El Robotico 2012 

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A few years back, I was able to catch a performance by Cumbia Colombiana accordionista Celso Piña at Randy’s Ballroom on the far West Side of town.

Piña was touring to support his release, Barrio Bravo, and his music could be heard all over town at the time — booming out of passing cars on Commerce, echoing out over the fruit stands at flea markets. His music was the soundtrack to barrio life.

Walking into Randy’s that night was like walking straight into the Cumbia underground. The packed venue was full of underage kids decked out in their firme threads, trying to catch each others’ eyes as they waited for the music.

The crowd was thick with anticipation and roared as Piña took the stage. As soon as he kicked into his first song, everyone started to move, each dancer trying to out-do the next, mixing break-dancing moves with the traditional, snaking their way around the dance floor. I remember one kid trying to impress a couple of girls by dancing and shaking to the beat while balancing a beer can on top of his head.

The young crowd had nothing but respect for Piña, who had the look of an old man content with his recent success after a lifetime of struggle and now embraced by barrio youth the world over.

The air in Randy’s was electric that night. I don’t know if it was the bottle of Crown we finished or the pride I felt for mi gente coming together and celebrating esta vida with so much heart and soul, but this is one San Anto performance I will never forget.


El Robotico 2012, aka Roberto Livar, is the frontman for Latin-funk band

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