Like no other before, the new video for Campo‘s “La Marcha Tropical” reflects the seldom addressed sociological paradox of ñu-cumbia and its crossover appeal in South America. In the form of a beautifully shot, simple story, short movie, La Marcha’s video starts by confusing the viewer, “Is this really a video for a cumbia song?” they’ll wonder, until the story develops and the thesis becomes evident.
The thing is, you see, in many places throughout Latin America, cumbia is still considered a music genre that’s exclusively to be enjoyed by the poor and the undereducated. The protagonist of this story is a private-school teenage girl from a stereotypical rich conservative family (the father drives a Mercedes, the mom dyes her hair blonde, of course, they have a maid with uniform and a pool-boy) but she has a secret: she listens to cumbia on her headphones, something that her social status shouldn’t allow to happen, unless it’s, you know, “ironically.”
The success of Campo with “La Marcha Tropical” pretty much represents that whole paradox. The song became an over-night hit in the southern summer that just ended, played on the sound-systems of the most exclusive Punta del Este beach resorts, where celebrities and top models go to tan their pale skin. The song helped to narrow that gap between the music of the mix-race lower classes and the white Eurocentric high society–the fact that the verses are sung in English, by a Swedish singer, are not at all a coincidence.
In the end, the story’s main character plays the song for her snobby friends who soon give in to the temptation and start shaking their butts to the forbidden rhythm, but they do so behind doors, in the privacy of their dance studio while the teacher is away. We don’t get to hear what the teacher says when she finds out, but “apagá esa música de negros” is a good accurate guess.