First Friday

Palabra Collective Is the Best Place in Phoenix to Hear Cumbia

Earlier this year, during the First Friday art walk, you would find a couple dozen people hanging out outside Palabra - Phoenix's up-and-coming hair and art collective. It wasn't that the people wanted to enjoy the fresh air (not with our weather), the former space simply couldn't fit the rising number of attendees to their monthly gatherings. Palabra's owner and curator Jorge Ignacio Torres (one of our 100 Creatives) realized it was time to expand to a bigger space.

As a hair salon during the day, Palabra didn't really need to expand. But as a place of ideas and artistic endeavors, it was the right move to make. While New Times has celebrated Palabra's cultural contributions, there's another attraction: Palabra is the best place to listen to cumbia.

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For those unaware of the genre, cumbia is the most beloved popular music in Latin America. It's so embedded into Latino culture that it is often described as the ultimate social equalizer. No matter how different a group might be in social class, political views, and demographics, whenever the turntable blasts a cumbia, it breaks barricades preventing us from reaching harmony.

Palabra wants to bring live cumbia to Phoenix, a city that is hungry for it and has yet to find a home to showcase the Latin genre. In the past, Palabra has hosted after-parties for cumbia acts such as Mexican Institute of Sound and Los Macuanos, but with the re-launch they're ready to step it up and bring local, national, and international cumbia acts to actually play at the art space.

"Cumbia is the new black!" says Torres.

This Friday, after a few months of relocating, Palabra is launching their new space - three times bigger than its original location - at 630 E. Pierce St. It will feature the work of local artist Kevin Aviles, aptly titled New Era. And this sure feels like a new era for the hair and art collective. When chatting with Torres about the new goals for the new space, he has his eye on collaborating with local entrepreneurs, and "simply become a creative hub, welcoming to all types."

The events hosted by Palabra are not exclusive to cumbia or a Latino audience. When making your route through the featured gallery, you're likely to touch elbows with some of the city's most trendy and DIY creative people. We're talking about a place that reunites truly diverse folks that are designing, composing, writing and illustrating our city of Phoenix, all to a cumbia soundtrack.

Six years ago you would find Torres and Palabra ally "El Nico" doing their best to bring Latin rock bands into the valley. They brought renowned bands like Kinky and Babasonicos for the first time to Phoenix, but struggled to make their efforts sustainable. Things are looking brighter at Palabra, a space that not only reunites art with cumbia, but now has the space and potential to become a stage for cumbia and non-cumbia acts alike.

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Carlos Reyes
Contact: Carlos Reyes