Chico Trujillo: Bringing Chilean Cumbia to the Masses

By 05 August, 2011

Having recently played to an adorning mass at this years first Lollapalooza Festival in Santiago, Chile, nine-piece Chico Trujillo are bound for even greater things on the international music stage.

Hailing from the city of Villa Alemana, the Valparaiso region of central Chile, frontman Aldo Asenjo (aka “Macha”) and guitarist Antonio Orellana – both members of rock-ska band The Floripondio at the time – set up a new music project that focused on mixing the traditional sounds of Latin America with the more contemporary music they were playing. Although the pair experimented with the rhythms of the bolero, salsa and rumba – it was the Chilean-style of cumbia – with its clip-clop momentum, dance-fuelled rhythms and modest instrumental melodies that the guys particularly loved.

The cumbia-rock-ska sounds that Asenjo and Orellana had conjured started to gain the attention of other musicians (seven in fact) including Tuto Varga (bass guitar), John Gronemeyer (drums), Tio Rodi (percussion), Michael Magliochetti (guitar) and Camilo Salinas (keyboard) – and even a horn section comprising of Sebastian Cabezas on trumpet and Luis Tabilo (trombone). The stage was set.

2001 saw the release of their debut album Chico Trujillo and Mrs Imagination (later released in Europe as Up the Ass!) that became an instant success in their homeland. Never before had a band incorporated such a mixture of musical styles before, from rock, ska and hip-hop to traditional cumbia and even with a hint of the Balkans and their gypsy-drenched sonancy. Even ten years on, many tracks on the debut album remain a-la-mòde in their energetic exuberance. Songs including “Tus Besos Son”, “La Piragua”, “Un Año Mas” and “El Eléctrico” all present this unique soundclash. Chico Trujillo had created what came to be known as La Nueva Cumbia Chilena – inspired by a blending of contemporary music styles with an earlier generation of cumbian bands of the 1950s and 1960s. Not only did this style of music provide a link with the cumbia style that was reflective of a Chilean past, but it also created a new pop culture across Latin America countries.

Orquesta Huambaly were one of the main predecessors of the La Nueva Cumbia Chilena fervour – known for their jazzy, Cuban-inspired big band music and in their heyday toured with the likes of Edith Piaf, Gilbert Becaud and Charles Aznavour. Other cumbia big bands included La Sonora Palacios and
La Sonora de Tommy Rey (whose members comprised of musicians from Sonora Palacios). Below is a link to La Sonora Palacio and their version of “Un Año Mas”, a song that Chico Trujillo covered in their debut album (mentioned above).

Following their debut release, Chico Trujillo toured Germany and Spain, performing at various festivals and venues, spreading their pumped-up sounds to the masses as the party band from Chile. Six years later they released Cumbia Chilombiana (2007), another compilation of musical delights, particularly their opening number “Medalitta”, presenting the bands sheer artistry in weaving together a cumbian and ska rhythm, whilst also adding a touch of tropical flavour with quirky off-beat guitar riffs and punchy motives on the horns – adding a little Studio One influence into the mix.

Chico Trujillo’s album Chico De Oro (A Little Gold) in 2010 also failed to dissapoint their loyal fanbase. Released on Brooklyn-based Barbes Records, the album was the first to hit North America and included their best tracks from previously released albums. Tracks such as opening number “Varga Varga” and “Loca” are irresistibly catchy and exhume a plentiful energy that fails to cease, until the album ends of course.

The band are about to embark on a tour of the US in August, playing at the Chicago Lollapalooza Festival (5th to the 7th Aug) as well as Le Poisson Rouge, New York (4th Aug).

For more information on Chico Trujillo:

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