L..A. cumbia rockers El Conjunto Nueva Ola have a reputation for bringing the party. Their songs are extremely danceable, and plus they wear Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) masks on and off the stage, making it a point not to reveal their identities.
The mysterious masked men parody songs like The Knack's “My Sharona” (as “Chicarrona”) and Maroon 5's “Moves Like Jagger,” with alternate lyrics like “a mi me gusta el chango” (meaning, I like the monkey). You can hear the latter below.
Jokes? Not entirely. After all, folks worldwide have long been substituting English lyrics they don't understand with words from their own languages.
“I grew up listening to groups like AC/DC in Mexico, but never understood what they were saying, until I learned English later in life,” says lead singer Urbano.
As for the Mexican wrestling costumes, well, Urbano's dad was a professional Lucha Libre wrestler name Timido. Urbano himself would copy the look, putting on a mask and cape like and run in the streets.
The theatrics inform El Conjunto Nueva Ola today: Behind their masks, they can play whatever characters they want, and the crowd is into it. Sometimes, too much so: At a recent Amoeba Records show, a lady who wanted a picture pulled Urbano's mask up just enough to see his mouth.
“We will never reveal our ourselves,” says Urbano. “Cumbia power is in our masks.”
The members of El Conjunto Nueva Ola met in their hometown of Mexico City around 2008. Their story, as they tell it, goes like this: Urbano, on vacation, broke up a fight between step-brothers Tacho and Hipolito at a show in Guerrero, Mexico. They all became friends and later formed the band.
Soon after, Urbano took a bus traveling across Mexico and caught a gypsy musician by the name of Luzio trying to pickpocket him for his wallet. Eventually, Urbano forgave him and they got to talking. By the end of the bus ride, Luzio was in the band.
Bass player Primitivo and keyboard player El Raio later joined the mix, and the band was complete.
They play nowadays at hardcore cumbia events all over town, and you can see them this Saturday, October 5 at the Eagle Rock Music Festival.