A few weeks ago, Betty Confetti invited me over to her studio, where she is currently mixing her first solo album, Camina Sobre el Fuego, which is set to come out this year. The studio space, where Betty has been working over the last few months, is an extra room in her producer’s Buenos Aires apartment. The room is packed with music equipment, and chords from various instruments create a tangle leading to a MacBook, which balances precariously on a record player—a reproduction of Andy Warhol’s Mao Zedong portrait hangs above two empty, overly-comfortable upholstered armchairs.
Betty Confetti by stage, Julia Worley by birth, she hails from Portsmouth, England. Previously of the Buenos Aires-based lady indie-rock band, Las Kellies, Betty struck out solo earlier this year with a new “tropical Cumbia” sound she is making with her music project: Betty Confetti y Su Conjunto Tropical.
Six years after moving to Buenos Aires, Betty’s tunes incorporate a strong Colombian Cumbia influence—a sound which was an unfamiliar one until her arrival here. “When I came to Argentina, I had never heard Cumbia. When I was in England I listened mainly to rock and experimental music,” she says. “Then I started to listen to Gilda, a friend of mine gave me some MP3s, and other Cumbia stuff, and I just fell in love from there on.”
Ruminating on her arrival in Buenos Aires, she is struck by the number of people that wore their music shtick. “When I got here, I noticed a hell of a lot of people walking around with guitars on their backs,” she says. But most mesmerizing was the strong Cumbia beat she heard spilling out of people’s cars and radios. Originally formed in slave communities on the Caribbean coast of South America during Spanish colonization, Cumbia is now popular throughout Latin America. With a beat that is similar to many celebratory West African musical traditions, Cumbia entreats its listener to party. In more recent Argentine Cumbia communities, the party starts well into the night and goes until the Southern Cone sun alarm fades black into blue. For Betty, like so many others here in Latin America, the Cumbia beat is irresistible. “It would always grab me when I was walking down the streets and make me move,” she says. “Now it’s difficult to listen to other things, really.”
When asked about whether or not she sees herself in Buenos Aires to stay, Betty squints, looks into the distance, and makes out travel on the horizon. “Ideally, I’d love to be able to travel with music. Cumbia, at this moment, seems to be kind of a buzzword in Europe and in the States, I think, as well, and I’d really like to make the most of that and travel with the band and explore a bit, and kind of share the music with people,” she says.
But for now, Betty Confetti can be found at wee hours of the morning strumming up Cumbia sounds in packed and bumping Buenos Aires night clubs. “For me, one of the great strengths of playing Cumbia is that it’s actually popular music here. So, I really really enjoy being able to share that music with the crowds,” she says.