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Salsa Music, Lifeblood of Cali
Walking through the darkened doorway, leaving the tropical night behind. Suddenly a wave of sound washes over you like a sea voyage. Sweat it out and your heart beats to the beat of bass, bongos, bells and brass. The walls seem to pulsate. The strong smell of sweat mixed with perfume will haunt you. As your eyes adjust to the darkness and burst into the hypnotic flash of multi-colored strobes, you realize that what surrounds you is not a wall, but dancers – lots of dancers twirl, weave, twirl, branches flash, hips thrust into quarters. time has come. You fill your lungs with the spicy aroma, fasten your seatbelt, and step inside. Welcome to Chango’s in Cali, Colombia, one of the hottest Salsa nightclubs in Latin America.
The modern, festive city of Cali lies in the heart of the “valley”. When Colombians say “valley,” they mean the Cauca Valley, a not-so-small Garden of Eden, one hundred and fifty miles long and fifteen miles wide, between the Coast Ranges and the Central Cordillera. Until the turn of the century, the valley was little more than a rural outpost.
Then the Cauca Valley, with a population of about 15,000 people, lived in vast tracts of land in the midst of “haciendos,” mainly cattle ranching country. These were proud, almost haughty men who raised cattle for leather and beef. Some had plantations of sugar cane used to produce the spice “panela” and to distill the clear but strong “aguardiente”. Life was slow, measured, patriarchal and unchanging.
For the United States, the South is said to be the Cauca region for Colombia. In fact, there are similarities. Author Kathleen Romoli says, “In the olden days, gilt and silver-studded, abbreviated velvet or crimson cloaks, flowered silk waistcoats and blouses with the finest batiste,” walked the “calls.” Colombia: exit. South America. As in the colonial South, large numbers of slaves were imported to farm and serve the nobility.
Time has brought many changes. Today, vast sugar cane plantations still carpet the valley. The mechanized production of cotton, rice, and cattle made the Cauca Valley the most important agricultural region in Colombia, second only to King Coffee. And with the growth of the economy came industry. A free colonial city in 1900, Cali became a major manufacturing center with over a thousand factories at last count.
There’s salsa in the air
Yet despite all the changes, Cali still retains the family charm, character, and atmosphere you’d find in the Caribbean unlike any other city. Romoli describes it well:
Cali’s most striking features today are not the city’s suburbs, with its government buildings, rows of taxis, plazas along boulevards of giant palm trees, modern towns and churches, where the bells, like Bogotá, ring a melody rather than ringing. and busy industries. It is a vast air of entertainment. It is not a city of many entertainments; Kali is not gay because of an organized diversion trade facility, but by the grace of God.
Cali attracts travelers from all over; tourists, businessmen, backpackers, scientists, students. Of course, salsa lovers and salsa artists. Recording studios, rumberias, discotheques, and viejotecas abound.
What does Kali call for? Nice city atmosphere? A spectacular sunset? The natural beauty of the rising Andes? Admired beauty of his girls? Maybe it’s the vibe that it’s always June. Or could it be his incredible purity? Many cities in Colombia are clean, but Cali stands out because it’s so clean. Or it could be trees and flowers – crimson and purple flowers streaming from the walls, golden bowls dripping from the roof, trumpet candle bells, poinsettia bushes, beautiful gardenias, pink-leaved, carmine-flowered, or other feathery green flowering trees – white flowers or light pink. cluster – even in winter, iridescent green-bellied birds fly wild luxuriant flowers.
No salsa No dates
Cali has it all. But for many, the main draw to this charming city is Salsa music. Salsa’s sensual, tropical rhythms permeate the lives of over two million Calleños. In every bus you will hear salsa music. Walk to school or go shopping, there’s salsa in the air. Of course, over two dozen local radio stations have almost everything Salsa. Around the corner of the city, 24 hours a day, salsa is heard from the streets, parks, shops, cars, portable radios and speakers of private homes. Cali lives and breathes salsa. But why Salsa? Many other musical traditions, styles, and folk music genres flourish in Cali (including the traditional Kumbi, where machete-wielding dancers step around women in hybrid skirts). What makes salsa so special? After all, Vallenatos, a brand of folk music that dates back to the days of the Spanish conquistadors, is still hugely popular, especially as sung by Colombian Grammy-winner Carlos Vives. Boleros (check out Inorvidable by Luis Miguel) and Merengue still have a strong following here.
Why is this one style so deeply embedded in culture? The answer from fans is simple: “I love salsa music.” Whatever the reason for its universal popularity in Cali, Salsa is more than just music, it’s more than just a dance. It’s an essential social skill, explains my friend Carmenza, “No salsa, no dates.” If you can’t dance, you can’t meet others.” That’s why there are salsa dance schools all over town. You pay by the hour. Prices for private, one-on-one lessons range from $2 to $6 an hour. -One instruction. Group lessons are quick. Salsa Lessons “is not only a place to learn, but a place to practice, improve your moves or learn new moves. It’s important to dance well, otherwise it’s boring,” says Sofia, a Salsa fan.
Cali bills itself as the “Salsa Capital of the World,” a post-Fidelian Cuba that often shares with New York City. But even those outside the “Capital of the World” will agree that Cali is the “Salsa Capital of South America.” Top Latin salsa performers like New York’s Jerry “King of 54th Street” Gonzalez fly in regularly to strut their stuff. At any time, you can see all the famous names of salsa, artists walking in Cuba “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz; Dominican Republic guitarist, singer and songwriter Juan Luis Guerra; Frank Raul Grillo, a Cuban known as Machito; Reuben Blades, a popular Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor, politician, known for his musical innovation and traditional salsa music; Willie Colon; Oscar d’Leon and others.
SALSA CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
You don’t have to go far in this city of dancers to hear different styles and variations of salsa. With 120 of the hottest dance halls, Juanchito is the pulsating heart of Cali’s Salsa nightlife. Every week of the year, two hundred thousand locals come to this eastern suburb to party. Cali is full of discos and “viejotecas” for the young and the not-so-young. Young Latinos often prefer the softer, more sensual music known as Salsa Romantica, popularized by bandleaders like Eddie Santiago and Tito Nieves. Among the internationally famous salsa singers of the 1990s were Linda “India” Caballero and Marc Anthony. Based in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Power Orchestra is another hot group with a fervent following from Cali and Puerto Rico.
While it’s exciting to hear famous Salsa acts from abroad, don’t forget Cali’s own world-class bands and famous Salsa musicians that combine the old with the new. Classic and innovative. It’s worth a trip to Cali to hear the energetic, unconventional sounds of Jairo Varela and Grupo Nish. Alternatively, other artists such as Son de Cali, female Orchestra Canela, and Lisandro Meza inject new blood into Cali’s Salsa scene. These and intoxicating classic Salsa songs by Quique Santander, Joe Arroyo, and Eddie Martinez thunder through the air in the veins of discos, salsatecas, and even “coca colo” (late teens to 20-somethings) and “cuchos.” In viejotecas that attract people over 35.
When I came to Cali in 1995, I thought my salsa was fine. After all, I got some smooth moves from some hot Puerto Rican beauties while I was in San Juan during the summer. Even in my home state of Pennsylvania, on a Friday or Saturday night there was a chance to mingle with Latinos at our local Hispanic watering holes. I also perfected the double quickstep with the rectangle pattern and added swirls and twirls to the heavy kicks. I had no problem getting or keeping a dance partner. Then, while hanging out in Miami over Labor Day weekend, I met a cute Latina girl. I invited him to dinner and later that week to dance and show off his moves at La Cima, one of the best Salsa clubs in town. He was very impressed. A year later we got married and a few years later we moved to his hometown of Colombia.
Colombian salsa is a different beast. The styles, rhythms and beats are similar elsewhere, but it’s a different story on the dance floor. My feet recognized the impact but acted like they were wearing Bozo shoes. For a while, 1 stuck around downtown places like the Cuarto Venina, knee-deep brown, sitting on the banks of the Cali River. Only listening, no dancing here. The music is very soft so we can continue our conversation over empanadas and cold “Costeñas”. It could be just the right touch on a Sunday afternoon. These days my pretty Latin girl and 1 are considered “cuchos” (the over 35 set). It’s been ten years. We still dance salsa. And I’m showing off my moves.
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