Cumbias de Villa Donde, King Coya


ZZK Records/Nacional Records, Argentina
Rating: 82
By Carlos Reyes

Like many of you, I was surprised to know the guy behind King Coya was Gaby Kerpel, but upon further thought, it actually makes sense. The concept is similar to Fuerza Bruta and Carnabailito, except that instead of working with the folksy airborne he’s known for, he jumps into the cumbia niche and the outcome is near the spectacular. The King Coya pseudonym would be his way of distancing his authorship into an album that it’s mostly based or inspired on second-hand cumbiancheros. Cumbias de Villa Donde is quite a success because of Kerpel’s will to treat this set as just another mixtape, the sum of its pieces adds up to an album of both, high art and pop culture with his signature all over it.

King Coya isn’t just scratching and twisting; he owns every piece and gives them a direction. Every tune is reinforced with extra bass, many times giving them a nice tribal sound. Luckily, he realizes that some songs just need a bit of makeup and an intensification of what’s already on there is enough to take the piece elsewhere. The album opens with “Villa Donde”, which immediately reminded me of the far-fetched Mongolian vocal art that is Khoomei (or Hooliin Choir), a very deep exclamation of throat-singing trickery. “Un niño que llora en los montes de Maria” is so avant-garde and funky, I could see it breaking into a broader public a lo Celso Pina’s “Cumbia sobre el rio.” To many of us ‘modern kids’, it’s also an introduction to the wonderful music by Colombian folk singer Petrona Martinez.

The album offers beautiful musical landscapes of rural and urban appeal; from Argentina’s folk to its hip hop. For those of us who see the World Music tag as an evil marketing tool, King Coya is one of our best allies simply because he is redefining it through great music. Listening to “Tierra” or “Don Axelina” really makes me want to hook up King Coya with Julio Voltio, it’s like they need each other. “Cumbia Tronics” almost steps in Merengue territory, it reminds me of the blue shield cumbia tronics of DJ Rupture. The structure of the album itself is beautifully digitalized and it works within its pieces rather than with a defined sound.

The most interesting (although not the best) song in the album is “El Burrito”, a rare song by Cucu Diamantes (Yerba Buena) and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. The song took me off guard, mostly because I was quickly localized by Colombian and Peruvian cumbias and he suddenly drops a MexiCuban feature that originally (and released three years ago) worked only because of its bipolar extremism. He probably wouldn’t recognize it, but King Coya fixed it! Cumbias de Villa Donde is a complex album of high frequency, in all its repeating forms it’s also highly conscious of what it’s doing: hypermediating global speakers with the sounds of our rich continent.