Growing up in a Mexican household, I would separate the music my parents enjoyed into three categories: 1) romantic ballads of artists like Juan Gabriel, Lupita D’Alessio, and Camilo Sesto; 2) accordion-heavy norteñas by groups like Ramon Ayala y Sus Bravos del Norte and Los Cadetes de Linares; and 3) all the cumbias.
From classic cumbias by bands like La Sonora Dinamita, Los Angeles Azules or Fito Olivares y La Pura Sabrosura, or more norteño-style cumbias by the likes of Bronco or Celso Piña (and later Limite), cumbias have been a consistent part of my life ever since I can remember.
But, there’s one artist in particular that stood out to me as a kid because of his particular style of cumbias and also his on-stage persona—Rigo Tovar y Su Conjunto Costa Azul.
My mother’s side of the family is from Tampico, Tamaulipas, a port city known for its lively people, its abundance of seafood and sweet mango trees, and its beautiful beaches. When we would visit on summer vacation, someone in the neighborhood would always wake everyone up by blasting cumbia from their porch as they cleaned, and Rigo Tovar was one of the artists I always heard. Inevitably, whether at a party or at home, my mother and tías would always play cumbias by Rigo Tovar.
I think part of the fascination they had for him is due, in part, because he was from their home state of Tamaulipas, even though he was from the city of Matamoros. They identified with Rigo Tovar because of this, and were proud to play his music.
Rigo’s music was also interesting to me because he added more electronic components, like synths, electric guitars/drums/bass, etc., which added a whole other vibe to his music. The guy was also unconventionally charismatic and had a sexiness about him—I mean, at least that’s what I gathered when the women in my family would see him on television and go wild. Seeing him perform was exciting because of the way he moved, jumped, and even leaped off stage. And he did all of this while going blind.
One of my favorite Rigo Tovar songs growing up was “El Sirenito,” a tale about a man falling in love with a mermaid, getting married, and then having a half-human, half-fish child. The lyrics say, “Con la cara de angelito, pero cola de pescado” (“With the face of an angel, but the tail of a fish”). Hearing this as a kid I was intrigued, and a little scared, but also found it really funny.
I’m sharing all this because producer, percussionist, and composer Emir Pabón just released a tribute album in honor of his godfather, Rigo Tovar, titled Rigo Puro Amor!
The new album includes artists like Mariana Seaone, Jorge Medina, Grupo Cañaveral and Los Rojos, among others. Rigo Puro Amor is available on all digital platforms and features 20 of Rigo Tovar’s greatest hits including “Mi Matamoros Querido,” “El Testamento” and “Mi Amiga, Mi Esposa, Mi Amante.”
Listen to Rigo Puro Amor on Spotify:
Watch a video playlist of Rigo Puro Amor on YouTube:
About Emir Pabon
Mexican by birth and Colombian at heart, Emir Pabón was born in Mexico City and began his musical career by attending his father’s concerts. He eventually joined his father’s legendary band Grupo Cañaveral as a percussionist and has served an integral role in the ensemble for the past 23 years. In addition to a percussionist, Pabón is also a producer, businessman, actor and composer.
Pabón began a new phase of his career in 2019, releasing several singles as a soloist including “Echa pa’lante”, which invites listeners to overcome their problems with a positive attitude, as well as “Swing”, a collaboration with the acclaimed reggaeton artists Nacho and Joey Montana.2020 was also a very important year for Pabón. Grupo Cañaveral celebrated their 25th anniversary and Emir finished up recording his debut solo album—a tribute to his godfather, the Mexican icon Rigo Tovar.