Last Night: AB Quintanilla and the Kumbia All Starz


A.B. Quintanilla being interview by a reporter at his Listening Party.

A.B. Quintanilla & The Kumbia All Starz Listening Party

February 20th, 2008

The Raleigh Hotel

Better Than: Staying at home and listening to a 20-second song snippet from Amazon

Oeuvres, Champagne, and Cumbias? Last night’s listening party sponsored by Zune for A.B. Quintanilla’s new album, Planeta Kumbia, was something of a swanky media circus. The event—held within the exclusive penthouse suite at South Beach’s uber-ritzy Raleigh Hotel—seemed to attract just about every Latin record executive, reporter, and “model type” to ever set foot in South Florida.

The MTV cameras were there, so too were the TV correspondents for Univision and countless other media outlets. Then, standing at the center of the entire ruckus, was A.B. Quintanilla, the main purveyor of the genre known as Tex-Mex-Cumbia.

The media onslaught was to be expected. After all, the 44-year old Quintanilla is one of the best selling producers in the Latin music business. He rose to fame back in the mid 80’s, writing hits like “Amor Prohibido” and "Como La Flor" for his famous sister, the late Tex-Mex superstar Selena.

After Selena’s untimely death in 1995—her ex-manager murdered the famed songstress at gunpoint—Quintanilla took a break from songwriting but came with back the best selling group the Kumbia Kings.

In the group, Quintanilla acts the composer, arranger and base player, past Kumbia Kings alumni like singer Frankie J have gone on to become stars on their own right. Cumbia, by the way, is a traditional two-step style dance from Colombia. Quintanilla, however is no traditionalist and sets modern elements of hip-hop to his Cumbias.

After waiting for all the Latin TV show hosts to interview Quintanilla about his personal life (apparently blue is his favorite color) the opportunity arose to ask him some questions about the new album.

“I feel very proud,” said Quintanilla while sporting a black Kangol hat and sipping mineral water. “It’s really the first record that I’ve made where I like every one of the songs. I really busted my ass on this album. The style is a lot more progressive, to me it sounds like Timbaland meets Cumbia.”

Whether Quintanilla’s Cumbia sound will be a hit in South Florida remains to be seen, especially since our region seems to flavor other Latin Urban styles like reggaetón and Latin hip-hop. Still, the albums first single, “Por Ti” featuring Flex on vocals, sounds distinctively fresh.

“I think my new music will fit in Miami because now I’m doing pop,” says Quintanilla. “The new single is already on the Top-20 Latin Billboard Charts, so it’s reaching people in all parts of the country.”

With that said, A.B. Quintanilla was whisked away by Rodolfo Lopez Negrete—the label head of EMI Televisa—and the listening party officially began at the Raleigh Hotel penthouse swank pad. There was a DJ playing Planeta Kumbia while the bold, beautiful and very thirsty crowd drank premium sprits from the open bar.

The record sounded good, and yeah Quintanilla is right: the new album does add a pop quality to his urban Cumbias, rendering them less harsh and more melodious. But it was hard to listen to the record, as too the many of the Miami Beach scenesters were talking over the music.

Still it was a fun party, next time, though, the DJ should turn the music louder.

Personal Bias: I will always be grateful to Quintanilla for having writing “Amor Prohibido” the best songs Selena ever recorded.

Random Detail: The album Planeta Kumbia features a new band line up, this time and this around they are known as The Kumbia All Starz

By The Way: The album Planeta Kumbia is out February 26th

--Jose Davila

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