Cumbia is to Columbia what samba is to Brazil, tango is to Argentina, and merengue is to the Dominican Republic -- it isn't the country's only style of music, but it is definitely its most famous and popular. Numerous cumbia compilations have come out in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America; one of them is The Rough Guide to Cumbia. This collection, released in 2000, spans the 1950s-1990s, although it tends to favor classic cumbia over contemporary cumbia. Regrettably, World Music Network fails to provide recording dates; if the company didn't want to go to that trouble, it could have at least listed the years in which the CD's 22 tracks were released. But to the Network's credit, the sound quality is good and its choices are usually first-rate. Listeners are exposed to some of cumbia's true heavyweights thanks to classics by Lucho Bermúdez ("Columbia Tierra Querida," "Danza Negra"), Alfredo Gutiérrez ("La Banda Borracha"), Leonor González Mina ("Yo Me Llamo Cumbia"), and Jaime Llano González ("Cumbia en Azul"). Meanwhile, Lisandro Meza's "Salsipuedes" from 1991 is among the collection's more modern recordings. One thing the compilation doesn't get into is the cumbia of Mexico and the southwestern U.S., where Mexican artists have been playing their own interpretations of cumbia; this disc is Columbian all the way. The Rough Guide to Cumbia is hardly the last word on cumbia, but it's generally rewarding and can serve as a fine introduction to the style, although it would have been nice if the World Music Network had listed recording dates.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson