Cumbia Night



Wednesday night in Guatemala City is Cumbia Night. No doubt about it.

Cumbia is a type of music originating from Colombia, if Wikipedia will have me believe correctly, but it is popular throughout Latin America and Guatemala is no exception.

You’ll hear it blaring out of most bars in the historic centre of the city, zone 1, the distinctive sound of the rattle and shake, incessant cow bell keeping the beat going and some amazingly croony lovey-dovey lyrics.

A photo to set the scene - Here we are in Guatemala City. Compulsory Chicken Bus photo

A photo to set the scene – Here we are in Guatemala City. Compulsory Chicken Bus photo

Here is a taster to get us started. Nice an easy to begin with.

By no means is it a sound confined to Wednesday nights. Any day of the week, as a Chicken Bus speeds past on the highway or through the city streets it occasionally leaves a trail of Cumbia sounds mixed in with the noxious exhaust fumes.

You’ll hear it from the brake of dawn competing with the cockerels for the morning wake-up call, along through till lunch and on and on until nightfall.

It’s a good thing I like it, because if not it could make life quite difficult. I’m actually listening to it right now, to try and give me some inspiration for this post. Of course the same can’t be said about Marimba, the national music of Guatemala. Now that’s just a whole other story which I have neither the strength, nor willpower, to write about at this moment in time.

Back to the story.

Wednesday night.

Whilst many bars have their own live music, the place to head is El Monumental, a few blocks east of the Central Square in Zone 1, opposite the Central Market. More precisely…

9 Avenida y 8 Calle

I suppose I could write a post on street directions and addresses in Guatemala City in an effort to make the blog even remotely useful to anyone thinking of travelling to Guatemala, but I’m sure that’s all been covered elsewhere.

El Monumental by day

El Monumental by day

Anyway, the thing is, you could easily be mistaken into believing that Guatemala City simply shuts down at night, especially in Zone 1, and it can be a bit disconcerting heading off from the relative safe-haven of the pedestrianised 6th Avenue running though the heart of Zone 1.

Well you have to. Take the road less trod (trodden?)and head of the path, just like Bilbo and the dwarves in Fangorn Forest in The Hobbit. That’s where you’ll find the good stuff.

One block off and you hear the cow bell first. Then the shaky shaky rattle instrument thing…I’m not sure what it’s called. Once outside you’ll see the revellers outside and on the balconies smoking up above.

Inside El Monumental

Inside El Monumental

The biggest surprise is to see such a big bar filled to the brim on a Wednesday night. That’s the thing about El Monumental…the owners are the undisputed kings of Cumbia in Guatemala.


Representantes de la mejor Cumbia de Centroamérica

The music starts around 9/10, usually with another Cumbia band. Around 11, Los Miseria Cumbia Band takes to the stage. Then they play this song…and everyone just completely loses their shit.

By the end of their set the entire hall is up on its feet, there’s a lot of dirty dancing, equal measures of drinking, and everyone’s generally having a pretty good time.

Los Miseria Cumbia Band

Los Miseria Cumbia Band

Hers another of the big songs they play in case anyone is still interested.

As they finish and pack up their things, Mr. Fer, their rapper, and freestyle go-to man, comes on stage and does his thing. Occasionally their last song will be (with mass crowd participation I must add)…


That’s another story that will have to wait. And now to finish, my all time favourite Cumbia song, from the Colombian Cumbia Kings


Here's a picture of a squirrel and two parroty type birds, just in case you've decide by now that you really dont like Cumbia

Here’s a picture of a squirrel and two parroty type birds, just in case you’ve decided by now that you really really dont like Cumbia

So I say to you, if you find yourself in Guatemala City, go to El Monumental on a Wednesday night and shake you cucu.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s