La Congona New Cumbia

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interior of La Conga music store in Passaic, N.J. Photo by Alexis Stephens

This project will examine where the production of contemporary electronic music engages with
informal economies and transnational distribution networks, with a specific focus on the Mexican
cumbia sonidera scene along the East Coast such as Passaic, NJ. Although thriving, with dozens of parties each month in the NYC area alone, this scene has been ignored by both English- and Spanish-language media. Its locally-produced music enters, almost immediately, into highly fluid global routes of circulation. At parties, for instance, crowds give the DJ handwritten notes and text messages to be read on top of the music; these contain shout-outs to distant family, friends, and lovers. Afterward, the DJs sell live recordings of the night, which attendees then purchase and mail across the border (or hold onto as personal souvenirs).

I'm particularly interested in how these practices touch on aspects of memory and tangibility in the
digital age, transmissions across public/private space, new American-ness, and an emerging border discourse, often within non-internet-mediated "offline" digital communities.

Multimedia documentation (mixtape CD, poster, bilingual blog, video, etc) will explore the "invisible" cultural production, from the extremely local (bedroom studios in Passaic, NJ) to the transnational (bootleg distribution networks, international soundsystem circulation, piracy, and more), in such a way as to be useful to the 'sonideros' themselves as well as curious newcomers looking to learn more.

Project Created: 
March 2010