Los Angeles Azules Bring the Cumbia Heat to Coachella

Photo Credit: Viviana Suarez

With Coachella quickly approaching this weekend, most festival goers are excited to see the typical headliners like Beyonce, The Weeknd, and Eminem. However, no group stands out more from typical this year than the legendary backyard dance troubadours like Los Angeles Azules.

By far the most seasoned act on the Coachella stage, Los Angeles Azules are tour monsters. They’ve been on the road for the last 30 plus-years bringing generations of Cumbia fans to the dance floor. Most recently they graced the stage at the Hollywood Bowl alongside the Los Angeles Philharmonic to play their new grand sound: cumbia sinfonia.

If you’re from Southern California and you’ve been to any latinx backyard party — probably right after “Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo or “Mi Cucu” by La Sonora Dinamita — you probably heard the mega hit “Como Te Voy Olvidar” by Los Ángeles Azules.

Although not the first big latin act to grace the Coachella stage, they are probably the biggest group to do so from a Spanish speaking country since Café Tacuba. This year also has one of the largest shifts of bands that appeal to Latinx audiences. Princess Nokia, Miguel, Cardi B, The Delirians, Cuco, are just of the few Latinx artist out of the 15 who are gearing up for the polo grounds. And alongside them is Los Angeles Azules.   

These cumbia connoisseurs create magical horn and synth soundscapes and love lorn lyrics to mend any broken heart. They tie it all together with a syncopated rhythm that levels anger like an atom bomb and can make the dead dance again. That’s hyperbolic of course, but it’s true. They can also boast that they sang about the friend-zone before Drake or Biz Markie — although De Le Peña was doing the friend-zoning. But their ace is the cumbia romantica which they’ve cultivated for years. 

I caught up with Erik De La Peña on the phone in route to his performance at the Honda Center in Anaheim. De La Peña isn’t surprised how easy it was to get the call up to perform at Coachella. He also doesn’t feel like they are outliers either. “[Coachella] looks for innovative and original acts. For that reason, I think we were invited,” says De La Peña.

Yes, most of our parents blasted their music when we were young, but De La Peña believes that the younger generation is driven not only by nostalgia but also rediscovery. With fresh features like Jay De La Cueva from Molotov, Kinky, Ximena Sarinana, and Alek Syntek and by reinvented themselves through their eagerness to experiment with different genres, De La Peña feels like the music itself is the powerful force that attracts the young zipotes. “The formula that’s let us stay in touch with the newer generation is the music itself, ” says De La Peña. “And it’s something that makes us really happy.” 

Because of the current turbulent political moment for many Latinx fans, De La Peña feels music is important more than ever because it brings people together. “I think that the music brings joy, optimism, and unites people,” says De La Peña. “It’s also important to be united especially as Mexicanos and latinos and not create divisions between each other.” De La Peña makes it clear that they play a small part in the grand scheme, but it matters. What can be more unifying that love songs and good cumbia beat. They couldn’t be more happy to showcase that power in Coachella.

De La Peña is honored to play at Coachella and show the hipsters what they’re all about. Although they have been touring with orchestra of 60 people showcasing their cumbia sinfonica sound, De La Peña says that due to the logistics of Coachella they won’t be able to showcase this huge orchestral sound. However, De La Peña is confident that the band will win people over by sheer talent and danceability.

Los Ángeles Azules will play Friday at 3:20 p.m. at Coachella Music Festival in Indio CA 

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