How To Change The Language On A W-King S-20 Salsa Music, Lifeblood of Cali

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Salsa Music, Lifeblood of Cali

Go through the dark entrance, leaving the tropical night. Suddenly waves of sound crash over you, like ocean surf. You break out in a sweat, your heart beats to the rhythm of bass, bongos, bells and brass. The walls seem to pulse. The pungent smell of sweat mixed with perfume assaults you. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, broken by the hypnotic flashes of multi-colored strobe lights, you realize that it’s not the walls that enclose you, but the dancers—dozens of dancers spinning, weaving and whirling, limbs flashing , hips pushing into fourth… beat time. Fill your lungs with the spicy aroma, tighten your belt and immerse yourself. Welcome to Chango’s in Cali, Colombia – one of Latin America’s hottest Salsa nightclubs.

Cali, a modern and festive city, is located in the heart of “the Valley”. when Colombians say “the Valley” they mean the Cauca Valley, a little Garden of Eden one hundred and fifty kilometers long and fifteen kilometers wide between the coastal mountain ranges and the Cordillera Central. Until the turn of the century, this valley was little more than a rural outpost.

Back then, with a population of around 15,000, Valle di Cauca was largely a country of cows, divided in vast tracts between the “haciendados”. They were proud, almost arrogant men who raised cows for leather and meat. Some had sugar cane plantations used to produce the “panela” sweetener and distill the crystalline but potent “aguardiente” that is still drunk today. Life was slow, measured, patriarchal and unchanging.

It has been said that the Cauca region is to Colombia what the South is to the United States. Indeed, there are similarities. Formerly, “the hidalgos walked the unpaved ‘calles’ in coats of velvet or scarlet embroidered and buttoned with gold and silver, their waistcoats of flowered silk, and the frills of their shirts were of the best batiste,” says Kathleen Romoli, author. of Columbia: Gateway to. South America. And like the southern states in colonial times, a large number of slaves were imported to work the fields and serve the gentry.

Time has brought many changes. Today, vast sugar cane plantations still cover the valley. The mechanized production of cotton, rice and cattle made the Cauca Valley the most important agricultural area in Colombia, after “King Coffee”. And with economic growth came industry. A quiet colonial city in 1900, Cali has become a major manufacturing center with more than a thousand industries at last count.

There’s Salsa in the Air

Yet, with all the changes, Cali retains a homely charm, a personality different from other cities, an atmosphere you might expect to find in the Caribbean. Romoli describes it well:

The most impressive thing about Cali today is not the square with the imposing government buildings and rows of taxis, along the avenues of giant palm trees, nor the suburbs with their modern villas, and the churches, whose bells ring melodies instead of sounding like Bogota, nor the busy factories. It is the pervasive air of joy almost of joy. Not that it is a city of many amusements; Cali is not gay by virtue of commercial facilities for organized diversion, 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” abound.

What is the appeal of Cali? The lively atmosphere of the city? Spectacular sunsets? The natural beauty of the high Andes? The vaunted beauty of his women? Maybe it’s the weather where it’s always June. Or could it be his remarkable cleanliness? Many Colombian cities are clean, but Cali is so clean that it stands out. Or maybe it’s the trees and flowers—the crimson and purple bougainvillea that sprouts from the walls, the golden cup that drips from the eaves, the wax bells of the trumpet stream, the poinsettia bushes, gorgeous gardenia, trees with magenta leaves and carmine flowers or others with feathery green – white flowers or pale clusters of pink – the wild extravaganza of flowers among which hummingbirds with iridescent green bellies fly even in winter.

No Salsa No Dates

Cali has all of these. But undoubtedly for many, the main attraction that draws them to this fascinating city is Salsa music. The sensual and tropical rhythms of Salsa permeate the lives of more than two million Caleños. Salsa is heard in every bus. Go for a walk, to school or shopping, there’s salsa in the air. And, of course, there is Salsa on almost all of the more than two dozen local radio stations. Throughout the city, 24 hours a day, Salsa blasts from speakers in the streets, in parks, in stores, from cars, portable radios and private homes. Cali lives and breathes Salsa. But why Salsa? Many other musical traditions, styles and types of folk music flourish in Cali (including the traditional cumbia, where dancers with machetes swing around bag-filled women in ruffled skirts). What is so special about Salsa? After all, Vallenatos, a brand of folk music with roots going back to the days of the Spanish conquistadors, is still very popular – especially as sung by the likes of Colombia’s Grammy Award winner Carlos Vives. Boleros (check out Luis Miguel’s “Inolvidable”) and Merengue continue to have a strong following here.

Why has this style become so deeply rooted in the culture? To aficionados, the answer is simple: “I love salsa music.” Whatever the reason for its universal popularity in Cali, Salsa is more than music, more than a dance. It’s an essential social skill explains my friend, Carmenza, “No salsa – no dates.” You can’t meet others if you can’t dance. ” And that’s why there are salsa dance schools all over the city. You pay for lessons by the hour. Prices range from $2 to $6 per hour for more private, one-on-one instruction. Classes of groups are fast. Salsa classes are not only the place to go to learn, but to practice and perfect your moves or pick up some new ones. They are a good “meeting place” for the residents of the neighborhood. It is important to dance very well or you’re bored,” says Sofia, an avid Salsa fan.

Cali calls itself the “Salsa Capital, of the World,” a title snatched from post-Fidel Cuba and often shared with New York City. But even those who might be an exception to the “World Capital” agree that Cali is certainly the “Salsa Capital of South America”. Top Latin salsa artists like New York’s Jerry “King of 54th Street” Gonzalez fly in regularly to strut their stuff. At any time you can see all the famous names in salsa, the artists walk the “Queen of Salsa” of Cuba, Celia Cruz; guitarist, singer and songwriter Juan Luis Guerra from the Dominican Republic; Frank Raul Grillo, the Cuban American also known as Machito; Reuben Blades, the famous Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor and politician renowned for his musical innovations and traditional salsa; Willie Colon; Oscar d’Leon, and others.

WORLD CAPITAL SAUCE

And you don’t have to go far in this city of dancers to hear all the different styles and variations of Salsa. Juanchito, with 120 of the hottest dance halls, is the beating heart of Cali’s Salsa nightlife. Every week throughout the year, two hundred thousand locals pour into this eastern suburb to party. Cali hosts discos and “viejotecas” for the young and not so young. Latinos of the younger generations generally favor a smoother and more sentimental music known as Salsa Romantica, popularized by bandleaders such as Eddie Santiago and Tito Nieves. Internationally popular salsa singers of the 1990s included Linda “India” Caballero and Mark Anthony. The Puerto Rican Power Orchestra is another hot group with ardent fans in Cali and Puerto Rico.

While it’s exciting to hear famous Salsa music artists from abroad, don’t forget the many outstanding groups from the world of Cali and famous Salsa musicians mixing the old with the new. The classic and the innovative. It’s worth a trip to Cali just to hear the vibrant non-traditional sounds of Jairo Varela and Grupo Niche. Or other artists like “Son de Cali”, the all-female “Orchestra Canela” and Lisandro Meza who also inject new blood into the Salsa scene of Cali. These are the intoxicating classic Salsa sounds of Kike Santander, Joe Arroyo and Eddy Martinez thundering through the air and flowing into the wines of “coca-colos” (from late teens to early 20s) and “cuchos” in discotheques, salsatecas and also. in vintage stores that attract the over-35 crowd.

When I arrived in Cali 1995, I thought my sauce was fine. After all, I picked up some smooth moves from a bunch of hot Puerto Rican beauties during a summer stint in San Juan. Even in my home state of Pennsylvania, there was a Friday or Saturday night opportunity to hang out and mingle with the Latinos at our local Hispanic watering holes. I also perfected a quick double step in a rectangular pattern, and added turns and spins to the heavy beat. I had no problems getting, and keeping, dance partners. So in Miami, during a Labor Day weekend retreat, I met a Latina cutie. I invited her to dinner and dancing later in the week at “La Cima”, one of the biggest Salsa clubs in town, to show her my moves. She was impressed. A year later we got married and after a couple more years we moved to his native Colombia.

Colombian salsa is a different beast. The style, pace and beat are similar elsewhere, but it’s a different story on the dance floor. My feet recognized the rhythm, but they behaved as if I was wearing Bozo shoes. For a while, 1 stuck to downtown places like “Cuarto Venina”, perched on the banks of the brownish, knee-deep Cali River. It’s just listening, no dancing here. The music is so subdued that you can have a conversation about empanadas and cold “Costeña”. It can be just the right touch for a Sunday afternoon. Today, my Latin cutie and 1 are considered “cuchos” (the over-35 set). Ten years have passed. We are still here, even dancing Salsa. And I’m still showing my moves.

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