The Retrospective

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A Tropical Torment

May 8th, 2008 by

virgen de guadalupe

Take Buenos Aires and stick it in Oakland. You know, like what Shawn Reynaldo (aka Disco Shawn) and Gavin Burnett (aka ORO11) did after meeting on the Buenos Aires DJ circuit through mutual friends in late 2006. We should thank these guys for bringing cumbia to the Bay Area in a way that no one else really is.

Cumbia’s been around in Buenos Aires for well over half a century as a somewhat low-brow musical form, but in the last few years has seen a transformation, starting in Buenos Aires with, as Shawn put it, “just a bunch of dudes – and dudettes – in their bedrooms, cutting up music.” While the dancehall-infused cumbia has been going strong on the Buenos Aires circuit for a few years, it hadn’t really gotten the release it deserved. So the boys got together under their label, Bersa Discos, to do just that, releasing a 12″ just this last February, and they’re slated to release the next one in the next few weeks, followed closely by a third in July.

Shawn and Gavin, a couple of tshirt and jeans-clad indie guys (“I’m not a world music guy, never have been”-Shawn) met through Zizek, a cumbia party in Buenos Aires, and their mutual friends in the SF-based experimental band, Lemonade. Both are locals, hailing from Sacramento and Oakland, where Bersa Discos is based. Shawn had read about Zizek, it apparently being “the cool local thing” in Buenos Aires. Gavin discovered the local take on cumbia when he was watching T.V. one day and came across a variety show with “these guys in black skull tshirts and long hair, playing key guitars. They looked like bad-asses.”

cumbia truck

I came across Tormenta Tropical in March when I wandered into the Mezzanine one night in pursuit of some kid I had a crush on at the time, and landed in the middle of one of the best parties I’d been to in a while. (On a side note, the party was far more interesting than the boy I’d wandered in after.)
I was able to catch up with the duo at the Rickshaw Stop on May 3rd while they were setting up for the party, hanging up Virgen de Guadelupe beach towels, funky lanterns, and other Mission-bought decorations, warming up their fog machine, and adjusting their lasers. Outside is parked an honest-to-goodness taco truck, getting ready to start serving up hot, yummy, Guatemalan food.
And on the subject of yummy things, Gavin and I had a solid chat on the virtues of pistachio ice cream (mint chip coming in a close second for him, mocha for me). And from Shawn, this gem: “Ice cream in Buenos Aires is the sh*t. And you can get anything delivered to your house. You can get ice cream delivered at 11 o’clock at night.” I think I need to pay Buenos Aires a little visit.

Tormenta Tropical is on the first Saturday of the month at the Rickshaw Stop on Fell at Van Ness.  The next one is on June 7th.

tormenta tropical 6/7 flier

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