Colombian-Canadian singer Lido Pimienta‘s powerful song “Eso Que Tu Haces” builds its rhythm on cumbia, the national dance of Colombia. Cumbia first originated in Africa before making its way to Colombia, by way of the rampant, hideous slave trade, where it developed into a force that eventually spread across South America—and beyond.
Each culture has put its own unique spin on cumbia, which employs a distinctive double beat, but the basic steps are largely the same. The movement of cumbia is tight and controlled. Feet shuffle together, mimicking the shackles that slaves were forced to wear. Yet, within those restrictions exists a remarkable exuberance: the hips shake and swivel, the body rotates and twirls. It is a dance that speaks to the desire and daring to move.
Pimienta’s choice of cumbia feels consequential. “Eso Que Tu Haces,” appearing on 2020’s Miss Colombia, singles out a partner who sought to control her under the guise of love—an experience she unfortunately knows well. Her ex-husband produced her 2010 debut EP Color, spurning her requests to learn about the process so that she’d be dependent on him, she later said. When they separated shortly after its release, Pimienta set about acquiring that knowledge herself in order to shape her sound. It took six years before she returned with 2016’s La Papessa, which went on to win the 2017 Polaris Music Prize.
With “Eso Que Tu Haces,” Pimienta calls out toxic behavior masquerading as tender affection. “Eso que tú haces/ No es amor,” she sings forcefully: The things you do are not love. If a relationship can be a kind of bond, then Pimienta grounds her desire to break free and move to her own beat in the folk tradition of her country. As the song shifts from its fractured opening into cumbia, she surrounds that sauntering beat with electronic flourishes and impassioned surges. When she reaches the chorus’ beginning—the vaulted “Eso que tú haces“—her voice practically levels its gaze while the track explodes into a pulsing sax (or sax-like synth).
It can be difficult to discern a troubling personality, let alone break away from one. Pimienta reveals the spirit and strength that comes with letting go of a partner who would crush you in an effort to control you. Free of her shackles, she takes to the skies, wings outstretched and ready to soar.