Colombian rhythms: loose those hips and have fun

Did you know Colombia has a great variety of folk rhythms?

When you think about music and dancing in Colombia, probably the first word that comes to your mind is Salsa. And you would be right; in Colombia most people dance salsa amongst other modern rhythms like Merengue, Hip hop, Rock and Reggaeton. If you want to learn how to dance Salsa you definitely can do it in Colombia. The place to be for salsa aficionados is Cali “The Salsa’s capital” in the southwest of the Country.

However, this time we don’t want to talk to you about Salsa, as you probably know something about it, we rather prefer to talk to you about other less known traditional rhythms in Colombia that make part of our culture.

When travelling around Colombia, you will find amazing differences within regions and towns. One of these differences is the variety of folk rhythms going from the “Cumbia” in the Caribbean coast to the “Bambuco” in the Andes and from the traditional rhythms of the indigenous communities around the country to the “Joropo” in the eastern plains. This variety of rhythms has been developed throughout Colombia’s history, thanks to the influence and mix of the traditions of three cultures: Spaniard, African and the Indigenous Pre-Columbian. This is a selection of some of the rhythms that can be heard (and danced) in Colombia:

  • Cumbia: Originally from the Caribbean coast. It is a dance of courtship and at the same time, a dance of resistance and rebellion from the local people. Slaves fighting for their freedom. This music style and its dance is an icon of Colombia´s folk. Drums are the main instrument of this music genre. You may have heard this rhythm without realising, as Shakira featured it in her video – “Hips Don’t Lie
Cumbia - From the Caribbean coast of Colombia

Cumbia – From the Caribbean coast of Colombia

  • Joropo: This is a shared rhythm between Colombia and Venezuela where songs and poems talk about daily life in “Los Llanos” (The plains), the eastern region of the Colombia. Harp, cuatro (four string small guitar) and maracas are the basic instruments for this type of music.  If you want to dance, you will have to learn how to make small steps forward and backward as if sweeping the floor but very fast. Don’t worry if you can do it, just try!! I am sure you will have so much fun.
Joropo from the Orinoco plains

Joropo from the Orinoco plains

  • Bambuco: This music style was created in the Andean region thanks to the mix of the Spanish rhythms and the traditional dances of the indigenous communities living in the area. The guitar, bandola, and tiple are the main instruments of this music genre. In case you want to learn more about Bambuco or even learn how to dance it, the best place is Neiva, where the Bambuco National Folk Festival and Beauty Pageant take place every year between June and July.
  • Currulao: This folk rhythm is a great part of the history of Afrocolombian communities in the pacific region. Some people recognised it as Marimba music and it was listed for the UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Currulao from the Pacific coast

Currulao from the Pacific coast

  • Champeta: When you think about this music style you think about the Caribbean coast and within it, San Basilio de Palenque and Cartagena. San Basilio the Palenque is an Afrocolombian village, one hour from Cartagena, that still keeps African traditions, and a community that you should definitely visit.
  • Vallenato: Originated in Valledupar in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It is a rhythm that evokes daily life and love. The main instruments are accordion, caja and guacharaca. In the last 20 years, Vallenato has become one of the most popular folk rhythms in the country. There are many local Vallenato´s festivals in towns of the Caribbean coast in different times of the year. One of the biggest and more important folk festivals in Colombia is the festival of “La Leyenda Vallenata” (Vallenato Legend) held in Valledupar every year in April. This music style has evolved to the point that you will find traditional and contemporary types of it and you will see and experience this rhythm everywhere in the country. Vallenato is definitely one of my favourite Colombian music genres.


There are some other rhythms like Chicamaya, Fandango and Mapale (in the Caribbean coast); Torbellino, Sanjuanero, Guabina and Pasillo (in the Andean region); Abozao, Alabao, Contradanza, Jotas, Polka (in the Pacific region); Galeron llanero and Pasaje (in the Orinoquia region “los llanos”); Boi Bumba, Samba and Tecnocumbia (in the Amazonian region for the mix with Peru and Brasil).

Torbellino from the Andes in central Colombia

Torbellino from the Andes in central Colombia

This cultural richness is the inspiration for a diverse and quite large number of music and folk festivals along the year so on average, you will find one or two cultural festivals every month. If you come to Colombia make sure you try your hand (and feet) at one or more of these rhythms. You are guaranteed to have great fun.

Until next time,

Nidia from the Uncover Colombia team.

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3 thoughts on “Colombian rhythms: loose those hips and have fun

  1. Pingback: Beyond Rio: Party and experience multi-cultural Colombian carnivals and festivals | Uncover Colombia

  2. Pingback: Why Colombia? | Uncover Colombia

  3. Pingback: Why Colombia? | NidiaUC's Blog

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