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Salsa Music, Lifeblood of Cali
You pass through the dark door, leaving the hot night behind. Suddenly, waves crash like waves on the ocean. Sweating, your heart racing to the beat of bass, bongos, bells and brass. The walls seem to be colliding. The bad smell of sweat mixed with perfume makes you sick. When your eyes get used to the darkness, broken by the multi-colored light, you realize that it’s not the walls that block you, but the dancers – many dancers dancing, weaving and dancing, legs flashing, hips bumping – the beat of time. You fill your lungs with the aroma, tighten your seat belt and head inside. Welcome to Chango’s in Cali, Colombia – one of the hottest Salsa nightclubs in Latin America.
Cali, a modern, celebrated city, is located in the center of the “Valley.” When Colombians say “Valley” they mean the Cauca Valley, the not so small Garden of Eden one hundred and fifty kilometers long and fifteen kilometers wide between the coastal mountains and the Central Cordillera . Until the end of this century, this valley was a rural area.
Then, with about 15,000 people, the Cauca Valley was mainly a cattle ranch, divided into large tracts between “haciendados.” These were proud, almost arrogant people who raised cattle to buy hides and beef. Some had sugarcane plantations that were used to make the sweet “panela” and to distill the sweet but strong “aguardiente” that is still in use today. Life was calm, measured, natural and unchanging.
It has been said that the Cauca region is in Colombia and the South is in the United States. Of course, there are similarities. In the past, “hidalgos walked the plains wearing velvet or red cloths embroidered with gold and silver buttons, their waists were made of floral silk, and their robes were of the highest quality batiste,” said Kathleen Romoli, author of the book. of Colombia: Gate of. South America. And like the southern countries under colonial rule, many slaves were sent abroad to work in the fields and serve the nobles.
Times have changed a lot. Today, large sugarcane plantations remain in the valley. The mechanization of cotton, rice and cattle has turned the Cauca valley into the most important agricultural area in Colombia, after the “King Coffee”. And economic growth has come to the industry. A colonial town in the 1900s, Cali has grown into an industrial hub with over a thousand factories at last count.
There’s Salsa in the air
Yet with all the changes, Cali still has a homely charm, a personality that’s different from other cities, a place you’d expect to find in the Caribbean. Romoli explains this well:
The most interesting thing about Cali today is not the buildings of the government and the lines of taxis, the streets of huge palm trees, or the villages with their restaurants, and the churches, whose bells ring music instead of ringing. like Bogotá, or busy factories. It’s a lot of wind of joy almost of joy Not that it’s a city of many pleasures; Cali is not gay because of the mall to please but by the grace of god.
Cali attracts travelers from all over; tourists, businessmen, backpackers, scientists, and students. And, of course, salsa fans and salsa artists. Recording studios, “rumberias”, discothèques” and “viejotecas” are plentiful.
What is the appeal of Cali? Is there happiness in the city? A spectacular sunset? The natural beauty of the soaring Andes? The praised beauty of his women? Maybe it’s the season that’s always June. Or could it be his amazing cleanliness? Most cities in Colombia are clean, but Cali is especially clean. Or maybe it’s the trees and flowers – the crimson and purple bougainvillea that cascades from the wall, the golden cup that drips from the shore, the trumpet bells, the poinsettia bushes, the beautiful gardenias, the trees with magenta leaves and the flowers of carmine or other feathered green–white flowers or pale pink clusters–the wild flowers of the bush to which the green-bellied hummingbirds fly even in winter.
No Salsa No Dates
Cali has it all. But undoubtedly for many, the main attraction that attracts them to this beautiful city is Salsa music. The soulful, fiery music of Salsa has permeated the lives of two million including Caleños. On every bus you hear Salsa. Go for a walk, go to school or go shopping there’s salsa in the air. And, of course there is Salsa on almost two dozen local radio stations. All over town, 24 hours a day, Salsa is blasting from street speakers, parks, shops, cars, portable radios and people’s homes. Cali lives and breathes Salsa. But why Salsa? Many other musical traditions, styles and genres thrive in Cali (including traditional Cumbia, where machete-clad dancers stomp around enraged women in shirred skirts). What is Salsa? After all, Vallenatos, a folk music genre that dates back to the days of the Spanish conquistadors, is still very popular – especially as sung by Colombia’s Grammy Award-winning Carlos Vives. Boleros (see Luis Miguel’s “Inolvidable”) and Merengue continue to have a strong impact here.
Why is this one style so ingrained in society? For aficionados the answer is simple: “I love salsa music.” Whatever the reason for Cali’s international popularity, Salsa is more than just music, it’s more than a dance. It’s a very important social skill explains my friend, Carmenza, “No salsa – no dates.” You can’t meet others if you can’t dance.” That’s why there are salsa schools all over the city. You pay for lessons by the hour. Prices range from $2 to $6 an hour for private, one-on-one lessons. -One tip. Group lessons go fast. Lessons Salsa is not a place to go to learn, but to try and improve your moves or take new ones. It’s a good “meeting place” for the neighbors. It’s important to dance well or you’re boring,” said Sofia, a Salsa lover.
Cali calls itself the “Salsa Capital, of the World,” a title that was taken down after Fidel Cuba and is often shared with New York City. But even those who would choose the “World Capital” agree that Cali is definitely the “Salsa Capital of South America.” Top Latin salsa dancers, like New York’s Jerry “King of 54th Street” Gonzalez, regularly fly in to strut their stuff. At any time you can see all the famous names in salsa, artists rising in Cuba “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz; guitarist, singer and songwriter Juan Luis Guerra from the Dominican Republic; Frank Raul Grillo, a Cuban American also known as Machito; Reuben Blades, a famous Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor and politician known for his musical talent and traditional Salsa; Willie Colon; Oscar d’Leon, and others.
SALSA CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
And you don’t have to go far in the city of dancers to experience all the different styles of Salsa. Juanchito, with its 120 hottest dance halls, is the clear heart of the Salsa nightlife in Cali. Every week throughout the year, two hundred thousand locals flock to this eastern region to party. Cali is full of discos and “viejotecas” for the young and not so young. Latinos of the younger generations prefer the smooth, tender music known as Salsa Romantica, popularized by bandleaders such as Eddie Santiago and Tito Nieves. World famous salsa singers in the 1990s were Linda “India” Caballero and Mark Anthony. The band from Puerto Rico “Puerto Rican Power” is another hot band with a strong fan base in Cali and Puerto Rico.
While it’s great to hear famous Salsa musicians from abroad, don’t forget Cali’s many world-famous bands and famous Salsa musicians combining the old and the new. Old and new. It’s worth a trip to Cali just to hear the sounds of Jairo Varela and Grupo Niche. Or other artists like “Son de Cali,” the all-female “Orchestra Canela” and Lisandro Meza who inject new blood into Cali’s Salsa scene. This and the intoxicating Salsa music of Kike Santander, Joe Arroyo and Eddy Martinez hit the air and flow in the veins of the “coca-colos” (late teens to early 20s) and “cuchos” alike in discos, salsatecas and even. in viejotecas that attract more than 35 people.
When I arrived in Cali in 1995, I thought my salsa was good. Besides, I picked up some smooth moves from a bunch of Puerto Rican beauties during the summer in San Juan. Even back home in Pennsylvania, there was an opportunity on a Friday or Saturday night to go out and mingle with Latinos at Puerto Rican watering holes. I also did double quick steps on the rectangles, adding more twists and spins to the heavy hitting. I had no problem finding, and keeping, compatible dancers. Then in Miami, on the way back from Labor weekend, I met a Latina girl. I invited him to dinner and dancing later that week at “La Cima,” one of the biggest Salsa clubs in the city, to show off my moves. He was impressed. A year later we got married and a few years later we moved to his native Colombia.
Colombian salsa is a different beast. The style, tone and beat are the same in some places but it’s a different story on the dance floor. My feet felt the beat, but they felt like they were wearing Bozo’s shoes. For a while, 1 stuck to rural areas like “Cuarto Venina,” located on the banks of the green, knee-deep Cali River. It’s just listening, no dancing here. The music is so light that you can continue the conversation over empanadas and a cold “Costeña”. It would be the perfect touch for a Sunday afternoon. Today, my Latin cutie is 1 considered “cuchos” (over 35). It’s been ten years. We’re still here, we’re still dancing Salsa. And I’m still showing my moves.
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