Much like Dominican merengue, the cumbia rhythm that originated in Columbia has been applied to a variety of music over the years. Cumbia has ranged from acoustic folk sounds of rural Columbia to sleek, pop-flavored cumbia and the Mexican-American interpretations of cumbia that are heard in El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston. Released by the Spanish Astro label in 1998, Cumbias Populares Para Bailar takes a diverse look at cumbia and takes us to Columbia as well as Bolivia and the Mexican-American communities of Texas. Full of haunting flutes, or flute-like sounds played on keyboards, songs by Waras ("Si Tu Regresaras" and "Humahuaqueño"), female singer Rossy War ("Tu Acuerdas de Mi," "Herida por Tu Amor") and los Yes Yes ("Fiesta en la Selva," "Recuerdo Andino," "Buscando un Amor") draw heavily on the music of South American Indians. Meanwhile, if you notice some similarity between Bio Chip's "Maldito Dinero" and the lambada music that came out of Brazil in the '80s, it's because Bio Chip and lambada artists share a love of Bolivian music. And on "Ven Tin Temor," you can see the parallels between Mexican-American Tejano music and Tex-Mex interpretation of cumbia. This 16-song compilation isn't for purists, but those who have a broad-minded outlook on cumbia will find it to be a musical feast.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson