The Rise of Lobo Lara: A Boise Musician Makes a Splash in Cumbia 

"It happened quick. It was just a different experience."

Lobo Lara's name means "wolf" in Spanish, but it may as well mean "lucky." In August of 2018, the Boise-based Latin recording artist self-released his first album, Immigrants, and within months, some of the biggest names in cumbia music were offering to produce and remix his work. The sudden success took him by surprise.

"It happened quick," he said. "It was just a different experience."

Lara has been a musician for almost half his life, but it wasn't until he put one of his tapes into the hands of cumbia artist and producer El Dusty that Lumba got his break. El Dusty, who has been nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Urban Fusion/Performance, was eager to work more with Lara.

"I went back to Boise, and [El Dusty] texted me and said, 'Bro, I really like your beats. Who's going to master this?'" Lara said.

El Dusty did the work for free, giving Lara a set of mastered songs that would become Immigrants, and in September, when Lara released the music video for the song "Paletas," El Dusty felt a sting of regret.

"He called me and he said, 'I should have signed you,'" Lara said.

Lara signed with El Dusty's record label, Americano, a week later.

Soon after, Lara's music began to get attention from other notables in the cumbia scene: Svani Quintanilla, the son of A.B. Quintanilla of the Kumbia Kings and the nephew of Selena Quintanilla-Perez; and Camilo Quinones, whose remixes of Lara's "Paletas" are set for release later this year.

The music of Immigrants draws on classic Latin sounds, but Lara's brand of cumbia, which came to the United States from Colombia via Texas, has a contemporary feel, with more synthesized beats and elements of hip-hop and rap, and its politics are just as current. The name of the album is Immigrants, but its cover image of a speeding station wagon—a reference to one of the more mundane ways people come to the United States by land—trades on a national conversation about immigration without being pedantic.

"It's not a political album, but it's pushing the culture," Lara said.

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