Cumbia with Gregorio
Meet the Artist
Colombian singer, songwriter, and accordionist Gregorio Uribe has forged a unique place in the music scene of both the US and Latin America. Founder and leader of the Gregorio Uribe Big Band, a 16-piece orchestra that blends cumbia and other Colombian rhythms with powerful big band arrangements, he released the album Cumbia Universal featuring eight-time Grammy winner Rubén Blades. Gregorio’s next project is an album with a smaller ensemble that highlights his songwriting and his signature instrument, the accordion. His music has also been showcased in documentaries and TV series, including FX’s Mayans M.C. and CBS’s MacGyver.
Artist and Genre Overview
Colombia has been called “the land of a thousand rhythms,” and cumbia is one of the most ubiquitous and enduring of these rhythms. The genre brings together African, indigenous, and, to a lesser extent, Spanish influences. Its origins are somewhat ambiguous and difficult to trace. Some sources cite roots as far back as the late-17th century, others to the 19th century. It is often said that the genre developed in rural environments along Colombia’s Caribbean coast and in small riverside towns—which explains some of the common themes like fishing, farming, and nature—but other documentation points to Cartagena as its birthplace. Cumbia has continued to evolve, mixing with other forms of popular music, and remains a common form of dance music throughout Latin America.
Gregorio Uribe was born in Bogotá, Colombia and came to the US to attend the Berklee College of Music, subsequently putting down roots in New York City. With the Gregorio Uribe Big Band, he combines Colombian rhythms with big band arrangements; he also has a smaller ensemble to highlight his songwriting. In addition to composing and performing with a variety of groups, Gregorio is committed to serving as a cultural bridge to his country. He launched an innovative project of community-based musical tourism where he brings music lovers to small villages to meet, learn from, and enjoy the music of local masters.
Additional Resources for Teachers
- Visit Spotify to find a playlist made by Gregorio.
- Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, “Fuego de Cumbia”
- Totó La Momposina, “Dos de Febrero”
- Music, Race, and Nation: Música Tropical in Colombia, Peter Wade
- Cumbia!: Scenes of a Migrant Latin American Music Genre, eds. Héctor D. Fernández L’Hoeste and Pablo Vila
- “Traditional Vallenato Music of the Greater Magdalena Region,” UNESCO
- “Why Shakira Loves This African Beat,” Vox Borders
- “How to do Cumbia Dancing: How to do Basic Cumbia Dance Steps,” Expertvillage
- “Danza de Niños en el Festival de la Cumbia,” Cumbia, Poder & Porro
New York City Resources
- Jackson Heights, Queens has a large Colombian population.
- Terraza 7, a venue that presents Latin American music, located between Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, Queens
- ENCUENTRO NYC, an annual Colombian music festival
- FolkColombia Música y Danza at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, a community dedicated to sharing Colombian traditional dance in Jackson Heights, Queens
- Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia, Jeanette Winter