La Cuneta Son Machin
The musical genre referred to as chinamera in Nicaragua has always had the connotation of being the music of the poor, without finesse; but it is also the embodiment of the sounds that have been heard at festivals and street parties, at holiday parties and parties in general throughout the country literally for generations and is now appreciated, treasured and even revered by many of the general population.
Enter: La Cuneta Son Machin, a young new band of six musicians from Managua that has fused this traditional musical style with their own humor, along with generous helpings of funk, pop and a good dose of Rock & Roll. Their goal has been to bridge traditional Nicaraguan culture with new cultural trends and on the way, they’ve become the best (and only) self-proclaimed “Cumbia-Rock-Latin-Chinamo-Funk” band in the country.
Even their name (Curbside Sound Machine) is part tongue-in-cheek but is also a fun way of saying “the peoples’ music. It started, not surprisingly, as a kind of joke during practices and sound checks – taking a traditional song and putting their unique spin on it. In a short time, they realized they had stumbled onto something new and enjoyed themselves while they were doing it. But make no mistake: through all the fun, they are still serious, talented musicians. The reaction to their live performances has been rapid and very positive. “We never thought the response from the people would be so big, so soon,” admitted lead singer Carlos “Frijol” Guillen. “We never imagined the people would be so enthusiastic”.
Papaya Music in Costa Rica, always a frontrunner in supporting new, talented Central American musicians, has opened a large door for them, in distributing their new, vibrant album, “El Zafarrancho”, a ten song set that comes close to defying musical boundaries in a seamless conglomeration of sound. The first nine songs were recorded in Managua; the final cut, the Carlos Mejia Godoy classic, “La Hacienda de Don Nelo” was recorded live, complete with jubilant audience responses, and nearly jumps out of the speakers.
Other standouts include the traditional “Entre Ritmos y Palmeras” with a very untraditional, straightforward Rock & Roll drive to it. To be sure, guitarist Omar “El Profesor” Suazo was well educated at the School of Rock, and brandishes his style through the whole disc, especially in songs like “La Del Mono Colorado” and another Godoy song on the album, “Un Gallo de Chilincocos”. The whole album is full of fun and energy, breathing new life for a new generation into a Nicaraguan tradition that has earned its respectability. Two sure indications that La Cuneta has obtained the respectability they deserve: they were recently flown to South San Francisco to play the State Room at a show sponsored by Movistar, and they performed live at this year’s Miss Teen Nicaragua.
When asked if they were worried about being labeled a “gimmick band”, Frijol smiled wryly and mused, “It’s just the beginning”. I certainly hope so. The La Cuneta Son Machin CD, “El Zafarrancho” is available at the Jaime Peligro bookstores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos, and Nuevo Arenal. All comments on this article are gladly welcome. Check out our facebook site at Tamarindo Jaime Peligro.