Iván el Satánico & the Dark Side of Cumbia

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I’m not sure when I first heard of Iván el Satánico’s music, but it quickly caught my attention mainly because the cumbia I heard was rebajada and #darks. These slowed-down cumbias, with the shoutouts to that which shall not be named, along with the deeper, hellish vocals, are referred to by Iván as “Kumbia Obscura.”

Iván is based in Querétaro City, a picturesque city you’ll sometimes see in the background of his Instagram videos, where he posts while creating new songs or when he’s out playing live. If you’re into inventive remixes, and the dark side of cumbia, join me on this music adventure led by DJ-producer El Satánico. 

A little note before we dig into Iván’s music: You’ll hear cumbia rebajada, songs at speeds that are exaggeratedly slower than normal. They stem from a music movement born in Monterrey, Mexico, when a broken knob on a turntable didn’t allow for the speed to reset to normal, and gave birth to a new sound and social movement. The extra twist here is that only cumbias from Colombia are played at events featuring this music. Vallenato sounds arrived in Mexico in the 60s and 70s… But that is a story for another day.

Let’s start with some Puerto Rican salsa in the iconic voice of Hector Lavoe and in the quirky reinterpretation by El Satánico:

Shortly after the pandemic began, and finding himself isolated at home, Iván released a bunch of new music, including two volumes of Sin Chamba, a 10-track album titled, Sentimiento Obscuro, and a love song in honor of the culture of Queretaro.

On the tropical bass side of his music, there’s a trio of songs, with a little tribal and reggaetón, whose titles form the phrase “Que Te Importa.” I like “Importa” on his album Todo Menos Un EP, joined by Rec Sonidera. 

Then there’s… I mean, the name says it all: Satanismo EP. This and Repite, Reproduce, are more exemplary of that dark cumbia rebajada I find particularly alluring. Start at one and keep going if you like it. Each song heads in different directions.

The Macabre Rhythm EP was released on the Caballito Netlabel from Spain. The last song is a tumbia tribute (as dubbed by Turbo Sonidero).

But fret not, it’s not all dark. Iván can get sentimental, too.

Here’s what he wrote about his EP, Cumbia Ponche y Decepción:

“You are on the couch at your aunt’s house, punch in hand, watching how your uncles, cousins, brothers, fathers talk about how your grandparents’ land is divided. Wanting to get out of that place, you realize that your only ticket is your iPod, which only has sad cumbias that talk of heartbreak. You realize that Christmas is sad, empty, and disappointing. Cumbia, punch, and disappointment are nine tracks that reflect Satánico’s disappointing way of producing. It contains two remixes: one by Gabriel Romero and the other by Lisandro Meza. Finally, it has some collaborations with international producers such as Arrabalero, the beloved Carrillo Stereo, and Fuerte Sonidero. An EP that reflects that at Christmas there is nothing to celebrate, but a lot to be disappointed about.” 

It’s so merry and bright, isn’t it?

You can find all of this and more on El Satánico’s Bandcamp page.

Sandra Treviño is a music journalist, DJ and radio host living in Chicago. Listen to her on the radio Friday afternoons on 91.1FM Vocalo and every second and fourth Monday at 6 PM CST on 105.5FM Lumpen Radio. she is also one half of the female selecta duo The Ponderers. #futurerootz #theponderers #djangelfuk

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