Cumbia Music and Gender Roles

Colombia is a beautiful country, that is the home to forty-seven million people. The flag is made of three colors yellow, blue and red. The country’s capital is Bogota and the language is Spanish.

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Colombia was named after Christopher Columbus, as part of the New Granada colony. Colombia is a country that is located in the top part of South America. The land is made up of mostly forests, the Andes mountains, and many coffee plantations. Colombia is known for their coffee as well as being the place where the music and dance style, Cumbia, was created. While doing the research I found that cumbia music and dance styles are more male based.

Before I can start to explain the role, cumbia has in Colombia, I first need to discuss the history of the Colombia. According to Delia Zapata in her Introduction to the Folk Dances of Colombia Indian, African slaves and Spaniards were the three major influences that helped develop Colombian culture (Zapata 1967, 91). The Spanish conquerors brought some of their own dances such as contradanza. The Indians and the African slaves adopted some of the dances that the Spaniards brought but each group chose what went well with their own culture. The Colombian population racial background is made up of a mixture of African slaves, Spaniards, and Indian’s.

Cumbia’s music style is so popular that you can find it all over Latin America. This can be seen in Argentina as Pablo Vila and Pablo Sem?n stated Argentina have with the seemingly sexist and obscene lyrics of cumbia villera, which often portray women as ‘sluts’ (Vila and Seman 2011, 4). An example of the sexualized lyrics towards women would be the song Mi Cucu by La Sonora Dinamita. In the song his lyrics are …Que lindo es tu cucu Tan bello tu cucu Redondito y suavecito…Cuando te pones pantal?n Y te tocas por detr?s Se me suelta el corazon Y te quiero mas In this song cucu is a word to represent a woman’s butt and the male artist is talking about how the lady’s butt looks round, soft and just so nice in her jeans that he cannot control himself. Another song that shows sexizliztion towards women is Atrevete Te by Calle 13 one of the lyrics is Hello deja el show Sbete la minifalda hasta la espalda Subetela deja el show mas alta… This lyric basically means that he wants the girl to lift her mini skirt high up to her back so that she can give them a show. As you can see these cumbia songs are very sexualized towards women because they only want them for their bodys.

Cumbia music has a unique sound and it is mainly made up of percussion and wind instruments. Some instruments that are in cumbia music are the merry drum, calling drum, bass drum, maracas, and gaitas. An interesting fact is that there is a male and a female gaita. This instrument is composed of two long flutes called Gaitas: A male, which has only one hole and the female which has five holes. The male gives rhythmic and harmonic support to the female which carries the melody. They are supposed to be played always together, in fact, they are made at the same time in such a way that for any given male or female Gaita there is only one partner it sounds really well with (Munoz). Another instrument in cumbia music is la flauta de Millo. Brass instruments can also be heard in cumbia music such as trumpets and trombone. Other instruments are guitar, bass guitar, piano, and accordion. The basic musical rhythm of Cumbia is 4/4 (Visbal 2018,13).

The dance style cumbia that is very popular shows how these gender roles. Delia Zapata also stated that, The origin is believed to be tri-ethnic and it represents the amorous conquest of women by man (Zapata 1967,92). This folk dance is almost always danced in pairs. For example, in folk dances, the women in the dance are reserved but graceful, however they are also very sensual in the way they move their hips. The women that dance cumbia traditionally typically wear long skirts and carry a candle. The men on the other hand are more free, ebullient and seen as more macho. The men in the performance usually wear hats, white pants and shirts with a red scarf tied around their neck and or hips. When dancing the folklore dance of cumbia, one of two ensembles accompany the dance. One is conjunto de cana de millo and the other is the conjunto de gaitas. As a traditional dance of slaves, Cumbia was associated only with the lower social classes until the mid-20th century. Today, some of the stigma has disappeared, but it remains a dance which is most popular amongst poorer people (Visbal 2018,11).

In conclusion, Colombia has had a very interesting background from having the Spaniards come and take over the Indians land and bringing the African slaves. And it is because of this that all three of the cultures were combined and this is how Colombia came to be. Which is also why we now have the music and dance genre of cumbia. Cumbia has become very popular all-over Latin America, that other Latin American cultures have adapted cumbia to their own culture. Cumbia is also a type of dance style. In the folklore dance the women are supposed to be reserved while the man is seen as macho. Percussion and wind instruments are the main instruments that are found in all cumbia music. Cumbia music has always been male dominated as you can see in the two-music example above which were the songs Mi Cucu by La Sonora Dinamita and Atrevete Te Te by Calle 13. In both songs they have lyrics that sexualize women they talk about their body for example their butts. However, in the past few years there have been many female artists that have come up in cumbia music. A big female star would be Selena Quintanilla, she came out with many great cumbia hits in the mid- nineties such as Como La Flor, Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, Baila Esta Cumbia and many more. These

songs were such big hits that many people in our new generations are continuing to listen to her music. And it’s not only her, there are other artists such as Tot? la Momposina, Thal?­a, Margarita, la diosa de la cumbia, and eight more female artist. Hopefully in the future there will be many more female artists paving the way in cumbia music.

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