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All About Salsa Music and Dancing in Colombia

Salsa caleña dancers

Updated on 03/14/2024

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I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!

Salsa Dance in Colombia

Salsa is a musical genre that began in Cuba in the 16th century after the Hispanic music brought by the Spanish conquistadors merged with the diverse musical rhythms of African slaves. For this reason, salsa is ultimately the result of a mixture of jazz, Cuban son and other American rhythms.

Some time later, salsa began to reach different parts of Latin America and Colombia was to be no exception. Various artists and groups emerged, bringing a different style to traditional salsa as other Colombian rhythms such as cumbia were added.

In the 1970s, salsa became an element of popular identity in many cities across the country, such as Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Medellín.

Precisely in the city of Cali, more precisely in the Coliseo El Pueblo, the Salsa World Championship was born in 1974.

This event was promoted by the Cuban journalist José Pardo Llada, who proposed a space for the residents of Cali to show that salsa is a musical genre that brings together hundreds of people in a healthy environment full of entertainment.

Salsa was heard on various radio stations and became popular with young people who ran away from home to attend salsa clubs to enjoy music imported from Venezuela and New York.

Over time, salsa has been incorporated into the various social activities and festivals held in every city and town across the country. Salsa quickly positioned itself in Colombian society at almost the same level as in Cuba and Puerto Rico.

It should not be disregarded that in its early years salsa aroused some opposition from the upper classes, as members of this group considered it a vulgar dance to be practiced only by the popular class in poor neighborhoods, however, salsawas able to resist and managed to stay with the times until she remained in the hearts of all Colombians.

Salsa is very important to Colombia because in a way it tells the cultural identity of each territory and has allowed many generations to strengthen bonds through the celebrations.

This music genre is definitely deeply rooted in the daily lives of many people in Colombia and over the years it has managed to assert itself as it has not been eclipsed by other music genres such as vallenato, bachata, pop or the same reggaeton.

Salsa Caleña

Salsa from Cali is considered the most difficult style to dance of all dance methods, as it is danced at a rhythm of 45 beats per minute, which requires faster movements of the feet and hips and a series of acrobatic moves. In many cases, this is accused by traditionalists.

Historians say that the increase in rhythm speed was the result of an accident, as someone decided to speed up the songs from 33 beats to 45 beats, and it has remained so ever since.

There are other types of salsa:

  • New York style or mambo style salsa
  • Puerto Rican style salsa
  • Los Angeles style or line style salsa
  • Venezuelan style salsa
  • Cumbia style salsa
  • Salsa style Rueda
  • Cuban style salsa

9 reasons why Cali is considered the salsa capital of the world

  • Salsa is part of the identity of the people of Cali, as the vast majority know how to dance to this rhythm.
    Many salsa-related events are held in Cali, including the Cali Fair, Salsa Cabaret and the World Salsa Festival.
    Cali’s literary productions revolve around salsa, so it’s common to find books and stories that focus on this genre of music.
  • Salsa is a key element in Cali’s economy as many people work with this highly sought after genre of music including singers, dancers, sound engineers, teachers, instrument makers, producers and others.
  • In Cali there are more than 115 clubs where you can enjoy the rhythm of salsa.
  • There are more than 90 salsa dance schools in Cali.
  • More than 80 salsa bands have gained international recognition on their various tours, which has made the music genre so popular in different countries that people feel encouraged to visit Cali.
  • In Cali there are more than 3,000 professional salsa dancers and more than 6,500 students.
  • There are more than 3,500 collectors in Cali who hold various objects of value to the history of California salsa, such as vinyl records.
  • Salsa is an important element in attracting tourists to the city, as many prefer to visit Cali over other major cities such as Bogotá, Medellín and Barranquilla because of its association with salsa.
  • There are more than 300 salsa choreographers in Cali.

La Salsa Caleña, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Colombia

On July 25, 2022, Salsa Cali was recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Colombia after the Office of the Mayor of Cali submitted a Special Protection Plan to the National Heritage Council of the Ministry of Culture, which established some guidelines for the preservation of cultural manifestations and traditions surrounding salsa in Cali .

This recognition was celebrated by all players in the salsa industry, including orchestras, musicians, composers, choreographers, costume designers, shoemakers, dance teachers, collectors and others.

The World Salsa Festival

The World Salsa Festival, held in Cali, brings together different orchestras and renowned artists. During this great event there are also lectures, dance workshops and meetings for music lovers.

This party takes place in October every year, but participants must register six months in advance to have enough time to organize all the logistics.

The event lasts four days and is generally held in two key locations in Cali, such as the Caseta Actores de la Salsa and El Pueblo Coliseum, which host more than 5,000 people who actively participate in the celebration.

Delirio, one of the most important shows in Colombia

Delirio is a show created by the Delirio Foundation to bring the culture of the Valle del Cauca to the whole world and in fact it is successful because it exceeds with its excellent offer that combines the best salsa Has reached 21 countries and 30 cities in Colombia with the circus.

This show, which began in 2006 and lasts four hours, is presented every last Friday of the month in the Delirio tent, located in the Valle del Pacífico Events Center, more precisely at Carrera 26 # 12 – 328.

The 9 Best Salsa Singers and Groups in Colombia

There are many groups and artists who have dedicated their musical careers to salsa, yet some have managed to stand out more than others and leave an indelible mark on the minds and hearts of everyone who hears their songs.

Fruko y sus Tesos

The Colombian and internationally recognized group Fruko y sus Tesos was founded in 1970 by Julio Ernesto Estrada, also known as Fruko.

His musical style is characterized by a powerful rhythm and the combination of salsa with other styles of music such as funk and jazz.

The main musical successes of Fruko y sus Tesos were: “El Caminante”, “El Preso”, “Cachondea”, “Los Charcos”, “Lupita”, “El son del Tren”, “Dejala Bailar”, “El Ausente” , “A la Memoria del Muerto”.

Joe Arroyo

Álvaro José Arroyo González, also known as “Joe Arroyo”, was an important Colombian composer and singer of salsa music. This artist was born on November 1st, 1955 in the city of Cartagena de Indias and died on July 26th, 2011 in Barranquilla.

Throughout his artistic career, he was popularly known as the king of Caribbean delight.

His music is a fusion of salsa with porro, mapalé and cumbia. His main musical successes were “La Rebelión”, “En Barranquilla me Quedo, “La Noche”, “Tania”, “Mamá”, “La Guerra de los Callados”, “Sabré Olvidar”, “Te Quiero Más”, “El Centurion de La Noche”,”El Caminante”.

Guayacan Orchestra

The Guayacán Orchestra, one of the most successful Colombian salsa orchestras, was founded in 1984 in the city of Cali.

Their music is characterized by the combination of salsa with other music genres such as vallenato and tropical music.

The group had several singers, however, the most prominent was Alexis Lozano as he was very talented and charismatic.

The most important and popular songs of the Guayacán Orchestra were: “Oiga, Mire, Vea”, “Carro de Fuego, “Invierno en Primavera”, “Te Amo, Te Extraño”, “Torero”, “Mujer de Carne y Hueso”, “El Baile del Perrito”, “Ay amor, cuando hablan las miradas”, “Pasodobles”.

Group Niche

Grupo Niche is one of the most important and successful salsa groups and was founded in Cali in 1979.

The lyrics of her songs are very romantic and have a poetic sense, reminiscent of many everyday events.

The leader and founder of this group was Jairo Varela, who is considered one of the most influential composers of Latin American music of all time.

The group had several singers, but the most famous were Javier Vásquez, Charlie Cardona and Willy García.

The main musical successes of the Grupo Niche were: “Gotas de Lluvia”, “Cali Pachanguero”, “Hagamos lo que diga el Corazón”, “Sin Sentimientos”, “Una Aventura”, ” La Magia De Tus besos”, “Nuestro Sueño ”, “Eres”, “Busca Por Dentro”.

Sonora Carruseles

The Sonora Carruseles group was formed in 1995 in the city of Medellín.

Their style is characterized by the fusion of salsa with other rhythms such as porro and cumbia.

The most important and popular songs of Sonora Carruseles were: “Micaela”, “Que Suene La Flauta”, “La Salsa La Traigo Yo”, “Al Son de los Cueros”, “Arranca en Fa”, “La Comay”, “Acuyuyé ”, “Qué Me Entierren Con Rumba”, “Vengo Caliente”, “El Bailarín de la Avenida”, “Boogaloo Pa Gozar”.

Yuri Buenaventure

Yuri Bedoya, popularly known as Yuri Buenaventura, was born on May 19, 1967 in the city of Buenaventura.

His music combines salsa with African rhythms and jazz.

His main musical successes were: “La Última Bala”, “Valle De Rosas”, “Temes”, “Cuando te Debo”, “No Estoy Contigo”, “Tu Canción”, “Salsa”, “Ne Me Quitte Pas”. “, “Mala Vida”.

The Latin Brothers

The Latin Brothers Salsa Group was founded in Bogotá in 1974.

Their music consisted of a combination of drums, brass and melodies that were very danceable.

The main musical successes of the Latin Brothers were “Dale Al Bombo”, “Sobre las Olas”, “Las Caleñas Son Como Las Flores”, “Dime Qué Pasó”, “Así Fue”, “Valluna”, “Lejos de ti”, “Las Calaveras”, “Tu Partida”.

La 33

La 33 is a Colombian salsa orchestra founded in 2001 in the city of Bogotá by brothers Sergio and Santiago Mejía.

Their music is a combination of salsa, mambo, pasodoble and jazz.

Their most important songs were: “Soledad”, “La Pantera Mambo”, “La 33”, “Te Lo Voy a Devolver”, “Que Rico Boogaloo”, “El Robo”, “La Vida Se Pasa a Mil”, “Bye – Bye”, “La Rumba Buena”.

ecognized group Fruko y sus Tesos was founded in 1970 by Julio Ernesto Estrada, also known as Fruko.

His musical style is characterized by a powerful rhythm and the combination of salsa with other styles of music such as funk and jazz.

The main musical successes of Fruko y sus Tesos were: “El Caminante”, “El Preso”, “Cachondea”, “Los Charcos”, “Lupita”, “El son del Tren”, “Dejala Bailar”, “El Ausente” , “A la Memoria del Muerto”.

Son de Cali

Son de Cali is a salsa group formed in 2002 by Javier Vásquez and Willy García, former members of Grupo Niche.

The name of this orchestra is a tribute to Cali, the city that produces great salsa artists.

The main musical successes of Son de Cali were: “Te Amo”, “Me Emocionas”, “Qué Nos Pasó”, “Lo Que Te Sobre”, “No Quiero Dormir”, ” Y Entonces”, “Tan Buena”, “Fantasma”, “Llorando”.

Benefits of Salsa Dancing

Dancing salsa can bring you many benefits that you probably don’t know about.

  • Increases body awareness as dancing with a partner or even alone improves spatial awareness due to the turns to be made during the dance.
  • Promotes blood circulation in the legs, helps to tighten cellulite and thus prevent it.
  • Dancing creates more confidence because by dancing salsa one learns different forms of expression and communication, necessary skills for people to have great confidence and think more positively. This can help people who are very shy.
  • Reduces stress as dancing relieves tension in the shoulders and hips that are stress related on many occasions. In addition, listening to the various instruments featured in salsa songs triggers a release of endorphins that ultimately induce a great sense of happiness and well-being.
  • Dancing favors calorie loss, since dancing salsa requires great physical exertion.
  • Increases resistance and favors posture, as salsa requires an upright posture, so the abdomen, hips, shoulders, arms and legs are strengthened with every movement during the dance.
  • Dancing improves memory and coordination.
  • Dancing boosts mood as salsa is a happy dance that can help people release their worries, sadness and depression.

More about Colombian culture


About Author



Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia. I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia. For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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