Cumbia Nacar, Los Wendys
by Carlos Reyes
With cultural appropriation comes a great amount of responsibility. How disappointed were you when you found out Gaby Kerpel was behind this video? Gimmicks are quick to spot, easy to sell, and difficult to grasp. For the introspective listener, trying to dissect an act’s intentions beyond what’s presented can be particularly frustrating. Conservative pessimists would throw everything that smells campy to the pit of kitsch music, but that’s no way of dealing with something so complex and sensitive. And so we take the assignment one band at a time. Conceived in New Mexico nearly seven years ago, Los Wendys is a good example of something that might have started as half a joke and has now developed into something promising.
Breakthrough cumbia/bass imprint Caballito (not to be confused with The Poni Republic) has released Los Wendys’ Cumbia Nacar, a groovy three-track EP that serves as a sustainable bridge toward the band’s anticipated full-length debut. These songs are hardly new for the attentive fans, but with the rising success of indie-gruperos Agrupación Cariño, the creative resurgence of Afrodita, and the viral spread of Chip Torres, the timing for this ad hoc release seems amply appropriate. Los Wendys’ big distinction from similar acts (Kumbia Queers, Los Labios) is their proposal/mystifying of a country-cumbia synthesis. The premise sounds like too much of a stretch (just like the fact they're named after the fast food restaurant chain), but their execution does add up to something.
Opening track “Caballito” is essentially a pop number riddled with cacophonous pipes, upbeat percussion, and horse sounds. As following tracks “Cumbia Nacar” and “Corvette” continue with that structure, one can’t help but wonder if Los Wendys are making costumes or actual songs. Cumbia music however, is an open, non-discriminatory genre that allows almost any slanting into its populism. No matter how discretely it is approached, it’s pretty hard to dislike Cumbia Nacar. Paulina Lasa (of Pau y Amigos) is great at enouncing/masquerading a voice that blurs the line of what’s province and what’s fresa. Other elements of the method need plenty of polishing, though (and will hopefully resolve with the promised LP). At such a short length (not even 15-minutes long), Cumbia Nacar serves Los Wendys well, an EP that breathes promise and momentum.