The Colombian salsa group Fruko Y Sus Tesos were formed in 1969 by the multi-talented Julio Ernesto Estrada – aka Fruko – and have recorded more than 42(!) albums to date. They really grew in popularity after iconic singer Joe Arroyo joined their ranks in 1973, and his voice can be heard center stage in this spicy salsa number – you can hear it in S01E09 of Narcos.
A popular cumbia orchestra who have recorded more than 20 albums since their first incarnation in 1960, La Sonora Dinamita have gone through many lineup changes over their nearly 50-year history, but one constant remains: they put out truly wonderful cumbia music! This hypnotic number dates back to the 1980s and can be heard in S01E05.
Los Corraleros de Majagual – founded back in 1962 – are considered some of the finest interpreters of classic Colombian Caribbean music, such luminaries as the aforementioned Fruko, Calixto Ochoa, Alfredo Gutiérrez and Eliseo Herrera featuring among their ranks. They play a large range of Caribbean genres, including cumbia, porro, gaita, paseo, cumbión and charanga. The track No tengo culpa can be heard in S01E07.
Son Palenque are a truly legendary Afro-Colombian band, founded in Cartagena in the early ’80s by singer and composer Justo Valdez. Their members all come from San Basilio de Palenque, a village steeped in Afro-Colombian culture and history, famed for being the first free slave settlement in the Americas. They play traditional Afro-Colombian genres, mixed with African and psychedelic touches, and are still going strong: their cracking new record Kutu Prieta pa Saranguia was released earlier this year. Palenque Palengue features in the penultimate episode of Season 1.
A major Colombian cumbia act, fronted by Rodolfo Aicardi, Rodolfo y Su Tipica RA7 had a strong run of hits in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and even made a pretty big international impact when Nescafé used their track La Colegiala in a French ad campaign. They recorded on the legendary Discos Fuentes label, and their contribution to the Narcos soundtrack can be heard during the end credits of the aforementioned penultimate episode.
Pedro Laza was born in Cartagena in 1904, and became one of the most important figures in traditional Colombian music, particularly in the genres of cumbia, porro and fandango. He and his cumbia orchestra, the Pelayeros, rose to prominence in the 1950s and ’60s and were a huge inspiration to many similar groups that would follow them. The track Cumbia en el Monte features in the final episode of Season 1.
With their incessant guitar grooves, punctuated by thrilling bursts of sax and trumpet, Peregoyo y Su Combo Vacana famously fused the folk rhythms of their native Buenaventura – Colombia’s largest Pacific coast city – with classic Caribbean cumbia. This short but sweet track can be heard closing the opening episode of Narcos Season 2.
Another project featuring the seemingly ubiquitous Fruko, Afrosound were a Colombian musical reaction to the 1970s Chicha music phenomenon in Peru and Bolivia. Chicha was basically a hybrid sound between cumbia and psychedelic rock, and Afrosound took it to a whole new – and wholly funky – level with their mind-melding blend of cumbia, funk, salsa, disco and Afro-Colombian rhythms. You can hear Tiro Al Blanco in S02E02.
Fruko again! The man behind Afrosound and Fruko Y Sus Tesos founded The Latin Brothers in 1974, as a sort of ‘twin’ orchestra to his eponymous first group. The original lead singer Piper Pimienta – whose voice features on Buscandote – also worked alongside other popular salsa vocalists like Joe Arroyo and Joseito Martínez in The Latin Brothers. The song can be heard in S02E03.
Not much is known about the cumbia group Los Indigenas, but their music speaks for itself: Sangre Goajira – or blood of the Guajira – is a classic Colombian cumbia track, heavy on the accordion and guacharaca – the scraping percussive instrument so common to classic cumbia – and features in S02E07 of Narcos.
A Colombian salsa band, Los Nemus del Pacifico are particularly known for their interpretations of the son montuno genre (a sub-genre of son cubano). Their secret weapon was the strong and distinctive vocal tone of Alexis Murillo, their lead singer, and they released many records on Discos Fuentes. The track Lindas Y Bellas features in the opening episode of the new season of Narcos.