Music map of Colombia

The mountains, the two different ocean coastlines, the deserts and other geographical barriers that give Colombia its cultural and ecological diversity have also given the country an impressive variety of music.

These are two examples of how to divide the musical regions of Colombia. It’s only a start and names only some of the original folckloric rhythms, all together you can hear 1 025 rhythms in Colombia! Some are authentic and some very well adopted, as some of the genres have been officially declared as cultural heritage of the nation.

The videos below have been chosen mainly because the video shows not only the rhythm but also the dance and a beautiful nature or city sights of Colombia. There are many of important genres and artists who are not named on this website, which is why we invite you to hear the whole story by joining some of our RiCo tours. You can either participate on a virtual tour online or travel to experience the rhythms and dance with us in Colombia!

CUMBIA

Cumbia is the genre most characteristic of the country. Originating as a courtship dance among African slaves, it later incorporated European and Indigenous rhythms into the mix, giving cumbia its distinctive sound.

Cumbia has spread to other Latin American countries like Argentina, Mexico and Peru, where it has deviated significantly from its original sound and blended with the local genres.

VALLENATO

Born in the valley of today’s Valledupar in northern Colombia, a city that hosts a Vallenato Festival every year in April.

Vallenato instruments are mainly accordion, a caja drum and a guacharaca. The styles vary from soft and romantic to a faster, more energetic rhythm and it is danced with a partner in a closed position with not many moves but holding very tight and turning the hips.

PACIFIC COAST

Marimba, guasá and lot’s of drums represent the instruments from the Pacific coast of Colombia. The population in the Pacific region is mainly from African descendant, or indigenous. Once again we hear Afro-Colombians rhythms as part of the Colombian cultural history in the western side of Colombia, Cali and Buenaventura being the biggest cities hosting many bands and concerts of this also folkloric music.

Below you can see examples of Currulao from the Southern Pacific region and Chirimia from the northern region, Chocó department.

SALSA

Salsa is one of the well adopted rhythms in Colombia. Born in the 1960’s in New York City out of traditional Latin rhythms but today, the world salsa capital is Cali, Colombia. During decades, the most famous salsa artists from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and other countries, traveled to Cali to perform various times a year.

All though you can hear salsa in every part of the country, Caleños were the ones who always craved for more, invested in it and today have built a big industry of salsa in the city. Hundreds or maybe even thousands of people earn their living thanks to salsa. The dancers in Cali are also the World Champions year after year!

CHAMPETA

In the Caribbean coast of Colombia, not a day can go by without hearing Champeta. A mixture of Caribbean and African rhythms, hailing from Cartagena, San Basilio de Palenque and Barranquilla, champeta emerged as a cultural movement in the 1970s and has been steadily growing in popularity ever since. Costeño DJ’s play old LP’s directly from Western Africa, sang in African languages. In “Pico” parties, for the party goers, it’s all called Champeta but when you hear a Champeta song in Spanish, it’s Colombian made, maybe even of a newer sub-genre: Champeta urbana.

As so many rhythms, this also was seen by the upper class people as a “dirty dance” of the lower class. In February 2020, we witnessed Champeta becoming the new cool genre for the big public, when it was performed by Shakira at the Super Bowl halftime show for millions of people around the world!

REGGAETON

In 2020, Reggaeton is probably the most commercial genre in Colombia, globally. In the past 5 years, Colombian reggaeton singers have gained a huge success and at the same time, latin music is spreading around the world and is now mainstream, you can hear latin music (and mainly reggaeton) in “normal” bars and clubs from Finland to Auckland

J Balvin and Maluma are Colombians, also Nicky Jam moved from Puerto Rico to continue his reggaeton music career in Colombia. The hot spot for artists used to be Puerto Rico, but today it is Colombia.

The second video is Salsa Choque. It’s a new style of salsa, combined with an urban rhythm called Choque. Originating in Buenaventura, 2 hours from Cali, it is played in the Pacific region and in Valle del Cauca. Do you remember Colombian football teams dance for their goals in the World Cup in 2014? Ras Tas Tas, a Salsa Choque! 🙂

TANGO

Tango, a universal rhythm, can also be heard playing from an old LP when you walk around a typical residential street in Colombia. Especially in the coffee region and Medellin and Manizales feel this music as part of their culture nowadays and Medellín has a seleccion of old Tango bars as well as a Tango museum and monuments to the popular singer and actor, Carlos Gardel. 1935 when Carlos Gardel was at the top of his career, he was traveling on a tour from New York down towards South America when he had a short stop over in Medellín airport. Unfortunately he died in a plane accident during the take off his plane, crashing with another plane on the ground.

Since then, Medellín has been honoring his memory and you can take part in Tango tours hearing the stories of those days and visiting milongas to see how tango is been celebrated in the city even today. Every June Medellín hosts an International Tango Festival and is a home to many Tango world champions as well.

JOROPO & MAPALÉ

JOROPO is a music from the Llanos, the broad plains of eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. The wide lands of the cowboys, horses, cattle and of course their music. Joropo is known for it’s fast dance style and main instrument harp, which was introduced here by the Spaniards.

MAPALÉ is from a different region, from the Caribbean coast, but is also know as a very fast music and dance. Originated from the slaves brought from Africa, and you can easily feel the African roots with the fast drums and incredibly talented dance that moves the whole body.

This is how Colombians (from south to north) play with their friends, spend time with family and how they shape and develop the dance and music culture, little by little, through time, bringing new genres to the wide variety of Rhythms of Colombia.