Channelling Cumbia with Leon Murcia

By 06 April, 2012

Leon Murcia is a man of cumbia. He was born to a mother of African descent and a father with indigenous blood. Spending his formative years in Barranquilla on Colombia’s Atlantic coast, his own upbringing very much epitomises the roots of cumbia itself, which was birthed from a mix of African, indigenous and Spanish influences. This has led to Leon’s very own experiments with cumbia, taking the traditional forms and incorporating elements of hip-hop and modern production.

Leon released Cumbia Is Dead last year. The album features songs by some of cumbia’s finest names: Lisandro Meza, Pedro Ramaya Beltrán, Catalino Parra and Antonio Garcia. It even features Pedro Ramaya Beltran, currently known as one of Colombia’s finest gaita players. Yet, while paying respect to traditional cumbia the album also has a modern viewpoint led by the use of sampling, but predominantly Leon’s Nuyorican rap delivery.

This mix of modern and traditional can be heard most clearly on “La Canoa”, the first single from the album. It’s a cumbia featuring Leon rapping, two types of gaita, maracas, drums recorded in San Basilio de Palenque as well as guitars and bass. The song’s lyrics call for a rebellion.

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In addition to the album there are many tracks which Leon made with Pedro Ramaya Beltran, which express the sheer skills of this gaita player. Here’s one of them:

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You can listen to more at

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