Argentine DJ Pedro Canale, better known as Chancha Via Circuito, gave his first Washington performance on Thursday, unspooling slow, dreamy swatches of cumbia, a strand of traditional Colombian folk music that has been re-imagined by a new generation of producers and DJs in Buenos Aires. ZZK Records – a label that takes its name from Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek – has released some of the scene’s best work, including Chancha’s exquisite 2010 album “Rio Arriba.”
For fans of Washington go-go, sluggish dance music makes sense. Chancha’s “nu-cumbia” is slow and stubborn like go-go — the beat drags its feet a microstep behind the song's implicit pulse, as if being reluctantly pushed out onto the dancefloor.
Thursday night’s crowd was anything but reluctant. As soon as Chancha bellied up to his computer, the floor was crowded with swaying hips. But eyes remained locked on the DJ. Here are three reasons why:
1. Microphone-happy DJs are often prone to sing along with a hook or repeatedly shout out the city they’re visiting. Chancha did both, but also pumped up the crowd with an affirmation: “Continue dancing!”
2. During one of the springier segments of his set, he took his hands off the controls and bounced up and down, loose-limbed, as if on a trampoline. Until this point, Chancha had been playing the music. Now it seemed like the music was playing him.
3. Any performer knows the importance of The Big Finish. Chancha delivered his in the form of a pan flute solo. Have you ever seen a DJ drop a pan flute solo? Will you ever see it again?