Rhythm Exploring: Cali, Colombia
My first post on Rhythm Travels goes to Santiago de Cali or just Cali, the 2nd most populated city in Western Colombia and the 2nd largest in all country behind Bogotá. After arriving at Palmaseca International Airport you will start to feel the richness of the contrasts of nature. Surrounded by mountains up to 14,000 feet (4,000 m), tropical climate and soft breeze coming from the Pacific, the airport is strategically located connecting North America with South America.
Cali is just 12Km from the airport. Chose a Lada taxi, despite the cool aspect of the old Russian model, its likely that you find a driver that corresponds to the charismatic class and stance of the car. Music is loud and embraces you instantly. “What is this music playing?”, “This is Salsa amigo, Cali is the capital of Salsa!” Salsa, Cumbia, Cienaguera or Porro are the most common genres, but more Caribbean Coast Region genres like the Afro-Colombian sounds Vallenato, Champeta or Merecumbé gained popularity elsewhere in the country. If you have the opportunity to chose a month to visit Cali, please do a favour to yourself and chose August. Impossible to miss the Afro-Colombian Petronio Álvarez Festival
Before traveling to Cali, taste a bit of the atmosphere. Soundway Records released in 2008 an incredible compilation with music linked to every region named ‘Colombia! The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse of Colombian Music’.
Samy Ben Redjeb, founder of Analog Africa also released in 2012 the compilation “DIABLOS DEL RITMO – “The Colombian Melting-pot 1960 – 1985”
During Summer time or also called dry season, its the best time to visit Colombia. Temperatures are closer to 36 °C but if you go on rainy season, temperatures can rise to 29 °C. Driving up to the center of Cali you begin to feel its surroundings, mango and sugar cane plantations start to appear and the smell of the diversity of flavours coming from street food entrench in every senses while the unique of pre and neo colonialism architecture dazzle your eyes.
You can´t miss the Cali´s Empanadas and Papa Aborrajada, Soup “Celele”, the “arroz atollao” or the “Bandeja Paisa. Go along with Águila, Poker or Costeñita beer. Taste sweet like Manjar Blanco, a kind of milk caramel or just try fresh fruit slices of pineapple or watermelon. A prepared also of fruits is one of the most coveted drinks, the Champú. Take a digestive drink like Aguardiente del Valle or Ron de Caldas and give a walk by The Cali River, the Plaza de Caicedo or even Museo Arqueologico La Merced where you can see extremely important pre-Hispanic exhibits and religious art from ancient cultures.
Do your research and let yourself already be delighted by the infectious rhythm of Colombian music before the traveling. You will be able to spend even more quality time like going to a record shop, having excellent conversations with the owners while listen to some old vinyl releases of Discos Fuentes label. The country’s first notable record label and pioneer introducing Colombia to Afro-rhythms sounds such as Cumbia, Merengue, Porro, and Salsa.
Cali and its human warmth is waiting for you. In resume, you will need almost no clothes, need a big stomach and extra energy to follow this beautiful and gaiety people that likes to party hard in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Welcome to Cali.
Rhythm Exploring: is a series of articles where we present destinations and it’s musical culture.