The Triumph of Chico Trujillo

By: José Manuel Simián

Chilean cumbia band Chico Trujillo may have started as a side project of 90s punk/ska outfit Lafloripondio, but over the years, they have grown into one of the most interesting musical projects of South America. 

Their blend of pre-Pinochet Chilean cumbia with other genres from the Souther cone is growing thicker and more interesting with each album, and their latest output, Reina de Todas las Fiestas —released by Brooklyn's flawless label Barbes— is their greatest achievement to date.

The kicker in Reina is the addition of the horns and Andean folk melodies of brass bands from the North of Chile, the kind you can hear in the country's notorious La Tirana festival, a 7 day celebration that mixes Catholic worship of the Virgin Mary with all sorts of popular expressions. 

The mix of cumbia with Andean horns proves irresistible in tracks like "La Cura del Espanto" or "Malgeniosa," songs that naturally jump between both genres but also achieve something else: representing in sound the contradictions of Chile, a nail-thin country that, almost impossibly, hangs from the Southern edge of the continent, stretching from the desert to Patagonia. 

Chico Trujillo has always reveled in the drunken euphoria and nostalgia that can be found in certain corners of cumbia, but with the addition of the joyous lament of these religious-inspired, carnival-bound brass horns, they have achieved something else: bringing together ever more extreme expressions of sadness and joy by joining musical expressions of radically different geographic regions and cultures. 

Yet there is more than La Tirana horns to Reina. The album also delivers three gems in the tracks that have notable guests: the melancholic appearance of Los Tres' Álvaro Henríquez in the cover of Calixto Ochoa's "Playas Marinas," the rapped section of the Bronx's Rebel Díaz in the cry-against-modernity of "Chatito," and Kevin Johansen's Argentinean flare in "Los Nervios que Te Di." 

But don't take our word for it. Do yourself a favor and listen to Reina de Todas las Fiestas below:

José Manuel Simián is the Executive Editor of Manero. He used to be a lawyer and is probably listening to Bob Dylan as you read this.