other two, Santiago Prieto and Nicolas Junca, while in college in Bogota where they were already musicians. 

Preito and Junca had discovered French gypsy swing on the Internet and were kind of obsessed. Garcia liked singing for fun.

The three became friends, and went on vacation together. The guys played their guitars, Garcia sang along, and they'd veer between the Latin sounds they knew and loved and gypsy swing.

Garcia picks up the story. 

"We went back to Bogota, and we started playing different kinds of Latin American music, you know like bossa nova, or bolero or son cubano," she says. "And we always ended up mixing this kind of music with swing. Swing for bossa nova, swing for bolero and that's how we started doing this kind of mix. And then we start mixing like also those mixes with our Colombian roots." 

Klezmer is part of the mix, too. Because it's a stylistic cousin of gypsy swing.

Garcia says the sounds caught on in Colombia in part because of the influence of a now-late composer named Lucho Bermudez. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Bermudez took Colombian rhythms like cumbia and made them swing, but in a chandelier setting. 

"So in Colombia in 40s, this kind of music was really popular," she says. "They used to dance in ballrooms this elegant cumbia with the big band sound."

Monsieur Periné at the House of Blues Boston.

Monsieur Periné pose with their unique violin at the House of Blues Boston.

Credit:

Marco Werman

And now the current version of that mix comes out of Bogota, courtesy of Monsieur Periné.

They were awarded best new artist at the Latin Grammys in 2015.

Which, for a gypsy swing/cumbia/dance act, makes you feel like there's a fatigue with more conventional music.

"That's what we hope," laughs Catalina Garcia.