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Feeling the rhythm in Colombia


Andrew Doherty learns how the South American country is promoting itself through music

With more than 157 genres encapsulating thousands of rhythms, music is at the core of Colombian life. African, European and Caribbean immigrants have been rubbing shoulders for hundreds of years, culminating in a melting pot of culture, gastronomy and song.

Genres include porro – a folkloric style from the Sinu River area that evolved into a ballroom dance; cumbia, a rhythmic dance from the days of slavery; and the currulao from Colombia’s Pacific region.

So integral is music to the country the tourist board has decided to make it the inspiration for its latest campaign, “Colombia, Feel the Rhythm”, which aims to share the country’s multitude of festivals and live music offerings.

Julian Guerrero, vice-president of tourism at ProColombia, said: “We want to promote Colombia through music, one of the most beautiful expressions of our diversity, while reflecting the experiences of our people. For example, in the capital of Bogota alone, there are more than 60 festivals throughout the year and 500 live music venues.”

Colombia’s most popular celebrations include the Carnaval de Barranquilla, which begins four days before Ash Wednesday and brings the city to life with street dances, costumes and parades; and the Vallenato Legend Festival in Valledupar (April 26-30, 2019) – a traditional music competition that welcomes accordion, caja drum and guacharaca (a percussion instrument) players from across the globe.

Recent investments in tourism infrastructure and government efforts to crack down on crime have resulted in international arrivals to Colombia growing by 8%. Guerrero said the UK market was performing well too. By the close of 2018, British visitor numbers had increased by 5.1%, up 2,520 on 2017.

“Culture, nature and adventure are some of our strengths UK visitors look for. Here you can dive, go river-rafting and visit coffee plantations.”

Colombia is also one the world’s most biodiverse countries. Comprised of five main regions; the Amazon, Andean, Caribbean, Pacific and Orinoco (River), the country has a wealth of ecosystems in which wildlife thrives, including forests, mountains, wetlands, rivers, lakes and mangroves.

With more than 1,920 species of birds, keen ornithologists should have a field day exploring Colombia’s many nature trails. Alternatively, clients can take to the waters in an effort to spy a humpback whale. Every year between July and November, these colossal marine mammals arrive from Antarctica to mate and give birth.

Whatever vibe clients are looking for, Colombia’s multitude of rhythms – whether musical, cultural or natural – should be more than enough to pique the interest of those searching for a Latin American adventure.

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