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9. Feliz, feliz Pablo Lescano exemplifies tradition and modernity at the same time. Pablito, the master of rhythm, the creator of cumbia villera, acknowledges the paternity of his child as an inevitable fate: marked by a chamamecero (a performer of chamamé, a regional folk genre) grandfather from Corrientes province, and his precocious adventures at Tropitango de Pacheco, Buenos Aires (the grand cathedral of Colombian and Peruvian cumbia), it could be no other way. “La cultura se va haciendo” (Culture is made along the way), explains the musician who loathes the stiff discourses of those who think they know, yet at the same time, he demonstrates a profound knowledge of his art and of his tropical passion. Capable of historicizing the genre from the middle of the twentieth century and knowledgeable about cumbia in all of its versions , Lescano is a researcher of what he actually does. To the point that it was he, born and raised in the shantytown of La Esperanza in San Fernando (in northern Greater Buenos Aires), who first began playing with a deejay friend until he mixed cumbia, the most popular rhythm in the continent, with electronic and psychedelic paraphernalia created with synthesizers. Pablo Lescano played at Luna Park (the most important concert stadium in Buenos Aires) with his all-­ time band. Pablo Lescano played with Miranda (a well-­ known pop band) at the Roxy (a theater), becoming a hit with the keyboard on his shoulder. Pablo Lescano was at the Žižek parties (an avant-­ garde Buenos Aires night club, named after the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek), where a handful of “mods” seem to him “a mountain of lemons” because of the “lime they have in their heads,” he says.1 Pablo Lescano, without calculation or marketing ornaments, reigns in the rhythm he created, and now it crosses all borders. Mexico. Spain. New York. Paraguay. Bolivia. Ecuador . Pablo Lescano is the king wherever he goes. This is an interview with Pablo and a nosy peek into the work of Alberto Sánchez Campuzano, an artist and filmmaker who followed Lescano through Cristian Alarcón 214 Cristian Alarcón the streets of his neighborhood and through infinite performances on Saturday night when Damas Gratis (Lescano’s cumbia group) played fifteen shows for fans in the Argentine capital and Greater Buenos Aires. Alberto, the thirty-­ five-­ year-­ old from Cali, Colombia, was in Buenos Aires (on a scholarship from the National Fund for Culture and the Arts of Mexico) on a search that brought him from haughty Palermo to the Cildañez shantytown, where he ended up helping a group of “pibes chorros” (thieving kids) start a cumbia group. Alberto has an expert ear that allows him to identify, on Buenos Aires soil, subtle aspects of his countries—Mexico and Colombia—in local songs. From repeatedly going to the Tropi de Pacheco (along Panamericana, close to Route 202 in northern Greater Buenos Aires), he met “Yanque,” a guy with a nerdy face who happened to be the son of two Argentines who migrated to the United States and gave birth to him in Los Angeles. “He arrived in the 1990s in San Fernando with an arsenal of two thousand cds that accounted for all the cumbia he had listened to with his friends over there,” Alberto told me in a travel diary that he sent from Monterrey, where he tracks down cumbia to finish his movie. “Cumbia is music of migrants: Colombians arrived in Mexico and generated a new cumbia in the 1970s and 1980s. Yanque arrived in the 1990s, and appears to be the sonidero of villera cumbia.” Lemons When I saw him in May, after a long waiting time at the door of Pasión de Sábados (Saturday Passion), the tv program on which he usually plays, Pablo Lescano had spent the previous night with a “reporter from NewYork,” whom he had brought to the dance halls so that he could “alucinarse.”2 “Of course, keep in mind he was going to Niceto [an upscale nightclub], where they mix cumbia with electrónica [synthesizers], or reguetón.Then followed a little rap, next a little bit of cumbia, and reguetón one last time. It is a marvelous invention . I told him ‘Come with me,’ and I took him to Fantástico Bailable, to Jessy James, and to a few more places [alluding to dance halls whose customers are working-­ class folks]. The fellow couldn’t believe it,” says Pablo, from his apartment...


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