Discos Resaca's Cumbia Traces the Movement of the Bay Area's Latinx Diaspora

Cumbia collective Discos Resaca joined forces with vocalists Mariposas Del Alma on the new album 'Y Te Cuento,' in which cumbia is a language for processing pain and joy, and tracing cultural movements. (Paolo J Riveros for Cumbiation LA)

Music by the collective Discos ResacaSpanish for hangover—leaves listeners feeling anything but zapped. The family of Bay Area musicians specializes in cumbia—the popular, accordion-forward and rhythmically percussive genre of Latin music with variations from Colombia, Peru, Mexico and beyond.

Yet Resaca’s sounds are distinctly from the Bay Area: they mix traditional cumbias with hip-hop and oldies, honoring the band members’ roots while providing a solid party soundtrack. Resaca recently released their first LP, Y Te Cuento, an album of 11 original cumbias with vocals by Las Mariposas del Alma, the Oakland-based Meza sisters who lead the collective with soaring harmonies.

Y Te Cuento (And I’ll Tell You) is full of powerful stories, a traditional feature of cumbia. Some songs tell tall tales (“Chupacabra”), others big up their communities throughout the Bay (“Cumbia de San Jose” and “San Juan”) and several tell the history of the area’s cumbia movement (“Movimiento De Cumbia”). The album’s love songs meld boleros, corridos, cumbia and cha-cha with mid-tempo soul, forming a familiar aural history.


“For many of us, storytelling is a part of our lives—the elders are always telling stories. Sometimes they’re true, sometimes they’re stretched, sometimes they’re a bit scary, but that’s a huge part of the culture and that’s what these songs are and that’s what this album is,” says accordion player Ivan Flores, Resaca’s bandleader and founder who’s spent more than 20 years playing in local groups including La Colectiva Tokeson and Lado Oriente.

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Discos Resaca is an evolving family of musicians, though its core is a group of eight to ten cumbia veterans, including guitarists Fabian Martinez and Erik Molina, percussionist Wilson Posada and conguero Pedro Rosales. They’ve performed in various configurations for years, including as Los Leones de la Cumbia and at venues and warehouse parties throughout the East Bay. The band first met the three Meza sisters during a performance with Chulita Vinyl Club at the Legionnaire in Oakland in 2018.

“My sister Jasmin was part of Chulita Vinyl Club and…the Discos Resaca collective was filming a video for one of their songs,” says Mariposa Nathaly Meza. “Because of their vision, and the collective and the way that they think, they were asking whoever wanted to to get on stage to dance or sing or whatever, and we happened to be there.”

Resaca brought Las Mariposas del Alma into the fold soon after, and they also regularly collaborate with Philthy Dronez, Combo Tezeta and the rapper Deuce Eclipse (who’s featured on “Charamusca”).

“We’re promoting everyone in the Bay Area, all the bands….It’s more of a collective advancement,” Flores says. 

Resaca have their own tales to tell, too. Flores wrote the album’s title track days after attending the funeral of his mentor, San Jose bandleader and songwriter Kiko Morales. Title track “Y Te Cuento” is about dealing with loss, and Flores said the completed song “just came to me. It’s almost like I had help writing it, if you catch where I’m going.” The song also resonates with the Mezas, whose mother passed away in November 2017—the same month Morales died.

“That song helps us heal,” Meza says. “When you’re sad or going through a loss, you wouldn’t think to listen to something like cumbia and relate to it. It’s a great song that you can grieve to, but not necessarily feel bad; it feels bittersweet.”

While “Y Te Cuento” may unite listeners through the pangs of loss, Resaca and Las Mariposas connected international communities of soulero fans, sweet soul collectors and cumbia heads with their cover of The Fuzz’s 1971 soul song “I Love You For All Seasons.” The collective’s blisteringly gorgeous take is a “cumbioldie” that mixes the syncopation of traditional cumbias with mid-tempo soul sung in English and Spanish. The 45” single quickly sold out and brought the collective distribution in Japan through Shin Miyata’s Barrio Gold Records.

“We grew up where, if you’re at a BBQ, you’re going to here an oldie, you’re going to hear a corrido, you’re going to hear banda, you’re going to hear cumbia, salsa,” says Flores, adding that fans of cumbia and oldies don’t always mix. “So, by us doing that, we’re representing our upbringing, representing our culture through music, blending what’s familiar and comfortable to us and what we like into one.”

Fans of Resaca's cumbioldie will appreciate the histories of the evolving cumbia community on Y Te Cuento. Flores recalls that when he performed with La Colectiva in 2004 and 2005, there were few other cumbia groups in the Bay Area, and the scene was mostly happening at warehouse parties in West and pockets of East Oakland.

“They were always jam packed…and a lot of [attendees] became musicians and started bands. Now, it’s come out of the underground and every club has a cumbia night. It blows my mind,” Flores says. “But it makes so much sense—everyone always had a great time and it’s not really a genre or vibe that promotes any kind of aggression. There’s so many bands out now, it’s amazing to see it grow.”

Today, you can find a cumbia DJ or performance most nights all over the Bay: there’s the Sonido Clash collective in San Jose, Sonido Baylando’s Cumbia Town, multiple nights at the Legionnaire, Cumbia Cartel performances at various venues, gigs at La Estrellita Café in Eastlake and bands like La Misa Negra. DJ Roger Mas (whose label, Discos Mas, releases a plethora of cumbias) and others play cumbias and pan-Latin music at El Superritmo at the Make Out Room, and LA's Cumbiaton hosts events in the Bay.

The Meza sisters of Mariposas Del Alma.
The Meza sisters of Mariposas Del Alma. (Paolo J Riveros for Cumbiation LA)

The prevalence of cumbia in local nightlife is exciting, though some club owners aren’t always concerned with cumbia’s message or cultural expression, Flores says, and simply care that it brings bodies through the door.

“To quote a line from ‘El Moviemento de Cumbia’: ‘Not long ago, you guys didn’t want to hear this, and now everywhere I look people are dancing and listening to cumbia,’” Flores says. “We come in and try to balance it out by saying we’re going to have a good time, and you’re probably going to drink, but we’re going to say what we want to say. We talk a lot in between songs, too, about our inspirations.”

Resaca’s platform, and that of other cumbia groups and DJs in the community, is inherently political in a rapidly gentrifying and often inequitable region. “On the daily, attempts are made to erase our local history, shutting down long time local businesses, destroying iconic artwork, closing schools…the list goes on. ‘La Gentrificadora’ is our contribution to the movement,” Resaca wrote of its next single on Instagram.

Contributing to a movement and to their communities is at the core of Discos Resaca’s message. The collective regularly performs at all-ages community festivals in San Jose (where Flores was born and raised, and lived before being priced out) and bring their families.

“We enjoy getting back to the community where everything started. San Jose is one of our favorite spots to play; it’s great to see familiar faces and people who are just finding out about us,” Meza says. “People see that we were born and raised here too. Especially for the youth, they’re looking, and watching and getting inspired, which is very important for everyone.”

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Discos Resaca and Las Mariposas Del Alma perform at the Ivy Room in Albany alongside Calafia Armada on Feb. 21.