A lot was made of MATIAS AGUAYO’s disappearance after his 2005 LP ‘Are You Really Lost?’, and though anyone paying attention in the intervening years was privy to a trickle of releases on Kompakt and Soul Jazz, these evidently weren’t enough to satisfy the typically insatiable dance music intelligentsia. This year has seen a steady stream of music from Aguayo and a cast of pan-Latin friends leading up to his airy ‘Ay Ay Ay’ LP on Kompakt, and some of the most compelling of these have appeared on the CÓMEME imprint, which he heads with Gary Pimiento. Forming as an outlet for jams played at DIY street parties, the label represents a young and insanely creative Latin American vanguard, bridging gaps between cumbia and acid house, kuduro and EBM. Promising new releases from Chantal, Diegors and the Don (a collaboration between Santiago’s Diego Morales and Aguayo), Vicente Sanfuente and Ana Helder, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
CÓMEME (literally, “eat me”) blossomed out of the Bumbumbox parties, a response to the standardisation of space in Buenos Aires and various other Latin American cities, in the clubs and in the streets. In an email, Matias Aguayo describes the modern club experience as becoming suffocatingly streamlined: “The club is such a standardized space, considering the audience, its social status and age, and the rules within the club that have also become more and more strict; you cannot smoke, you can’t go outside with your drink, spontaneous expressions of euphoria, like climbing on a stage, are less tolerated – [all of these] have contributed to the fact that our audience enjoys dancing on the street again, rather than in the club institution.”
In much of the urban northern hemisphere, street parties generally connote a mess of red tape, an inevitable submission to noise and disturbing the peace ordinances. Partying in the street is a southern phenomenon, and Bumbumbox’s success across Latin America clearly stems from this tradition. Nevertheless, Aguayo and fellow organisers Gary Pimiento and Pablo Castoldi (who works as an architect) are meticulous about selecting “good dancefloors throughout public space,” Aguayo says. The locations are usually selected “a couple of nights before the party”, and as he rattles off a list of qualifications (“Is it an area where things happen? Are there passersby? Are there possibilities to get drinks close to it? Is the floor good to dance? Where does the sun come up? Is there enough or too much light? Is it too dangerous? Too posh?”) it becomes clear just how necessary free, unsanctioned street parties are and how draconian contemporary restrictions on public fun can be. Parties are molded to fit the locale, Aguayo explains; while Medellin has a tradition of street nightlife and Buenos Aires is “slightly disordered”, Santiago “where you do things more hidden” and Sao Paulo “where there’s a law against noise from 10 or 11pm on and we had to [lower] the volume every time the police would approach,” are stricter.
Maybe the most surprising and wonderfully reassuring thing (from a northern perspective) about Bumbumbox is Aguayo’s insistence that the public has been nothing but positive: “I have the impression it is so obvious that we are giving something for free and with much love, so apparently nobody dares to disturb. You notice it is something so natural, so deeply human, it has to be reclaimed, and not be abandoned because of politics of fear disguised as ‘security’ issues.”
CÓMEME keeps this community-based idea at the heart of its endeavors and Aguayo is excited about a global grassroots future: “In general, I think that at this very moment it has become more and more interesting to search for music independently, to not rely anymore on the music magazine or the record store, where we don’t find what we are looking for anyway. The internet has made [it] possible that one can look for music ignoring a lot of pre-selection that has been done so far. And especially the cultural peripheries are much more accessible than before, and it is much more exciting to me to find some incredibly modern rhythms from Rio or Johannesburg or México D.F. than spending time at a record shop with unfriendly music experts. Things have opened, and there is no reliable reference anymore. That’s great for music making.”
The latest CÓMEME release, Rebolledo’s Guerrero, is ostensibly a party track with goofy lyrics about a nighttime warrior looking for danger. The song’s grainy video shows Rebolledo, Aguayo and friends parading through a closed shopping centre, playing the tune with comically menacing expressions on their faces, pumping their fists. They’re not visibly fighting against anything, mostly because they’re alone. But considering the label’s mission, they sort of are, just by being there. It’s their shopping centre for all anyone knows or cares; they have the sound and there’s a party where there wasn’t one before.
The Field is another excellent Kompakt article. Read our piece on him here.