The Pioneering Artists Behind South America’s Evolving Genres

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz.  Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz. Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

Embedded in the evolving South American movement, Nicola Cruz delivers music that honors the traditions and cultures of his homeland Ecuador.

There’s a richness to the instrumental choices utilized by the artist, it’s a bold crossover of old and new. Such intended connection between ancestral influences and modern approaches aids Cruz’s mission in existing beyond the fold. While yes, this vein exists in cumbia, the music runs a deep and personal course that when traced together is telling of Cruz’s identity.

Born in Limoges, France to Ecuadorian parents, Cruz was immersed in an enriching musical education. When he eventually convinced his parents to purchase him a drum set at the age of 12, Cruz would begin his exploratory phase through an array of genres. While the work he produces doesn’t come close to the musical category of metal, Cruz began his music career by learning and playing Megadeth covers.

Before casting the cumbia fingerprint onto Cruz’s body of work, one must first look to the shifting and emerging changes occuring in South America’s music scene — the surging nightlife trends and happenings.

“It’s easy to fall into this classification since Cumbia is something that’s so broad, it’s not just music but a complete tradition of dance, history, poetry, geography if you will, that is included in this movement that started in Columbia and spread throughout Latin America,” says Cruz. “I think when people from outside the common Latin American perimeter refer to this music as cumbia, is for lack of a better name, which in a way is acceptable because understanding this context is proper of living in places like this. I would say that what I compose these days leans toward contemporary electronic music, where defying music rules is always present, but that’s always been a part of me — experimentation.”

With Nicola Cruz DJing on an international scale, one need not look far to recognize the ease in which his music translates to non-Spanish speaking audiences.

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz.  Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

Marmoset artist, Nicola Cruz. Photo credit: Gabriel Perez Mora-Bowen

The success of this kind of international recognition came about from his 2015 release of Prender el Alma, listeners finding diversity and range throughout the album. The electronic downtempo drew together a fanbase eager to see how Cruz would continue developing the Andean musical elements through a modernistic spin. An integral part of Cruz’s signature style is rooted in technology and his embracing of Western influences, it’s proof that honoring the past can simultaneously accompany new invention.

With Cruz experimenting through his music’s compositions, the folkloric sounds merely are one of the many vibrant threads woven into the Ecuadorian artists musical stylings. In “La Cosecha”, Cruz incorporates classic sounds of the acoustic guitar with a drum machine, the complete work sounds like a bright and joyful tribute to something truly profound and sacred.

Looking to Andean cosmology, ‘Cosecha’ refers to a time of harvesting, a period of recognition on what can been extracted from the earth and in turn, a deep appreciation for everything that’s been collected. This sort of homage speaks volumes about Cruz’s intentions to remain rooted in heritage, honoring the history of his ancestors’ stories. And yet, such sincerity and deep reflection doesn’t inflict a barrier. One underlying reason? Cruz knows how to produce compelling music that translates for and beyond the dancefloor.

“I’ve never felt stuck in a genre or category, it’s always about how I feel everyday,” says Cruz. “For instance, I woke up today with “Moon” by Björk in my head so I revisited that. I constantly find myself discovering new songs from the Beatles, those dudes recorded a lot of music back in the day. The Division Bell by Floyd has been another comeback, or the amazing STROOM records from Belgium if I feel for something more sci fi — and don’t get me started on modular techno. It’s endless really, and so I consider my musical aspirations to be.”

With “Colibria” — the feminine Spanish word for colibrio, an instrument used to record the song — the story unfolds by honoring the concept of mankind’s origins. There’s reference to mother nature, discovering and celebrating the natural elements of this world. Rhythmically Latin through and through, there’s clear conjunction of cutting-edge electronic tempo and indigenous sounds. Songs such as this tie Cruz’s creative creations to this roots while still remaining wildly universally understood.

Cruz is currently working with ZZK Records to produce his new upcoming album. This new body of work is said to emulate a wider perspective of music and a projection of ideas Cruz has been carrying with him since Prender el Alma.

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