STUMBLING ONTO A SCENE
Three years ago I went to a party in Echo Park at a friend’s home near the New Hope Mission Methodist Church. I don’t remember what my friends were playing but outside the downstairs neighbors were bumping some amazing dance music. It was a variety of Cumbia, which I’ve always loved since being exposed to Carmen Rivero y su Conjunto‘s Cumbia LP as a child. I don’t just like traditional Cumbia either; from the creative, unsteady “Cumbia Sobria el Rio” by Celso Piña, Control Machete, and Blanquito Man to the straight up cheese of groups like Los Temerarios, I like it all… and the album covers make me happy too.
Anyway, the DJ kept playing tune after amazing tune and, whilst three generations of friends and family danced, I was transfixed by the music. It was fast and almost completely synthesized. I don’t think I had Shazam on my phone but I’d bet all of it would’ve come up unrecognized anyway. I figured I’d just go into Amoeba the next day and hit up the helpful folks in the World section. I was pointed in the direction of some hip Chicha collections which, though interesting, were not at all what I was looking for.
This music was fast like modern Merengue with the aggressive energy of Crunk… the kind of thing cultural watchdogs won’t accept for another forty years. I tried to make a Pandora station but it just turned into the Baja Fresh soundtrack. I pretty much gave up until I caught a VBS.TV segment called “Mexican Pointy Boots” about Mexican dance crews and their favored impractical footwear. The soundtrack to the program was the music I’d heard years earlier and never since.
In the “suggestions” column were several videos described as being “Tribal” or “Trival” or “3ball.” I was hooked. Mix after mix of amazing music that you can’t find on the ridiculously over-hyped Spotify (which, as far as I can tell, is basically Youtube minus the videos and with about 3% of their catalog).
THE HISTORY AND ROOTS OF TRIVAL
The roots of the Trival scene stretch back to 2004, with Tribal House artists like Antoine Clamaran, Alma Matris, DJ Fist, Mario Ochoa (Drumma), Tribal Taranted, and Mats Tribal, who were popular in Latin America. A Mexican producer, Ricardo Reyna, had the idea of adding a pre-Hispanic influence to Tribal House and created the hit, “Danza Azteca.” Around the same time a DJ then calling himself Tanke (and now going by Xookwanki) had a hit with his Tribal-Cumbia hybrid called “La Cumbia.” Hits by DJ Sobrino, Mark Albardado, DJ Antena, Chilango Drums and others in a similar vein followed and came to initially be marketed as “Tribal Hispanic.”
Toward the end of 2005, DJ Mouse and other Mexican DJs began incorporating the rhythms and bass lines of Cumbias and Guacharacas, creating what came to sometimes be known as “Tribal Guarachero” or “Tribal Guaracha.” Early the following year, DJ Mouse and DJ Manuel Palafox released the Tribal Guaracha hits “Folklore,” “El Sonida de Arpa,” and “La Guitarra.” Over the course of the year, Tribal Guaracha spread in popularity across the dance floors of southern Mexican states including Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, and Veracruz.
Meanwhile, in the north, Tribal began being played in Monterrey‘s influential Arcoiris Club. The northern clubgoers, unfamiliar with the theretofore southern phenomenon and as unsure of what to call it as I was at the Echo Park party, simply began referring to it locally as “Musica Arko.” Soon, other clubs around Nuevo León began spinning “Musica Arko” as well.
Back in the south, in 2007, “Tribal Costeño” was created by DJ Tetris, a DJ in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca who incorporated elements of his region’s traditional music. Examples of this style included “La Tortuga del Arenal Remix,” “Revolucion Costeña,” and “La Azteca Remix.”
In 2008, DJ Mouse, DJ Manual Palafox, DJ Shaggy MTY, and DJ Alan Rosales took Tribal Guaracha in an increasingly electronic direction, replacing flutes with dinky synthesizers, and sampled African and Afro-Cuban vocals with their own — often synthesized. Roberto Mejia’s “Con La Mano Arriba Todos,” DJ Shaggy and DJ Kokis‘s “Pompi Cadera & El Alacran,” DJ Vampiro‘s “LA Culebritika,” and LDS’s “El Parrandero del Barrio” exemplified the new direction.
At the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, Monterrey DJs DJ Erick Rincon (formerly DJ Shaggy MTY) and DJ Sheeqo Beat collaborated on Colectivo Tribal Monterrey (3Ball MTY), which mixed the style of Tribal Guarachero with earlier Tribal Prehispanic. Back in Oaxaca, DJ Tetris and DJ Remses had Tribal Costeña hits with “La Zandunguita,” “La Tequita,” and “Bailando y Gozando,” while new southern talent including DJ Chombo and DJ Mando also joined the fray…
Today, newer Trival artists include DJ A.B., DJ Baldomero, DJ Gecko, DJ Guero, DJ Jezzy, DJ Lunyboy, DJ Tripa, and many more. So if you like Trival like I like Trival then head to Amoeba and ask them to get some for you. There’s also Cumbia Trival page on Facebook where people frequently post videos and new mixes.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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