For nearly a full century now, Cumbia’s infectious rhythms have crept out further (both North and South) from its breeding grounds in Colombia. That intercontinental dissemination has led to a plethora of subgenres, and thanks to Texas’ relatively close proximity to Central and South America, some those tendrils (most notably ’60s-style Peruvian psychedelic cumbia or “chicha“) have found new roots here in the Lone Star State. Even here, a several hour drive from the US-Mexico border, we’re blessed to have some prolific cumbia acts call Austin their home.
While groups like Grupo Fantasma, Superfónicos, and Money Chicha already found their footing before the turn of 2020, there’s also an exceptional outfit that emerged out of the darkness of our pandemic era. Austin six-piece El Combo Oscuro dropped their debut single “Calavera” right around one year after COVID-19 led to the abrupt cancellation of SXSW (where we usually get an influx of awesome international cumbia acts). Since then they’ve released two EPs (2021’s Que Sonido Tan Rico and 2022’s aptly-titled Cumbia Capital), racked up two Austin Music Awards nominations for “Best Latin Act”, and brought the heat to gatherings like Utopiafest, Levitation, and Chicha Summit.
But as quickly as El Combo Oscuro’s come up, like 99% of Austin artists, they could always benefit from a little extra shine. On that note, they’ve recently been inducted into the Austin Music Foundation’s Artist Development Program – Class of 2023/ADP6 alongside KUTX favorites Jake Lloyd, S.L. Houser, and Grace Sorensen. By collaborating with The Bubble recording studio and in-house producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith, ADP helps propel some of Austin’s most talented-yet-overlooked musicians closer to the stratosphere of wider awareness and higher streaming numbers.
Today, ahead of live performances next Friday at Arts Mission Oak Cliff in Dallas and next Sunday for Austin psych fest at Far Out Lounge, El Combo Oscuro offers up a first-class seat on a non-stop cumbia flight piloted by ADP. So buckle up for some frenetic Latin turbulence and get ready to take off towards cumbia’s critical altitude with “Despegue”. And to appease some passengers, we’ll go ahead and leave the “no smoking” sign switched off…
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