Cumbancha is a record label, booking agency and music publisher founded by Jacob Edgar, an Ethnomusicologist and music producer who since 1998 has been the head of music research at famed independent record label Putumayo World Music. It has been Edgar's job to travel the world in search of exceptional artists and songs for Putumayo's critically acclaimed and commercially successful compilations of music from all over the globe. Over the years, Edgar kept coming across artists he felt deserved wider recognition and assistance in bringing their music to the world stage, and he decided to form Cumbancha to address that need.
"I believe exposure to music from different parts of the world can help open a doorway to other cultures," insists Edgar. "Listening to music is an excellent way to make a connection with people who are very different from yourself, and it can create a common ground that overcomes some of the barriers that separate people of different walks of life."
"My experience at Putumayo has taught me that international music is much more popular than is generally recognized. People from all generations and backgrounds are looking for music with roots in cultural traditions, even if that music isn't as visible as it should be in the mainstream media."
"Many of the artists who appear on Cumbancha have been on a Putumayo compilation over the years," notes Edgar, "so in some ways the label offers an opportunity for people who have become intrigued by artists on Putumayo's collections to explore their work further." At the same time, Cumbancha presents many artists whose work falls outside of the aesthetic boundaries of a Putumayo compilation, but whose work is particularly compelling or innovative. Edgar also continues to assist Putumayo in the development of their popular compilations.
The headquarters for Cumbancha is a refurbished, solar-powered barn in the small community of Charlotte, Vermont. Also home to one of New England's most prestigious recording studios, Lane Gibson Recording & Mastering, the complex in Vermont allows for a unique artist retreat where musicians from around the world can come together to record in a picturesque and tranquil setting free from outside distractions. While many of the records released on Cumbancha are recorded on location in the countries where the music is from, others have been recorded, tracked, mixed or mastered in this special setting. Much of the post-production work is completed in Vermont, in the shadows of the verdant Green Mountains. "I spend so much time traveling around the globe," says Edgar, "it's nice to work in a place where I can focus and be surrounded by the region's tremendous natural beauty."
In 2007, Cumbancha Music Publishing was established to help songwriters collect royalties and seek additional opportunities. Over the years, songs in the Cumbancha Music Publishing catalog have been licensed to numerous major motion pictures, television programs and advertising campaigns. Cumbancha songs have been heard in the Academy Award Best Picture Boyhood, the ABC television series Grey's Anatomy, the HBO series High Maintenance, and a wide variety of Netflix and Amazon programs, video game soundtracks and web and TV advertisements.
Cumbancha Booking was established in 2010 to help find live performance opportunities for Cumbancha artists as well as artists not on the label roster. Cumbancha Booking has booked successful tours across North America for Bombino, Luísa Maita, Freshlyground, Calypso Rose, Francesca Blanchard, Daby Touré and many others. Cumbancha Booking has booked shows for its artists at some of the world's most prestigious venues and festivals, including Hollywood Bowl, Montreal Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Lincoln Center, Central Park SummerStage, Austin City Limits, and countless others.
"Cumbancha" is a Cuban word of West African derivation that refers to an impromptu party or musical jam session. Many classic Latin songs refer to the "cumbanchero," a person who knows how to party and have a good time. For those who are familiar with the word, "cumbancha" implies an opportunity to get together with family and friends to dance, sing and celebrate life. "I like the creole nature of the word," says Edgar, "that it is a blend of African and Spanish. Much of the greatest music in the world reflects this interaction between cultures and the ways in which people can gain inspiration for new expressions from people of different backgrounds."