The Bombeat Limb Shaker
Thor Partridge hated electronic music until he accidentally sliced off the tip of his finger in a parsnip chopping incident. When the doctor told him he couldn’t play his beloved jazz and blues guitar for six months, the first thing he did was buy a laptop. It wasn’t long before influential international music bloggers began snatching up exclusives on his releases.
I wasn’t planning on a trip to Medellin but a cheap airfare and a persuasive friend convinced me that a 30 hour layover in Colombias second-largest city was a worthwhile adventure. With one night to experience Medellin, my friend Jeff Guerra invited me to the opening of his club to hear the Colombian electronic music of the Cumba Mela collective. To my surprise, Thor Partridge, his cousin Adam and Mike Tummolo (aka Thornato, Atropolis and 2melo) are not Colombian, they’re New Yorkers, from Queens and Long Island. However I found myself very impressed by their musical chops, bringing underground Brooklyn style electronics to the Colombian folklore melodies I knew and loved.
The next morning before dashing off to catch my flight I sat down with Adam who told me about Cumba Mela’s “Colombia NYC Project”. The DJs raised over $6,000 on Kickstarter to travel to the source of their music, Colombia, studying and sharing sounds with the end goal of a documentary and a compilation.
“The internet has had a major impact on the the globalization of music. It is easy to incorporate influences from other cultures without really knowing much about them. We wanted to connect with the people, the culture, and work directly with the musicians rather than just experiencing it through a blog.”
They spent three months doing grassroots collaborations with some of Colombia’s most influential musicians, from spending time in Petrona Martinez‘s house to recording in the streets with Son Palenque, to hanging in Quantic’s apartment in Cali to meeting with ChocQuib Town, Systema Solar, Bomba Estereo and exploring local champeta (African-Colombian music from Cartagena) festivals. As opposed to being ostracized as outsiders, “It was magic.” Adam explains, “once they saw our interest in their culture and music, that’s what really opened the door.”
Cumba Mela made their grand debut back in New York in 2009, on a pirate ship docked in a dirty creek in Bushwick, Brooklyn and continued with a weekly residency at Brooklyn bar Bembe. Since then, Cumba Mela, (collectively and individually as producers) have emerged as global bass pioneers worldwide often collaborating with local MCs Brookyln Shanti (India) and Polo (Colombia). Mike recalls,
“We formed this group as a means to bringing together different cultures and different music all under one setting and then reinterpret it with electronic music, but more so to create a scene for this type of music that didn’t exist before.”
After Colombia, Thor went to India with fellow producer Brooklyn Shanti to produce original mixes combining dancehall and Bollywood (resulting the hit Rani Rani), and each are constantly in the process of creating more cross-continental remixes and collaborations. “Sharing is the most important thing” says Thor, as Cumba Mela’s goal is simply to produce great music and share the African, Colombian, Indian and other assorted global sounds that have fascinated them since their teenage years.
“I was a kid making electronic music in my basement, and was able to share my music and be discovered through Soundcloud. The most important thing is to simply share good music through the power of the internet.”
So when it was time to throw the Tonspur launch party in NYC, we thought Bombeat, the evolved new collective and monthly party built by the Global Bass power team of Cumba Mela and Nickodemus (dubbed “The Godfather of Global Bass” by Mike for his legendary “Turntables on the Hudson” parties) would be a perfect match. Check out the video to see how crazy the packed house at Drom in New York City’s East Village was!
The Bombeat DJ sets featured many of their famous Colombian remixes, filled with hard hitting moombahton and dancehall keeping the dance floor hot. However, to my surprise, as soon as the music was cut at 4am, all three DJs instinctually turn to the dumbek (Middle-Eastern drum) and grand piano that were left on stage and started to playing. Cousins Thor and Adam began a classical piano duet, pumping away at the pedals, and Mike filled in the rhythm on the giant dumbek. Not what I had expected at the end of a globalized dancehall set, yet all the more fascinating considering the bad rap DJs get for “just pressing play”. Thor explains, “One thing that people don’t know about me is that I was classically trained and play bluegrass guitar and bluegrass banjo – I’m an instrumentalist.
This party was only the third for Bombeat who have already featured LA-based Jeremy Sole at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan, Argentinian ZZK Records at a Williamsburg Japanese Speakeasy, and in this instance Brooklyn Gypsies, a local music collective combining Spanish, Japanese, Russian and American roots, at Drom in the East Village.
Their next April party will be with Colombia-based DJ Quantic at a loft/circus arts space called House of Yes in Brooklyn. “With Bombeat we are creating space to showcase our music and the music of other artists we like who we want to expose to a greater audience across the city. Our crowd is really mixed and diverse – and i think that’s why people are connecting with the Bombeat sound.” says Mike.
As the last dancers huddled outside in the frigid NYC winter night at 4:30 am, I asked Juan Diego, a Colombian/New Yorker and early Cumba Mela follower about the show. “The difference is that they do it well live. This shit is hitting my heart and when I listen digitally it’s ok, but when I go see it live – my limbs! They just can’t control themselves! They simply share good music that makes people dance.”
So, to put that theory to the test, I’ve compiled some of my favorite Cumba Mela tracks in our Tonspur podcast: The Bombeat Limb Shaker for this week, starting off with some of their more mellow groovy productions and building its way up the dancefloor. Just see if you can keep your limbs still!
Text & Podcast by Allie Silver
Photos by Felix Zeltner
Artwork by Krashkid
Check out more pictures from the Tonspur launch party on our Instagram!