El Dusty & the 3 Cs: Cumbia, Corpus and Chicas
Something about electronic music brings people together. You don’t need a sophisticated knowledge of music “theory” or even know what an A minor chord sounds like. Punk has the mohawk, metal had the black concert tee, ‘80s pop the parachute pant, rap its Adidas and diamond grills, and hippie rock the ol’ stinky tie-dye. But we have no “costume” in electronic. There is no dictating city or scene. We’re everywhere. There’s no requirement for conventional/physical instruments—the realm of EDM is the imagination. Tests administered by the New School for Social Research in New York indicate that no other set of genre junkies rank higher.
We’re a crazy imaginative bunch, and none more so more than those on the tip of the spear: the DJs and producers who twist, splice, shatter and rebuild so that we never take for granted what defines the music that we love. And so, meet Dusty Oliveira, the Texan dynamo who introduced traditional Latin folk jams to the disco-ish side of prog house and, in the end, brought to the altar two of the most unlikely genres ever to fall in love. It’ll be on full display as El Dusty goes b2b with Happy Colors at EDC Mexico on Sunday, February 26.
According to social scientists, El Dusty (as he is know to his fans and amigos) single-handedly dubbed the genre of nu-cumbia into existence—and so commenced a journey to rediscover the musical heritage taken up in his youth—when the crates of tejao/cumbia vinyl gifted by his uncles met head-on in space & time with his trusty MPC2000 sampler (El Dusty’s name inspires me to imagine he wore it in a special holster). It’s been a journey, and it continues on.
One thing the Corpus Christi, Texas, native will tell you is that nu-cumbia is but one link in a very long chain. The following is a real simplification: Cumbia is a dance-ier offshoot of tejao—the folksy Tex-Mex fusion you’ve heard thousands of times in doctors’ offices and grocery stores via War’s 1975 track “Low Rider.” Surprisingly, its origins run back to immigrating Europeans in the 1880s—think German polka/OOM PAH PAH meets revolver-blasts-in-th-air revelry. The jubilant “fun time” vibe can even now be felt/heard across Mexico and Central America from beer halls and BBQs, soccer games and weddings.
You’ve heard other people’s brand of tejao via Selena, La Mafia, Mazz or La Sombra. For his part, El Dusty proves that this fun, festive, bump-n’-jangle genre has another heretofore undiscovered gear. Using harmonica, tuba, conga, cow bell and accordion as fuel cells, his mashes, mixes and self-singles can induce colon-shattering, high-octane bursts: hands-in-the-air-till-you-fall-over from sweat-induced, dehydrated bliss. It can, in some instances, cause flight.
But like a lot of up-and-comers, El Dusty has a box of many flavors. On any given night, you might hear his original tracks alongside operators like Erick Jaimez, Major Lazer, Beepolar, Clipse Ahoy, Dubcheck and Hype Turner in the same hour—and about half of those would be El’s own remixes. Building the bridgehead for first-wave Mexi-American rave kids, El Dusty is about introducing diverse/contrasting styles and elements smoothly. It is documented that he sometimes ups the ante by incorporating elements of his live band, Master Blaster Sound System. Hip-hop, trap, prog house, tribal and reggae? Oh, YES please. Or should I say “si… por favor!”
And he is sincerely in love with EDM. Since “K la Pasa” dropped in 2011, El’s career has broken earth orbit and is now passing Saturn—with both Mexican and US cultures riding shotgun. He’s been nominated for a Latin Grammy, and even though he admits surprise every time he hears it played, his cut “Cumbia Anthem” has indeed become a straight-up standard. Which means a lot of new work. In a lot of new cities. But it’s his hometown where he does his most important work. “Corpus Christi is a great scene. You can be dancing next to someone in a crowd one night, and look up the next—they’re in the booth,” he remarks.
That kind of vibe tends to inspire loyalty. Accordingly, in his spare time, Oliveira has mirrored his generous uncles, giving the gift of music to the kids of Corpus. His twin foundations Chicas Rock and Turntable Academy are set up as “club atmosphere” workshops where kids of all ages can get a taste of electronic, a shot at the tables, and legit skillz-building in a safe environment. Dusty met the matron of Chicas Rock, Cecy Trevino in 2002, when he recorded the scratches on an album for her band La Conquista… and proposed to her in their room at EDC Las Vegas 2016. Yep. As I was saying, that sweet, sweet magic of EDM brings people together.
I can’t imagine how much better a person I’d be today if, instead of having my nose splatted, suffering weekly humiliations via judo lessons as a kid, I’d had the choice to choose my own path in music, get behind the decks, and celebrate my once-in-a-lifetime childhood splendor. And under the professorship of someone like El Dusty? Shit, I’d probably be president. And we’d all be better off.
I can only imagine.
Cecy Trevino on Chicas Rock: “It helps them overcome different problems they are going through and keeps them out of trouble. It also teaches them teamwork and helps them socialize when they hear a song they all like. They get super excited when we play electronic music, and no one can help but dance to the beats!”
I’ve seen a lot of kids that are super shy and don’t speak at all—they get onstage and perform in front of lots of people, and their parents can’t believe it. I have also seen kids that have never shined in sports or any other activities, but when they come to Chicas, they find their place and they are the stars.
“Each time I’m in a bad mood, I want to dance. I want to get better with turntables in the future and be a professional. Since I have been in Chicas Rock, I have made a lot of friends and perform in front of people—for example, Fiesta de Flore.” —Naudia Garza
Or… if your name is El Dusty, EDC for the third time. ¡Viva México!
Anyone can get involved with Chicas Rock; no previous musical experience is required, and all genres are welcome.
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