Tuesday of March at nine o’clock at night. The mythical Teatro Barceló (Madrid) does not register even a third of the entrance. The public is young, very young, as well as uniformed with the hallmarks of urban music fans: visor caps, gold chains, tattoos… and t-shirts of the triumphant Argentina team, the country where the cumbiero who told us was born. we have gathered to listen. Despite the fact that we are facing a capital star, the atmosphere is relaxed, to the point that Elián Ángel Valenzuela -his real name- walks through the corridors of the room mingling with his devotees. He is only 22 years old, but already has given a concert in front of 45,000 peopleswept away with his session with Bizarrap in 2021 and has given voice to hymns like “evil puppy” (Free Checkers), which has reached 142 million views on Youtube and is now performed twice by popular demand.
What do your songs sound like? Bilardo DT, producer of L-Gante, calls it Cumbia 420. “It’s cumbia, reggaeton and marijuana,” he summarizes. Imagine the usual cumbia with reggaeton cadence and lyrics saturated with alcohol, sex and drugs. An iconic hymn is “neighborhood lit”, by Néstor En Bloque, in whose remix L-Gante participates. Pay attention to the refrain: “We went out in a caravan, weekend/ With all the sticks, with all the wool/ marijuana smoke comes out the window/ Mucho culito y no plana”, the audience chanted with drunken joy. Urban music is frequently accused of not measuring up live, but the party that L-Gante throws on stage is one hundred percent contagious and with an unbeatable flow hedonistic. Another high moment comes when L-Gante sings “Session in the neighborhood” (recorded with Gusty DJ), where its unambiguous lyrics stand out: “Tell your friend, I’ll break it / at the dance, like a top / if the other one sees me, I’ll play dumb / I’ll surely ride that mare” . All about an irresistible and crushing rhythm.
L-Gante is a badass, but not just any badass, but It is on its way to being the most emblematic of Argentina. He has entered the gossip press for his relationship with the model Wanda Nara during the most turbulent period of his marital relationship with Mauro Icardi, an Argentine player who has gone through Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Galtasaray. L-Ghent even reached introduce him to his daughter, who bears the revealing name Jamaica. Today each of their posts on Instagram is for digital newspaper news, for example a couple of days ago there was speculation about who they were the girls with whom he had danced in the Valencian nightclub BeYourSelfone of them Estefanía Navarro, a influencers than the header Via Country considered low profile for having only 15,000 followers.
The L-Ghent phenomenon cannot be understood without the Argentinean explosion of cumbia villera at the end of the 2000s, a direct consequence of one of the strong economic crises that shook the country. To get an idea, In 2007, thirty percent of the compact discs sold in Argentina were cumbia villera. We are talking about a most basic subgenre: traditional cumbia played on cheap keyboards, as irritating as they are addictive, and lyrics that expose the daily conflicts in the poor neighborhoods, the so-called ‘slums’ that dominate the Buenos Aires suburbs.
The writer Hugo Presman explained in 2006 the social framework of this scene: “The generation of young people who are known today as ‘pibes chorros’ (boy thieves) are almost all children of humble origins, born in the eighties. During the previous decade, poverty in Argentina had been predominantly transitional. That is to say: the majority of the poor were in the process of social ascent and were gradually abandoning their condition of lacking. Starting in the mid-1970s, this trend reversed, poverty became structural and the poor lost their chances of social advancement. In November 1999, unemployed young people (between 15 and 24 years old) doubled the national unemployment rate, reaching 27%.” Cumbia exploded like punk in convulsed England in the seventies.
In 2004, Alberto Fernández attacked cumbia villera but President Néstor Kirchner came out to correct him so as not to lose popular hook
From very early on, cumbia villera made a certain sector of the Argentine elite feel uncomfortable. In July 2001 The Federal Broadcasting Committee (Comfer), a media control body, expressed its opposition to the genre and pressured radio and television stations to stop its broadcast. In an official statement, they considered that “the lyrics make a direct and explicit allusion to acts of violence, which in some cases refer to undermining or confronting the police authority, they also mention the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, associating it with a welfare state , or toxic substances, linking them with the pleasant or the positive”. Unsurprisingly, these musings did nothing more than promote the genre, giving it more publicity and street credibility.
In 2004, the head of the government Alberto Fernández, who is president in 2023, declared that “cumbia villera reflects a modus vivendi linked to the praise of crime.” The comment made him the target of much ridicule, both on the street and in the media. In fact, the then president of the nation, Néstor Kirchner, disavowed him by publicly stating “banco la cumbia villera” (translated: “I like cumbia villera”). The Secretary of Culture of that stage, Torcuato Di Tella, also confronted Fernández and added that, according to his colleague’s criteria, the famous tango “Cambalache” could be blamed for encouraging the theft, when “in reality it constitutes a protest against immorality”. Whoever is right is right, this type of delinquent cumbia, as well as its successive mutations, has become the soundtrack of young Argentines and it does not seem that the sound tsunami is going to subside anytime soon (rather it looks like it will spread to other countries in speaks Spanish).
Can consult the complete program of the Bee Week clicking here.