The New Colombian Music That Will Get Us All Grooving

By September 14, 2016Blog, Colombia, music
People at Tin Tin Deo doing the Salsa Choke dance
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Some of you will know that I traveled to a few countries to take challenges for ‘The 12 Project’. One of them was to learn salsa in Colombia. This meant that in Cali(Colombia’s third largest city), I was at one salsateca or another every evening making a fool of myself. It was at Tin Tin Deo, one of the oldest salsa clubs in Cali, that I got introduced to a new kind of music. At first I was shocked. Shocked, at how much and how fast Calenos(people from Cali) could shake their hips. And then I was in love. In love with this new kind of sound, which I later found out was called Salsa Choke.

Along with the information, I have also shared some of the most popular Salsa Choke songs for you to listen to. Enjoy!

What is Salsa Choke music and dance?

Do not worry, this music has nothing to do with any sauce(salsa also means sauce in Spanish). Neither does it involve choking your partner on the dance floor. Even in the class where I was learning Salsa, choke(pronounced cho-que) made its appearance once a week. Gustavo, my salsa teacher, would make us shake our hips twice each side. It felt a lot like Bachata, but it was a lot faster and was made up of more dynamic movements. Unlike Salsa, Choke is not classical and can seem weird for the uninitiated. It is a partner dance but in most clubs people dance without one. Generally, one or two people lead the steps and the rest follow.

'Ras tas tas' is probably the most popular Salsa Choke song by artists 'Cali Flow Latino'

How and where did it begin?

Though most people across Colombia know about this form of music, it remains a phenomenon of the Pacific coast. Cities in the region of Valle Del Cauca is where Salsa Choke is the most popular. In my travels I found that young people from rest of Colombia were still picking up the moves, though they loved the beat. Salsa Choke is also special for Cali because many Calenos believe it was invented there, and hence it belongs to them. Unlike Salsa, that made its way to Cali in the 70’s and spread like wildfire, so much so that today Cali is known as the Salsa capital of the world. Wikipedia claims that cities like Cali made this dance form famous, but that it was invented in a coastal town called Tumaco.

'Swagga', also by 'Cali Flow Latino' is wildly popular

How did it become popular?

Salsa Choke is much younger, more urban, aggressive and sensuous. Most people claim that the dance originated in the barrios populares of Cali, which means that it came from the poorer parts of Cali.

“Though it had been around for a while, it became wildly popular when the Colombian football team started dancing Salsa Choke. They would do that after scoring goals or gaining victory in the matches in Brazil World Cup 2014. Till then Salsa Choke was limited to Cali and other areas close to the Pacific coast”, informed Gustavo, my dance teacher.

'Semaforo' is another song without which the Salsa Choke playlist is incomplete

What does it look like?

Despite being named after Salsa Choke, the side way movements seem closer to Bachata. But look or listen carefully and you will realise that the rhythm, though faster, is the same. Like Salsa, it goes 1-2-3 …. 5-6-7 which is common among many Latin dances. After gaining popularity, Salsa Choke had made a place for itself in the crossover dance clubs of Colombia. These are places where they play Salsa, Bachata, Merengue and Reggaeton. But in Cali even some Salsa-only places, such as Tin-Tin Deo, play Salsa Choke to take a break from the routine.

'Taca tucuta' is a song you will hear all the time in the clubs of Cali.

What does the future hold?

But will this hip gyrating, joyful and sensuous dance ever take over Salsa in Cali? ‘Nooooooo, impossible!’, exclaimed Gustavo. He feels that the history and the classical touch that Salsa has will always ensure that it is more popular. I have my doubts though, Salsa Choke just needs good artists and it could at least replace the ridiculous Reggaeton that most younger Colombians are into.

'Limon con sal' is my favourite, let's end the list with this.

Or let me put it this way, at least I hope so. And if Salsa Choke is destined to fade out someday, let’s shake our hips while we can. Shall we?

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