Cumbia Sonidera on Broadway


a Sound Installation

Cumbia Sonidera on Broadway

Alexandra Lippman

“Cumbia Sonidera On Broadway” is an hour-long radio documentary featuring interviews with musicians, record label owners, DJs, and archivists that explores how downtown Los Angeles became a hub for the transnational music industry of cumbia sonidera. From the early 2000s through the 2010s, the cumbia sonidera music industry was booming in Los Angeles. Two independent labels Discos El Papi and Discos Barba Azul—each located on Broadway—became hubs of cumbia sonidera. These humble-looking CD shops were musical powerhouses, shaping the contemporary sound of cumbia sonidera throughout the Mexican diaspora. Thousands of recordings by groups from as far apart as Puebla, New York City, and Buenos Aires were released on CD, in downtown Los Angeles. Sonideros (cumbia DJs) played these at bailes (dances), popularizing the songs with dancers who sought out CDs at swap meets throughout California, street markets in Mexico, and Mexican music stores throughout the US.Cumbia sonidera traces personal histories of immigration in sound. At bailes, sonideros read fans’ saludos (shout-outs) to their absent family and friends. These dedications, dubbed on top of popular cumbias, reverberate in the ears and bodies of cumbia listeners, amplified through powerful sound systems. Then saludos became tactile and mobile as recordings of the bailes travel in different media: first on cassette in the 90s, then CDs in the early 2000s, and now Facebook Live, WhatsApp and other streaming platforms.

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