There are four main styles of music popular here on the Caribbean coast of Colombia: vallenato, salsa, reggaetón, and champeta. If you’ve been following along, I’ve written about vallenato before. Salsa you might be familiar with from dancing or watching people dance. Reggaetón is popular in the United States (at least with Spanish-speakers), although if you’re my mom, you’re probably like “reggae what? a ton of reggae?” Champeta, though…champeta is Colombian to the core. It originated in Cartagena and Palenque de San Basilio in the 1980s, by people of African descent. Actually, the dance came first in the 70s, and then the music, which is sort of silly and surprising.
Of course, kids had to come along and ruin the good ol’ fashioned rhythms with their new-fangled doo-dads and thingamajigs, not to mention their vulgarities. Israel Gómez Monterrosa was one of those kids, but arguably he is now “the king” of champeta, so maybe it’s okay. What I am referring to was the birth of urban champeta, a subgenre that is the result of kids who love rap and reggaetón and champeta. And in the music world, “the king” goes by Twister, a name given to him in an English class once by a friend who said he destroyed everything. He has actually already appeared in Music Monday once, because his song “Pa’ la calle me voy” is such a huge Carnaval hit.
There’s one thing that stands out to me in most champeta songs that I always poke a bit of fun at – the call outs. Artists both call themselves out (much like in American rap songs and in reggaetón) and their producer – Chawala. Because of this producer, a number of champeta songs start with the yelling/singing of “Chawa.” It might seem silly that it happens on almost every song – imagine listening to that album and being reminded every single time who you are listening to – but it actually does make sense. These songs are often distributed via mix CDs of the hottest tracks of the moment. If the singer lets who know who it is at the beginning of the song, you never have to go to the DJ to ask.