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A Brief Introduction to Colombian Music

Music is central to the Colombian experience. It’s in the blood of every person from here, and you won’t be able to escape hearing the blaring beats of reggaeton or the swinging sound of salsa as you wander the Streets, take a bus or even a taxi.

So with that in mind, we thought we should give you a quick introduction to the different sounds you’re likely to hear when here in Colombia. Here's our take on Colombian Music:

 

 

Salsa

Originating primarily in New York, Puerto Rico and Cuba, salsa is a genre that is inherently tied to dance and, as such, is difficult to avoid in Colombian clubs. There is clear African influence in the music, most evident in the frequent employment of the call and response vocals.

The salsa capitals for salsa in Colombia are Cali and Barranquilla.

Suggested Artists

Joe Arroyo (Colombia)

La 33 (Colombia)

Willie Colón (United States)
Hector Lavoe (United States)
Ruben Blades (Panama)
Fruko y Sus Tesos (Colombia)

Vallenato

 

 

Vallenato isn’t about the music, it’s about the memories. It isn’t about what you hear, it’s about who you hear it with. It isn’t about the lyrics, it’s about how you belt them out from the bottom of your heart. And it’s not about the songs at all, really, it’s about how vallenato is something fiercely, purely and proudly Colombian. You mainly hear Vallenato on the Caribbean Coast, but expect a great deal everywhere you go.

Suggested Artists

Diomedes Diaz (Colombia)

Carlos Vives (Colombia)

Los Diablitos de Vallenato (Colombia)
Los Hermanos Zuleta (Colombia)

Jorge Celedon (Colombia)

Otto Serge (Colombia)

Cumbia

Like Vallenato, cumbia originates from the Caribbean region of the country. Its African roots are immediately obvious in the heavy use of percussion and the vocal style. The music began as a courtship dance practiced by the African slave population, but later mixed with European influence to arrive at the sound we hear today.

Cumbia is popular in the Andean regions of Colombia, as well as coastal areas.

Suggested Artists

Toto La Momposina (Colombia)

Pacho Galan (Colombia)

Lucho Bermúdez (Colombia)

Bomba Estereo (Colombia)

Reggaeton

While Reggaeton didn’t originate in Colombia, it is by far the most popular genre on the dancefloors of Bogota. The origins of the genre are disputed, but it’s generally considered that, drawing on hip-hop, dancehall and reggae, artists such as Shabba Ranks and El General got the ball rolling, while Daddy Yankee brought it to the world’s attention with his track ‘Gasolina’.

Suggested Artists

Don Omar (Puerto Rico)

J. Alvarez (Puerto Rico)

J. Balvin (Colombia)

Daddy Yankee (Puerto Rico)
El General (Panama)

Merengue

Merengue is a musical genre created by the artist Ñico Lora in the Dominican Republic. It is popular all over Colombia, and a frequent feature on dancefloors. Merengue is a fast, energetic style of music, and probably the easiest to dance to for foreigners. Musically and lyrically it is often very light-hearted, and therefore the perfect opportunity to flex your moves.

Suggested Artists

Wilfrido Vargas (Dominican Republic)

Sergio Vargas (Dominican Republic)
Juan Luis Guerra (Dominican Republic)

Elvis Crespo (Puerto Rico)

Rikarena (Colombia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic)

Porro

Porro is very popular on Colombia’s Atlantic Coast, as well as the Cordoba region. While it’s not as popular as some other genres in places such as Bogota and Medellin, it can still be heard in traditional bars.

Porro allegedly began in pre-Colombian times on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, with indigenous groups dancing and singing to African rhythms. What is certain is that it is a joyful, party-ready style of music closely aligned with Cumbia.

Suggested Artists

Juan Piña (Colombia)

Billos Caracas Boys (Venezuela)
La Sonora Cordobesa (Colombia)
Pedro Laza y sus Pelayeros (Colombia)

Champeta

Though elements of rap and reggaeton can be heard in modern Champeta, it’s more common for those genres to borrow from Champeta’s irresistible groove and African rhythms.

The vocal stylings of the genre and the percussive elements are heavily influenced by African music. The sound relies on a strong snare drum and intricate guitar-work. Champeta is heard on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Colombia.

Suggested Artists

Charles King (Colombia)

Elio Boom (Colombia)

Mister Black (Colombia)

El Sayayin (Colombia)

JL

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Comments

Guest
Richard Monday, 16 July 2012

Excellent summary of Colombian music. Expect to hear music everywhere in Colombia....and played super loud!

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Guest
Guest Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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