With La Cumbia Balkanska, resistance is futile. You can listen to them play and attempt to stand absolutely still. I’m willing to wager though that you won’t last more than five minutes. La Cumbia Balkanska’s music has the ability to reach deep inside and set your inner metronome on fire.
Ears constantly inundated by pop, electronica and even rock music might at first find La Cumbia Balkanska’s music intimidating. Not because it’s too foreign, but because it has the power to hit you hard in the gut. It’s different, yet familiar all at the same time. It’s the kind of music that transports you to afternoons spent jamming with friends or evenings celebrating with loved ones. It’s raw and real and irresistible.
La Cumbia Balkanska is a relatively young band, having been in the Taipei music circuit for less than a year. Its members, however, are no amateurs. Hailing from different corners of the world, they came to Taipei individually to either study or work. Eventually, it was their common love for music that brought them together.
Meet Marko (Serbia), Pierre (France), Fao (Colombia), Nicolas (France), Carol (Guatemala), Andy (USA), and Alicia (Taiwan). Apart from their varied nationalities, they have pretty diverse musical influences ranging from punk-rock and ska to reggae and metal rock. Before La Cumbia Balkanska was formed, most of them were playing in other bands. It was only after constantly bumping into each other at local gigs that Pierre and Marko became best buds and began toying with the idea of forming a band. The idea became a reality soon after they met Fao and Nicolas in other jam sessions around the city. The lineup was completed by the end of last summer when Andy, Carol and Alicia came on board.
In September 2012, La Cumbia Balkanska played its first official gig and the rest, as they say, is history. These days, the band performs regularly with Marko on guitar, Pierre on drums, Nicolas on trumpet, Fao on percussion, Carol on bass, Andy on trombone, and Alicia on shakers.
Not only does the band’s name roll off the tongue nicely; it also stands for their unique brand of music. La Cumbia Balkanska plays Balkan-Cumbian music, which is mostly the result of Marko’s Balkan blood and Fao’s Cumbian heritage. For the uninitiated, it might be difficult to tell their music apart from the usual Latin American beats. True music aficionados, however, would be able to pick up the added layer of intricacy that their style adds to familiar songs. Take for instance their version of Adje Jano. The original track for the popular Serbian song has a slow, relaxing rhythm. The Balkan-Cumbian version transforms the song into an infectious piece that sends hips swaying and booties shaking.
Live Music at Its Finest
Their YouTube channel can give you a taste of their music, but nothing beats hearing La Cumbia Balkanska play live. The band will be going on a short hiatus before their Tokyo tour in August, so catch them while they’re still here. La Cumbia Balkanska will be playing at La Caja De Musica on June 21 as part of this year’s La Fete de La Musique lineup. All the performances are free, so check out the official Facebook event page for the complete list of bands and venues.