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From the outside, the flashy sign baring "The Office Night Club" on Lincoln Heights' North Broadway business corridor makes it look just like any other divey-y nightclub, mostly frequented by the neighborhood's older Latino clientele; and for the most part, this is true. Except on this particular Thursday, when the liveliness inside its narrow retro kitsch hallway rivals that of the popular Airliner venue -- home to the electronic music showcase Low End Theory -- across the street, and these two neighboring venues attract the similar crowds: hip young adult Latino Americans.
Though, at The Office, it is not indie band solo projects with cult followings nor rare punk rock groups in their original lineups that attracts the youth. It is the soulful and rhythmic bass lines of vintage cumbia and sonidero playlists assembled by Metralleta de Oro, a newly formed trio of young Mexican American DJs that have been taking over the sound system on the third Thursday of every month, for the last four months. They specialize in Sonidero, an extremely rhythmic sub-genre of the Mexican, Central and South American cumbia genre notable for its thumping repetitive bass lines and dance-inducing tempo played through powerful speakers.
At 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, the smallish dance floor is mostly filled with young, hip-dressed dancing couples gently swaying each other around to the Spanish lyrics and just having fun. But there is always one or two older couples that take their dancing a little more seriously and twirl each other around with synchronized sharp dips and turns, probably reliving their younger days dancing the exact same thumping songs in central Mexico. The night's wallflowers sip Golden Road IPA off the bar's craft beer-only tap and fixate on the TVs airing the DJs' programmed "Dinamita TV," a reel of bits and pieces of fuzzy black and white Mexican TV cartoons and vintage Mexican movies edited to move to the sounds of their music.
On stage, the three DJs' thick gold chains hanging low with a gold plated AK-47 charms sway back and forth as they take turns spinning their set on stage and playing various cumbia instruments through out the night. The group aims to bring the same youthful hip hop "baller" element to cumbia, a genre of music generally associated with working class living in Central Mexico and consequently, Los Angeles.
"Cumbia's heavy bass hits hard man, just like hip hop's [bass]," says Eduardo Gomez, a 33-year-old Long Beach native known as DJ Fondo in the group. "I grew up listening to this stuff at family parties and quinceañeras my whole life, so why not glorify it with chains?" Alongside Gomez, the group is made up of Nectali Diaz, known as DJ Sumo (33), and Diego Guerrero (29), known as DJ Fuego. "You can't passively listen to cumbia, it appeals to me mostly because of its afro rhythms, the roots aspect is what I love." The three met in art class during their freshman year in high school, but Metralleta de Oro just formed this last Summer. "Cumbia music to us is roots, it's music that we can identify with in many ways, our parents grew up listening to this stuff and so did we," affirms DJ Sumo. Metralleta de Oro uses aspects of kitsch and satire on their musical and visual selections, in order to criticize, depict, exaggerate, or comment on the spectacle of different Mexican popular sub-cultures, such as their chosen sonidero cumbia specialization.
Metralleta de Oro is joining the cultural revolution of cumbia reappropriation dubbed "Nueva Cumbia" happening all around Mexico, enjoyed by alternative-minded young adults that decided to embrace and sometimes revamp their culture's time-honored genre of soulful music. I first experienced this in Guadalajara, in crammed dance halls and parties where groups like Sonido Satanás played until 4 a.m. to an overcapacity crowd, every weekend. In Mexico, these outings were usually accompanied with obscure, but very traditional regional agave liquors and Mexican craft beers. The Mexican Institute of Sound is another very popular group that usually play in Los Angeles at least a few times a year, though they are more electronically charged.
Metralleta de Oro plays every third Thursday night of the month at The Office Club in Lincoln Heights. Entrance is free. They are also available for private parties and events. To get a glimpse of their music, check out their soundcloud.