SALSA IMMERSION IN THE WORLD SALSA CAPITAL OF CALI, COLOMBIA
SALSA IMMERSION GUIDE TO THE WORLD SALSA CAPITAL OF CALI, COLOMBIA
CALI, COLOMBIA THE WORLD SALSA CAPITAL
THE BEST TRAVEL DESTINATION FOR SALSA DJS AND FOR MUSICAL IMMERSION/EDUCATION
The Catholics have the Vatican, the Jews have Jerusalem, the Muslims have Mecca and the Salsa Dura worshipers have Cali!
There are other places in the world where you can learn plenty about salsa music, but when it comes to the 'creme de la creme' of salsa destinations the beautiful city of Cali has no competition - take it from me!
Home to dozens of world class salsa clubs; dozens of world class salsa dance schools, 80 plus salsa orchestras; highest number of salsa music collectors and intellectuals for any city in the world; international events, including the best of them all, La Feria de Cali (25th to 30th of December); retailers of salsa music, including hard to find vinyls: home to multiple radio stations that play salsa and MORE.
Cali is the city with 200 and counting salsa songs dedicated to it, including tracks from some of the best orchestras on the planet.
My advice to any serious salsero going to Cali - to research, buy music and experience the salsa culture through immersion is to plan your vacation so as to spend at least two weeks in the world salsa capital, ideally a month.
Once in Cali make sure you have a radio with which to listen to local FM stations to get a feel for the city's salsa preferences, focusing your ear on the Salsa Dura tracks, of course.
As a travelling DJ/collector to the world salsa capital, you should make it a priority to visit the top salsa clubs to listen to the music that is played. You will notice that for many dancers in Cali their love for dancing is fueled by their love for music as opposed to just dancing for the love of dancing, which ofteb reduces the music to only an 'accessory' level of importance as often seen in salsa scenes in many other parts of the world.
When out clubbing you will often see club clients accompanying the DJ's musical selection with small percussive instruments, such as campanas (cowbells), maracas, guiros, etc. that they have brought along to the venue. Some salsotecas and the smaller salsa bars will lend instruments to regular customers.
The love felt for salsa music is infectious in Cali and as a DJ and/or collector proximity to this kind of passion will do you good.
I have listed just some of the recommended/suggested salsa clubs to visit in Cali. Keep in mind that many clubs do not charge covers, but you are obliged to consume. This comes in the form of buying a small bottle of the local anis flavored licor known as aguardiente or rum, as well as better known spirits such as vodka and whisky.
Other clubs may charge you a small entry fee that will sometimes include a free drink at the bar.
At live events you will be charged a cover and plus be expected to consume. That is the norm in Cali and most people who frequent clubs do so to listen to music; dance and to consume.
Here are the clubs/discotecs/bars where you will hear plenty of hardcore salsa
(Note: some of the info listed can be subject to change, so it is best to phone and ask for details before you set out for any of the clubs listed):
1. La Topa Tolondra: Monday - Saturday
ADDRESS: Calle. 5 #13 - 27, Cali, Valle del Cauca
This club is one of the shining stars of Cali's salsero night-life with no-nonsense hardcore salsa music and a venue where I have DJ-ed regularly on and off since 2013.
Busy during the whole week starting monday nights with salsa classes followed by Salsa Dura with DJ Wilmar. On other nights, especially the weekends, you are likely to catch the club's owner, Carlos Ospina on the decks, usually during the latter part of the evening. I recommend you to listen to his excellent selections as well.
Live music events are also held here with top national and international bands.
2. La Mala Maña: Thursday - Saturday
ADDRESS: Cra. 4 ##9-59, Cali, Valle del Cauca
One of the newer clubs in Cali and home to hardcore salsa and a great friendly crowd.
Occasional live music events are held in this club.
3. Siboney: Tuesday, Thursday - Saturday
ADDRESS: Cra. 23b #7-74, Parque de Alameda,Cali
Founded in 1981 this salsa clubs is one of Cali's most traditional dance venues with a reputation for great salsa and an excellent sound system.
I recommend that if you visit this club then to take a dance partner with you and/or go in a group, because the more traditional clubs in Cali are often frequented by couples and groups, who often do not mix or mingle outside of their tables This is in contrast to other clubs such as La Topa Tolondra and MalaMaña or indeed those in Europe and North America where people frequent to mingle and just dance.
4. Zaperoco: Thursday - Saturday
ADDRESS: Av. 5 Nte. ##16-46, Cali
Founded in 1993 this club has established a permanent presence in Cali's salsa scene with Osman the resident DJ at the decks. I recommend fridays for you to see the DJ play to a packed buzzing crowd.
Thursday nights are usually live music nights at the Zaperoco, which I also recommend as part of your musical education and immersion.
5. Punto Barè: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
ADDRESS: Calle 5 #13-15, Cali
A couple of doors down from La Topa Tolondra this live music only venue was founded by one of Colombia's best salsa pianists, Jaime Henao, whose excellent orchestra - La Cuqui Banda - plays there regularly.
Wednesday nights are usually big band latin jazz events. The rest are live salsa music nights.
6. Tin Tin Deo: Thursday, Friday and Saturday
ADDRESS: Cl. 5 #3871, Cali
Another one of Cali's long time salsa bars. Thursday nights are frequented by many tourists and ex-pats for their salsa dancing dosage. I recommend the Fridays that have for a long time been the THE night in this club.
7. Salsa Night Club: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
ADDRESS: Cl. 6 #24-67, Cali
A favorite with tourists and locals this night club also has occasional live events and provides a great 'night-out' option for Sundays.
8. El Habanero: Thursday, Friday and Saturday
ADDRESS: Calle 7A #23A-01, Alameda, Cali
This beautiful Cuban themed club is where you can listen and dance to the older Cuban music, also known as "Musica Antillana" mixed with the usual Salsa Clasica tracks that are big in Cali.
This venue is often frequented by the 'old guard' salsa dancers of Cali and also hosts a great variety of live music acts as well as frequent dance shows. I highly recommend that you include this club in your salsa immersion journey.
9. Babalu Disco Club: Fridays and Saturdays
ADDRESS: Av. las Américas #22N-59, Cali
Recommended as a saturday night out for salseros. On fridays this club's music is classified as "Cross-Over", which in Cali means a mixture of Latin beats, with the main body of the music being Salsa.
10. Rumbavana: Fridays and Saturdays
ADDRESS: Avenida Roosevelt 25-23 Cali
Another traditional salsa club located in the heart of Cali. Established in 1988 and still going strong, with occasional live events.
11. Son Caribe: Thursday, Friday, Satuday and Sunday
ADDRESS: Carrera. 23b #7-80 Parque de Alameda
Another club whose musical leanings are towards the "Antillana" (traditional Cuban) line, but as always mixed with the ever present hardcore New York/Puerto Rico Salsa Clasica.
This is another venue where I recommend that you go with a dance partner or in a group, as the there is not much 'mingling' when it comes to the crowd.
You can get an idea about this club and the music played there by watching their promo video from some years back which I have posted by this column. It is in Spanish, but even if you don't understand the words, you will get a look inside and get a feel of the music.
Blue Bird Discoteca:Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays
ADDRESS: calle 14 # 31a - 47, Barrio Cristobal, Colon, Cali
Another one of Cali's traditional salsa clubs with over 30 years of history. Fridays are recommended as hardcore salsa evenings. Better to go with a dance partner or in a group.
12. Borincuba Club: Wednesdays, Fridays - Sundays
ADDRESS: Calle 9, No. 27-54, Barrio Alameda (upstairs at Casino Alameda, next door to Colpatria bank)
Although described as a salsoteca in reality this club is more of a cross between a salsoteca and the typical Cali style salsa discoteca, perhaps leaning more towards the latter description, hence its inclusion in this section.
Check it out Borincuba on saturdays for hardcore salsa dura or for more of a mixture of salsa between the Clasica, Timba and Romantica sounds pop in on a Friday or Sunday night!
13. El Manicero: Thursday, Friday, Saturday: Carrera 24 # 5 - 32 - Local 1
Tel: (2) 3729124
With outdoor seating and is a favorite of many of the dance-school crowd.
La Bodega Cubana: Thursday, Friday and Saturday
ADDRESS: Carrera. 40 #9B-91
A well known traditional salsa club with Antillana (old-school Cuban) emphasis. Recommended from Thursday to Saturday, but open and closes at earlier hours in the week, as well.
CHANEY DISCO CLUB
ADDRESS: Calle 14 #43a - 11
Santiago de cali 57
Open Thursday to Saturday. Thursday nights are pure salsa nights and are recommended for your musical research. It is best to go with a dance partner, although on some Thursdays you will have other dance options.
Las Brisas: kilometro 8, via cali jamundi
One of the best Monday night salsa dura events in Cali. A relatively long taxi ride will take you to this huge venue where you can hear and dance to the great salsa dura in a venue that is home to some of the best salsa dancers in Cali.
calle 14 #43a - 11
Santiago de cali 57
A short clip of me playing at a packed monday night at La Topa Tolondra - 12th of March, 2018
Me playing hardcore Salsa Dura at a super packed Saturday night at La MalaMaña! (2018)
Flyer for one of my saturday night gigs at the MalaMaña club (2018)
Resident DJ Osman in action at his residency at the famous Zaperoco salsa bar.
A quick look inside the Tin Tin Deo on a busy night
A quick peep inside the Salsa Night Club
Live music and dancing at the "El Habanero"
Quick peep inside the Rumbavana!
A short promo-video of Son Caribe. It is in Spanish, but still worth a look even if you don't speak it.
Blue Bird Discoteca promo from a few years ago.
THE SALSOTECAS IN CALI
The main difference between Salsa Discotecas and Salsotecas in Cali is in the smaller size of the latter (generally speaking, but there are exceptions) and the fact that more often than not their musical repetroire is less comercial, as well as the fact that their clientele's emphasis is even more geared towards the music as opposed to the dancing aspect of clubbing.
That is not to say that there is no dancing at these clubs, just that in general the people who go to certain salsotecas have higher musical expectations.
In some cases Salsotecas will have musically themed nights such as for example, "The Music of Tito Puente", "The Music of The Lebron Brothers" or "Pachangas", when afficionados can turn their evening outs into a musically educational endeavor.
On occasions salsotecas will hold "audiciones" which can be themed evenings when invited DJs/Collectors will present a handful of their rare tracks, usually on vinyl, but also on CDs. These events often take place on themed nights as well.
Despite the differences between the two types of salsa venues, there are plenty of grey areas where the differences between the traditional discotecas and salsotecas can be minimal or even non-existant.
The fact that such clubs have existed in Cali and have prospered stands testament to how deeply salsa music is embedded in the cultural heartbeat of this very musically special city and how seriously it is studied by its afficionados!
HERE ARE SOME SALSOTECAS THAT RECOMMEND FOR ANY SERIOUS SALSA DJ/COLLECTOR TO CHECK OUT:
1. LA CASA LATINA Fridays and Saturdays
ADDRESS: Cl. 7 #27-38, Cali, Valle del Cauca
Founded by the legendary Cali DJ and event manager Gary Dominguez who is also the creator of the "Encuentro de los Melomanos y Colecciònistas" event of La Feria de Cali, the yearly festival that takes place from 25th to the 30th of December, the Casa Latina is home to different Salsa-themed evenings.
I myself was invited by my friend Gary Dominguez in 2011 to do a musically themed evening dedicated to Colombian Salsa Dura and Latin Jazz bands, that covered beyond the better known Colombian bands. See the short video posted by this text. Although the picture quality is wanting, you will still get a feel for the evening.
2. SALSOTECA LA PONCEÑA: Fridays and Saturdays.
ADDRESS: Carrera. 2 #52-41, Cali
Founded in 1981 by Fanny Martinez and her late husband Luciano Delgado Valencia this legendary hardcore salsoteca remains a reference as regards high quality salsa and is a meeting place of 'in the know' salseros.
La Ponceña has been run by Fanny Martinez and her brother Jorge Martinez the highly knowledgabele DJ for many years since the death of her husband.
I recommend any serious Salsa DJ visiting Cali to pay at least one visit to this every special place, especially on a Friday night.
3. SALSOTECA LA DIFERENTE: Friday - Sunday
ADDRESS: Carrera 39 #31a-0101
Some of my salsero friends in Cali seem to love this club. Drop in on a Friday or Saturday to find out why.
4. Salsoteca Chan Chan: Friday & Saturday
ADDRESS: calle 72T # 28C - 07
Cellphone: 321 5773591
EL MUSEO DE LA SALSA - Fridays & Saturdays - open for special events. Check their facebook page for details of upcoming events by clicking on the venue name.
ADDRESS: Carrera 11b #24-44, Barrio Obrero - Cali
Founded by Cali's best salsa photographer and a serious music collector, Carlos Molina, the Museo de la Salsa oozes essence, with excellent photography of the 'who is who' of the salsa world on the walls, together with other salsa memorabilia, covering over 50 years of Cali's salsero history.
Many local and international salsa heavy weights also make a point of stopping over at El Museo de La Salsa. If you are lucky, you may bump into one or two of them on your visit.
I have included El Museo in this section, because the venue also functions as a salsoteca with regular themed nights. I highly recommend the events there, because talk about IMMERSION!
Flyer for my Colombian Salsa-Dura only event at the salsoteca La Casa Latina
This short documentary is in Spanish, but even if you only have a basic grasp of this language I recommend that you watch the video as your musicality will be inspired to see the serious salsa collectors and the yearly event dedicated to them - an event that forms one of the most important parts of La Feria de Cali.
The salsa collectors in this documentary can often be seen in Cali's salsotecas and special salsa events, presenting their music, often including their rare gems.
Not the highest quality of videos, but I have included it here to enable you to have a peep into this themed salsoteca night at La Diferente from some years back. In this case the music of the Dominican born Frankie Dante of the Orquesta Flamboyan fame. The passion for salsa - GOOD SALSA - is infectious when you are in Cali.
Buzzing dance floor in the Chan Chan
A look inside the Museo de La Salsa during a special event, with a quick glimpse of the legendary photographer and owner, Carlos Molina.
A quick interview with Carlos Molina, the founder/owner of El Museo de La Salsa below with some great shots of the his salsa museum - in Spanish
At the El Museo de la Salsa in Cali, Colombia - October/2018
WHERE TO BUY MUSIC IN CALI!
For all the vinyl DJs out there, the good news is that there is a thriving market for second hand Long Plays in the world salsa capital.
Most vendors of vinyl will also trade in salsa CDs and even musical instruments and books, as well as other salsa memorabilia.
Cali's sellers are distinct from many other parts of the world, because more likely than not they will know a lot more about salsa than you do, in which case they can be a great source of information for your research.
The sellers will be happy to let you listen to your selected records before you buy. If you are buying multiple records then feel free to negotiate a good price.
If you happen to see a rarity, then buy it on the spot and don't leave it for another day. I have made that mistake before and have regretted it, because the record in question was gone forever.
When walking the streets in certain parts of Cali you will come across vendors of pirated CDs. Avoid buying them, because firstly you are cheating the musicians that created that music and secondly there is a good chance you are going to end up with a damaged and/or low quality product.
Most of the music vendors listed are located in the city center of Cali (el Centro), which is close to the main tourist/hotel zones of San Antonio and El Peñon where you will most likely be staying and not too far from the San Fernando area which is also a popular stay zone for tourists.
The basement at the Centro Comercial Caizedo, Carrera 5 (very near La Plaza Caicedo pictured above)
Cel: 314 8028822
Juancho has been a well know DJ, hard core salsa night event organizer and music vendor in Cali for many years. He has great knowledge and usually a great selection of vinyls for your pleasure.
When you are in Cali, try to catch Juancho at any special event he may be DJ-ing at so as to expand your own musical exposure and knowledge.
LA CASA DE LA SALSA
Carrera 6, #16-17, Centro Comercial China 57, Centro
Cel: 321 3393967
This small store has an excellent selection of vinyls. The owner John Fredy is a DJ and collector himself and just like others in his field he has first class knowledge.
Calle 10 con Carrera 10, Modulo (Kiosk number) Parque Santa Rosa (Centro)
Although this is just a quiosk, you are likely to come across some great vinyls including rare recordings. A limited number of salsa CDs are also for sale here.
Books and small musical/percussion instruments are also sold here.
Carrera 9, No. 10 - 99 (Centro)
This is another of Cali's record vendors who sell CDs, Vinyles, DVDs and musical instruments.
Calle 11, No.8-71
Selling a wide selection of vinyls and cds, as well small percussive instruments.
LA MUSICA UNICENTRO
Centro Comercial Unicentro (Unicentro shopping mall)
Shop number: 114
Tel: 339 6614
Great shopping center in the south of the city, pretty far from the usual tourist zones.
All types of music including salsa in mainly CD and DVD formats and some vinyl. This music chain store also sells a limited selection of musical instruments.
Below: La Casa de la Salsa record shop
Below: Libreria Bran the salsa music kiosk
Another of my rare salsa vinyls.
KEEP COMING BACK TO THIS PAGE AS MORE INFORMATION IS BEING ADDED ON A REGULAR BASIS!