TCHAAACK TCHAAACKA TCHAAACK, TCHAAACKA TCHAACK, TCHAAACKA TCHAAACK…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
LOS MISERIA CUMBIA BAND
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.
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)…
DESPUES DE AQUI, NOS VAMOS A LE CLUB!
That’s another story that will have to wait. And now to finish, my all time favourite Cumbia song, from the Colombian Cumbia Kings
LA SONORA DINAMITA
So I say to you, if you find yourself in Guatemala City, go to El Monumental on a Wednesday night and shake you cucu.