Fri February 25, 2011
Alt.Latino: The Blog

Alt.Latino Takes A Trip To Colombia

This past fall, Felix Contreras, my co-host on NPR Music's Alt.Latino, and I got an offer we couldn't refuse: an invitation to join the cast of the PBS show The Music Voyager on a two-week trip throughout Colombia, exploring the amazing music that country has to offer. For the Music Voyager team, this is nothing new — they spend most of the year traveling the world, learning about the rhythms and beats that pump through each country. For us, it was the adventure of a lifetime.

Colombia has long been one of Latin America's prime exporters of music. The country invented cumbia, put its own unique brand on salsa, paved the way for Latin rock and more recently has produced huge international pop sensations (Shakira, anyone?). The more time we spent traveling through Colombia, the more I understood why. The air there is thick with sounds, a symphony of noise and music: the honking of horns, the squeaking of bus wheels, the melodic chants of street vendors and the loud music that pours out of every car window, every store entrance and every house door.

For two weeks at the end of November and the beginning of December, we traveled from city to city, town to town, and in every corner of the country met musicians that blew our mind — from salsa legend Joe Arroyo (we met up at a public library in his native Barranquilla) to Afro-Caribbean queen Toto La Momposina (who performed for us on a beach in her beloved city of Cartagena). We also hung out with pop stars like Fonseca, the Latin rock gods in Aterciopelados and up-and-coming club darling Bomba Estereo.

Above, you can hear the conversation we had with Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon about our trip. But that's just an appetizer: In the next two weeks on this blog, we're going to share our Colombia diaries with you, as well as photographs, audio and video of these amazing performances. We'll also offer two shows celebrating the music of Colombia.

Hear three of the performances we recorded on our trip below. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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