You step by means of the darkened entranceway, leaving the tropical night time behind. Instantly, waves of sound crash over you Iike ocean surf. Breaking out in a sweat, your coronary heart kilos to the rhythm of bass, bongos, bells and brass. The partitions appear to pulsate. The pungent odor of perspiration blended with fragrance assaults you. As your eyes alter to the darkish, damaged by hypnotic flashes of the multi-colored strobes, you notice it is not partitions that enclose you, however dancers– scores of dancers gyrating, weaving and swirling, limbs flashing, hips thrusting in quarter–time beat. You fill your lungs with the spicy aroma, tighten your belt a notch and plunge in. Welcome to Chango’s in Cali, Colombia – one in every of Latin America’s hottest Salsa night time golf equipment.

Cali, a contemporary, festive metropolis, lies within the coronary heart of “the Valley.” when Colombians say “the Valley” they imply the Cauca valley, a not so little Backyard of Eden a hundred-fifty miles lengthy and a few fifteen miles extensive between the coastal mountain ranges and the Central Cordillera. Till the flip of the century, this valIey was little greater than a rural outpost.

Then, with a inhabitants of some 15,000, the Cauca Valley was largely cattle nation, parceled out in huge tracts among the many “haciendados.” These had been proud, virtually haughty males who raised cattle for leather-based and beef. Some had plantations of sugar cane used to provide the sweetener “panela” and distill the crystal-clear however potent “aguardiente” nonetheless sipped in the present day. Life was gradual, measured, patriarchal and unchanging.

It has been stated that the Cauca area is to Colombia what the South is to the US. Certainly, there are similarities. In bygone days “hidalgos walked the unpaved “calles” in coats of velvet or scarlet broadcloth embroidered and buttoned with gold and silver, their waistcoats of flowered silk, and the ruffles of their shirts had been of the best batiste,” says Kathleen Romoli, writer of Colombia: Gateway to. South America. And just like the Southern states in colonial rimes, massive numbers of slaves had been imported to work the fields and serve the gentry.

Time has introduced many modifications. At this time huge sugar cane plantations nonetheless carpet the Valley. Mechanized manufacturing of cotton, rice and cattle has turned the Cauca Valley into Colombia’s most vital agricultural space, after “King Espresso”. And with financial progress has come business. A leisurely colonial city in 1900, Cali has grown into a big manufacturing heart with greater than a thousand industries finally rely

There may be Salsa within the air

But with all of the modifications, Cali retains a homey attraction, a character totally different from different cities, an environment you may look forward to finding within the Caribbean. Romoli describes it nicely:

Essentially the most putting factor about Cali in the present day is just not the plaza with it imposing authorities buildings and rows of taxis, alongside the avenues of large palms, nor the suburbs with their modem villas, and church buildings, whose bells chime melodies as a substitute of clanging because it Bogotá, nor the busy factories. It’s the pervasive air of cheerfulness virtually of gaiety Not that it’s a metropolis of many amusements; Cali is just not homosexual by advantage of economic services for organized diversion however by the grace of god.

Cali attracts vacationers from throughout; vacationers, businessmen, again packers, scientists, and college students. And, in fact, salsa followers and salsa artists. Recording studios, “rumberias”,”discothèques” and “viejotecas” abound.

What’s Cali’s enchantment? Town’s buoyant ambiance? The spectacular sunsets? The pure fantastic thing about the hovering Andes? The vaunted fantastic thing about its girls? Maybe it is the local weather the place it is all the time June. Or might or not it’s its exceptional cleanliness? Many Colombian cities are clear, however Cali is so clear it stands out. Or possibly it is the timber and flowers–the billowing crimson and purple bougainvilla that tumbles in profusion from the partitions, the cup-of-gold that drips from the eaves, the waxy bells of the trumpet circulate, the poinsettia bushes, attractive gardenias, the timber with magenta leaves and carmine flowers or others with feathery green–white blossoms or pale clusters of pink–the wild extravagance of blooms amongst which buzzing birds with iridescent inexperienced bellies flit even in winter.

No Salsa No Dates

Cali has all these. However undoubtedly for a lot of, the principal attraction that lures them to this charming metropolis is Salsa music. The sensuous, tropical rhythms of Salsa pervade the lives of the 2 million plus Caleños. On each bus you will hear Salsa. Go for a stroll, to highschool or procuring there’s salsa within the air. And, in fact there’s Salsa on virtually all the greater than two dozen native radio stations. Throughout city, 24-hours a day, Salsa blasts from audio system on the streets, in parks, in shops, from vehicles, moveable radios and personal properties. Cali lives and breathes Salsa. However why Salsa? Many different musical traditions, kinds and kinds of folks music flourish in Cali (together with the normal Cumbia, the place machete wielding dancers stomp round full-busted girls in ruffled skirts). What’s so particular about Salsa? In spite of everything Vallenatos, a model of people music with roots again to the times of the Spanish conquistadors, remains to be vastly popular–especially as sung by the likes of Colombia’s Grammy award winner Carlos Vives. Boleros (take a look at Luis Miguel’s “Inolvidable”) and Merengue proceed to have robust followings right here.

Why has this one model ingrained itself so deeply into the tradition? To aficionados the reply is straightforward: “I really like salsa music.” Regardless of the purpose for it is common recognition in Cali, Salsa is extra than simply music, greater than a dance. It is an indispensable social talent explains my buddy, Carmenza, “No salsa–no dates.” You possibly can’t meet others if you cannot dance.” And that is why there are salsa dance faculties all through the town. You pay for classes by the hour. Costs vary from $2 as much as $6 per hour for extra personal, one-on-one instruction. Group courses fu up quick. Salsa courses aren’t simply the place to go for studying, however to apply and ideal your strikes or decide up some new ones. They are a good “assembly place” for neighborhood residents. “It is vital to bop very nicely otherwise you’re boring,” says Sofia, an avid Salsa fan.

Cali calls itself the “Salsa Capital, of the World,” a title wrenched from post-Fidel Cuba and infrequently shared with New York Metropolis. However even those that may take exception to “World Capital” will agree that Cali is definitely the “Salsa Capital of South America.” The highest Latin salsa performers, like New York’s Jerry “King of 54th Avenue” Gonzalez, repeatedly fly in to strut their stuff. At any given time you may see all of the well-known names in salsa, artists hike Cuba’s “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz; guitarist, singer and songwriter Juan Luis Guerra from the Dominican Republic; Frank Raul Grillo, the Cuban American also referred to as Machito; Reuben Blades, the favored Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor and politician famend for his musical improvements in addition to conventional Salsa; Willie Colon; Oscar d’Leon, and others.

SALSA CAPITAL OF THE WORLD

And you do not have to go far on this metropolis of dancers to listen to all of the totally different kinds and variations of Salsa. Juanchito, with 120 of the most popular dance halls, is the throbbing rhythmic coronary heart of Cali’s Salsa nightlife. Each week all year long, 2 hundred thousand locals pour into this japanese suburb to celebration. Cali teems with discos and “viejotecas” for the younger and never so younger. Latinos of youthful generations usually favor a smoother, extra sentimental music often called Salsa Romantica, popularized by bandleaders resembling Eddie Santiago and Tito Nieves. Internationally widespread salsa singers of the Nineties included Linda “India” Caballero and Mark Anthony. The Puerto Rico-based orchestra “Puerto Rican Energy” is one other scorching group with ardent followers each in Cali and Puerto Rico.

Whereas it is thrilling to listen to well-known performers of Salsa music from overseas, remember Cali’s many personal excellent world class teams and musicians of Salsa fame mixing the previous with the brand new. The basic and the modern. It is value a visit to Cali simply to listen to the colourful non-traditional sounds of Jairo Varela and the Grupo Area of interest. Or different artists like “Son de Cali,” the all–female “Orchestra Canela” and Lisandro Meza who additionally inject new blood into Cali´s Salsa scene. These and the intoxicating basic Salsa sounds of Kike Santander, Joe Arroyo and Eddy Martinez thunder by means of the air and circulate within the veins of “coca-colos” (late teenagers to early 20s adolescents) and “cuchos” alike in discos, salsatecas and even in viejotecas that draw the over-35 crowd.

Once I arrived in Cali 1995, I assumed my salsa was OK. In spite of everything, l’d picked up some easy strikes from a bevy of scorching Puerto Rican beauties throughout a summer time stint in San Juan. Even again in my residence state of Pennsylvania, there have been alternatives on Friday or Saturday nights to slide out and blend with Latinos at our native Hispanic watering holes. I might perfected a double-quick step in an oblong sample, too, and added whirls and spins to the heavy beat. I had no bother getting, and retaining, dance companions. Then in Miami, throughout a Labor Day weekend retreat, I met a Latin cutie. I invited her for dinner and dancing later that week at “La Cima,” one of many metropolis’s high Salsa golf equipment, to indicate off my strikes. She was impressed. A yr later we married and after a pair extra years we moved to her native Colombia.

Colombian salsa is a special beast. The model, rhythm and beat are related somewhere else however it’s a special story on the dance ground. My toes acknowledged the beat, however behaved as if 1 had been sporting Bozo footwear. For some time, 1 caught to downtown locations like “Cuarto Venina,” perched on the banks of the brownish, knee-deep Cali River. It is listening solely, no dancing right here. The music is so subdued you may keep it up a dialog over empanadas and chilly “Costeña”. It may be simply the appropriate contact for a Sunday afternoon. These days, my Latin cutie and 1 are thought of “cuchos” (the over-35 set). It has been ten years. We’re nonetheless right here although, nonetheless dancing Salsa. And I am nonetheless displaying off my strikes.

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