How the Afro-Colombian Champeta Started as a Musical Genre and Evolved Into Art and Film
This Latinx Heritage Month, mitú is highlighting the root of Latinx joy. We’re digging deep into the subcultures and traditions that have shaped our communities — the reason for our song and our dance. We continue building flourishing communities together because of our strong roots and with the support of State Farm.
If your mind immediately said, ‘Bórralo, bórralo/Yarly, Yarly, Yarly;’ then, it is likely you have heard a champeta. Specifically TikTok viral El Avioncito by GiBlack, a song that recently hit social media again through a Tweet by la Federación Colombiana de Fútbol. As one of the many examples in recent memory, this trend shows that the Afro-Colombian champeta continues evolving beyond music into other forms of media.
From the Caribbean coast of Colombia, champeta has been a musical genre that has proven to be truly revolutionary. According to New York educator Bryan Prado Ceron, who spoke to mitú, “The champeta consists of mixing a beat with heavy African influences such as socca, reggae, etc. The DJ scratches the records and adds samples of random sounds throughout the mixes that were readily available within their boards. Along with the DJ, the MC would educate the crowd. Educate them on social issues, teach them new dance moves, or simply how to dance to the song that was already playing.”
Coming to popularity in the 80s, champeta would find its place within Colombian barrios. As a port city, Cartagena facilitated the cultural exchange that led to champeta’s creation. Given its location, it gradually became the primary entertainment selection for those affected by social stratification. In return, those in power would frown upon it while those who appreciated it would transform it into a shared act of resistance and positive change. Despite an overwhelming rejection, champeta would continue thriving on the fringes of pop culture throughout the 90s and break into mainstream culture in the 21st century.
One of the earliest movies that would center champeta is 1990s short film by filmmaker Luis Silva, “Los reyes criollos de la champeta.” This documentary aimed to bring awareness to the numerous MCs and DJs that had kept the movement alive at that point and has remained a seminal work on champeta. To this day, Silva’s piece remains a classic and is lauded by avid followers across the world. Years later, “Champeta Paradise” would mark another instance of the cinematographic depiction of this burgeoning genre.
It has been over two decades since “Los reyes criollos de la champeta” and “Champeta Paradise” kept the champeta movement rolling through the 90s and 2000s, and it is only getting stronger. The 2020s has seen champeta danced on the Super Bowl stage by international icon Shakira, as well as on TikTok by thousands around the world.
With streaming service Disney+ soon releasing the youth dramedy ‘Champeta, el ritmo de la Tierra’ worldwide — a series that very well will make strides for Afro-Colombian representation on a major platform — film, music, and television enthusiasts will have no choice but to appreciate the cultural phenomena champeta has been and continues to be.
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