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9 Afro-Colombian Artists You Should Know in Honor of Black History Month

Few songs evoke Colombian pride like Grupo Niche’s salsa classic “Cali Pachanguero.” The moment the song’s opening trombone intro plays in a room full of Colombians, chairs and tables get pushed to the side, the space turns into a makeshift dance floor and a sing-along breaks out.

So what if the song is a love letter to the city of Cali? The entire country embraced Cali’s unofficial anthem as its own, and felt national pride when a snippet of the song played during the 2020 Academy Awards.

“Cali Pachanguero” — normally a staple at any Colombian celebration — was written by the late Jairo Varela. The salsa legend co-founded Grupo Niche with Alexis Lozano, giving it a name (“Niche”) that is used to refer to dark-skinned people. Varela is one of many Afro-Colombians who’ve shaped music in a country known as “the land of a thousand rhythms.” Not many others, however, have achieved the same level of mainstream success.

Breaking through in the industry has historically been an uphill battle for Afro-Colombians. But artists such as Varela’s Grupo Niche, Lozano’s Orquesta Guayacan, Toto La Momposina, Leonor Gonzalez Mina and, more recently, ChocQuibTown — which includes Varela’s niece Gloria “Goyo” Martinez and nephew Miguel “Slow” Martinez — have led the charge and served as inspiration for others.

With Black History Month kicking off today (Feb. 1), it seems appropriate that we celebrate by highlighting Afro-Colombian artists, both veterans and newcomers you might not know, but should, including Lido Pimiento, Mauro Castillo, and more.

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