Celso Piña, The Rebel of the Accordion

Celso Pina
Celso Piña

Famous in Mexico as “El Rebelde del acordeón” (the rebel of the accordion), Celso Piña earned an international reputation on the diatonic accordion as an exponent of the genre, cumbia rebajada (Coom-bee-a Ray-buh-HA-da). Early in the 1980’s, Celso was performing as a norteño accordionist with his three brothers, Eduardo, Rubén and Enrique. But, even at that time, Piña was already looking to a genre from South America which had infiltrated the airwaves in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. When he heard cumbia artists, Anibal Velasquez and Alfredo Gutierrez in concert, Celso Piña and his brothers decided to change their sound and reinvent their group, “Celso Piña y su Ronda Bogata” (“Celso  Piña and his Bogata Patrol”).

Cumbia is a rhythmic style of music that originated in Columbia, S.A. Cumbia rebajada is a Mexican derivation, and is one of the styles that has evolved in Mexico along with cumbia sonidera and others. Cumbia rebajada differs by being slower, or ‘reduced’ in speed. Remarkably, it all came about by accident due to equipment that was failing and slowing down. Yet the final result immediately became popular with “Columbianitos” in Monterrey according to Humberto Loopz (link to his article below). Celso Piña fused cumbia with norteño, and vice versa, and added elements of pop and hip-hop, energizing amd diversifying the music of northern Mexico. His influence has been felt far north of the border into Mexican-American communities as well as world-wide. Celso Piña is credited as inventing his own approach to playing cumbia on the accordion, as an outcome of being self-taught on the instrument.

Featured with Control Machete, the album “Barrio Bravo” with Celso Piña  earned a nomination for a Latin Grammy in 2002 for “Best Contemporary Tropical Album” category.

Along with cumbia master Celso Piña, appears Colombian singer Totó la Momposina (in red) in “Zapata Se Queda” from the album “Pecados y Milagros” (“Sins and Miracles”)  by the brilliant Mexican singer/songwriter Lila Downs, (in black).

Celso Piña was a very busy working musician and toured internationally through Europe and the Americas, but sadly, he suddenly died as a result of a heart attack on August 21, 2019 in Monterrey, Mexico. He was 66 years old. Celso Piña’s impact on regional Mexican music and his innovation in cumbia rebajada will be studied, emulated and imitated by musicians for a long time. Also, the special presence and bravado that he brought to the stage and to his recordings will be missed by all.

Celso Pina III
Celso Piña



Additional articles of interest:

Sounds and Colors, December 6, 2019 “What is Cumbia Rebajada?”

Rolling Stone Magazine, Memorial by Andrew Casillas August 22, 2019