When we talked to our April Austin360 Artist of the Month, Kiko Villamizar earlier this year, our conversations with the Colombian American musician stretched far beyond his excellent new album “Aguas Frias” into the structure and roots of cumbia, a style of music that originated in his Colombian homeland and has grown into the dominant form of Pan Latin music of the modern era. “It’s goes from Argentina in the hood to Alaska in the hood,” Villamizar said.
The music, he explained, is built around the gaita, the Colombian flute.
“This tradition, there’s festivals every year, several, where the way the gaiteros make their money is that they win the festival,” he explained. “What they have to do for that is write new songs. So every year there’s thousands of new songs. It’s not like bluegrass or something where the song was written 50 years ago and you just redo and redo the same song traditionally. Each gaitero only plays their own songs, because each year there’s thousands of new ones…. There’s a female and a male flute. There’s a duality. The female tells a story. The male supports her with kind of a bass line. You play the female with two hands because it has more notes. The male with the right hand or the left, you play a maraca.”
Later this month, he plans to educate Austin on the intricacies of Colombian cumbia at the inaugural WEPA, ATX Cumbia Roots Fest. For the single-day event he is bringing Colombian outfit, Trapiche de Colombo, first place winners in this year’s Cerete National Cumbia festival in the category of Professional ensemble.
NYC-based group Bulla en el Barrio will also perform alongside several Austin-based groups including Villamizar’s own ensemble and La Frenetika.
The event takes place from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 24 at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, and includes an hour of educational workshops before the performances begin at 5 p.m. Advance tickets are $10.