How can one possibly write a blog about Colombia and not writing about salsa, cumbia, vallenato? Because salsa and vallenato are not just musics and dances among others. It’s in the air, in everyone’s soul, you can hear it in the streets, restaurants, taxis, in almost every houses… music is EVERYWHERE.
I’ve always been into latin music but before this year, I’ve never danced salsa. So far, I only took 2 years of flamenco and salsa is just the opposite: when in flamenco you have to have a kind of proud attitude, with salsa, you have to let yourself go, move your hips like crazy with a big smile on your face. And that could also means dancing muy pegadito (glued) to your partner.
To give you an idea, take a look at this Colombian salsa monument, el señor Joe Arroyo:
A lot of Colombians do know how to dance but, contrary to what one might think, not everyone does. Hey, everyone says that we’re not shower everyday in Europe! So you can easily imagine how strong those clichés could be when it comes to Colombia (Edit: there are 3 different types of salsa: the Colombian “Cali” style, the Cuban “Casino” style and the Porto-Rican “Miami, L.A and New York” style. Though I really like the Colombian one, I’ve found the Cuban salsa was easier for me to begin with).
I had my first big “salsa shock” in Cuban Jazz Cafe, one of the most beautiful dancing places in the center of Bogotá. I went there on a Saturday night to check a live band. I was sitting at the bar, in the middle of this 1920’s jazz-style club, surrounded by huge red velvet couches and curtains -a bit out-of-time- when I saw them: a group of 15-20 people swapping partners while dancing with infectious energy and cheerfulness as a guy was screaming the steps. This “rueda de casino” amazed me and there was something beyond the music and the dance itself, something you could actually felt in the air something electrifying.
For the colombian part, there are two main salsa places that I absolutely loved going to: Café Quiebra Canto and El Goce Pagano. I have been to many parties there and I surely will remember them for a long time, thanks to the good atmosphere and the quality of the music itself. And if you don’t know the great band called Red Crab already -a bunch of funny guys and good musicians from San Andres- I recommend to check them out. Seeing them -and their energy- live with at the Quiebra Canto was one of my best memories.
After 3 months of Cuban salsa, many (I mean MANY) nights dancing Colombian salsa, my body finally had what it was looking for after many years spent in our beautiful but oh too quiet France. Now I’m back in Paris, I feel some serious withdrawals symptoms.
Yes. I experienced the most powerful drug of Colombia: the pleasure of dancing!