Combo Chimbita describes their style as “tropical futurism.” Inspired by Sun Ra and the concept of Afrofuturism, the quartet—all first-generation New Yorkers from Colombia—combine the history and sounds of the global south to celebrate a worldview derived from their shared ancestry. The group’s infectious style is inspired by the music of cumbia, itself a cultural mix of African, European, and indigenous traditions. Like its cousins salsa and samba, cumbia fuses rhythm and dance, relying on quick beats, African drums, and spritely flutes to entice the body.
The group’s excellent debut, 2017’s Abya Yala, plumbs African and Caribbean tradition while pioneering a sound all its own. Singer Carolina Oliveros combines her powerful voice with the percussive flavor of the guacharaca, a traditional Colombian instrument made from the cane of a small palm tree. Ecstatically mixing elements of electronica, improvisation, and funk in a fit of borderless exploration, Combo Chimbita gets “psychedelic, trippy, and downright freaky,” NPR has gushed.