The Cumbia Mosh Machine Banda Conmocion

Q: What do you get when you mix accordions, tubas, trumpets, clarinets, flutes, trombones, drums and cymbals with a bunch of screaming, boozed-up Chileans and a mosh pit?

A: The infectious madness that is a Banda Conmocion concert.

Photo courtesy Banda Conmocion
Photo courtesy Banda Conmocion

There are basically two kinds of people in Santiago: 1) people who are familiar with and crazy about Banda Conmocion, and 2) people who have never heard of the band and don’t know what they’re missing.

Two weeks ago, I was sadly a member of group two. But now, after my first show, I am proudly among the crazed disciples who compose group one.

The 19-person band doesn’t just play music; they create a movement that can only come from Chile. With blaring horns, arresting percussion and strange, contagious, carnival-like stage antics, Banda Conmocion plays its blend of gypsy and Latin American cumbia to packed houses, show after show.

“We started out playing mostly weddings and funerals, but now every concert is full," says band leader “El Huevo,” who had been sipping from a bottle of something strong before the show.

Everyone smiles in the sweaty, boisterous crowd as the line blurs between fan and band. And the charismatic slam dance festival parties on.

Pulsating, rhythmic mosh pits form quickly during blasting, cymbal-dominated portions of songs, which then dissolve smoothly into carousing horn sequences that induce seductive dancing and swaying. This festive change in tempo takes place at least three times per song, leaving you--as one of the many entranced cogs linked to the marching machine--in anticipation of what’s next.

Formed in 2001, the group is releasing its debut CD in September, a strong testament to their live performances. The band’s raving popularity has been founded entirely on their fans’ experiences at their shows. With the flexibility of playing non-electric instruments, the group is able to play almost anywhere, making them an accessible band that is truly for the people.

If the Banda Conmocion train comes your way, you’ll be sorry if you don’t jump on board.

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