If you’re looking to stretch it out and dance this weekend, we recommend tapping into the boundless rhythms of one of the most musically and culturally diverse nations in the Americas, Colombia. We’re highlighting the incredible musical output that Colombia has generated over the past 70-plus years by offering up a trio of genre stations: Cumbia Colombiana, Salsa Colombiana and Vallenato.
The rhythm that has become most synonymous with Colombian identity is that of Cumbia. Centuries in the making and born out of the confluence of African, Indigenous and European cultures; Cumbia is by far the most popular Latin American dance rhythm and continues to be endlessly appropriated and adopted up and down the hemisphere, spawning countless offshoots and innovations.
From the infectious swing of the early big band interpretations, pioneered by bandleaders like Pacho Galán, Lucho Bermúdez and Pedro Laza, to the stripped down accordion sound of squeeze box masters such as Alfredo Gutiérrez, Lisandro Meza and Andrés Landero; Cumbia as interpreted by the architects of the sound define the genre. Also included are some of the groups that would become international superstars like La Sonora Dinamita and Los Corraleros de Majagual, responsible in large part for so effectively disseminating Cumbia across Latin America and the world.
Vallenato must also be noted when discussing the profundity of Colombian music. Born out of the same cross-cultural roots as Cumbia, Vallenato – with its romantic/melancholic lyrics and fervent accordion phrases punctuated by expressive bass-lines – has since eclipsed its musical sibling commercially as the preferred genre of the two in Colombia. Peak performers of Vallenato include, Los Diablitos, Binomio de Oro de América, Jorge Celedón & Jimmy Zambrano, Diomedes Díaz, Rafael Orozco and Los Chiches Vallenatos.
Lastly, we would be remiss to not mention the huge role that Colombia has played in the trajectory of Salsa. While not a native art form, Colombia has embraced Salsa so thoroughly and wholeheartedly over the past 50 years, that many consider the South American nation to be the unofficial salsa capital of the world (with Cali being the absolute epicenter of the dance genre). Highlighted here are the superstars of Colombian Salsa, who have helped to cement Colombia’s status as a Salsa mecca, virtually unrivaled in Latin America. Master salseros include, Fruko y Sus Tesos, Joe Arroyo, Grupo Niche, Orquesta Guayacán, Grupo Gale, The Latin Brothers and Sonora Carruseles to name a few.
In the realm of tropical music, Colombia has helped to set the template that countless musicians and bands have followed. For the uninitiated or the seasoned aficionado of Latin music, we hope that this window into the richness and diversity of an extremely gifted nation affords an excuse to hit the dance floor and express your inner Colombiano.