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  • If you go to a Shakira concert, you may see her do this.

  • It's this part of her show where the drummer starts soloing and she's kind of freestyle

  • dancing.

  • And during this section, she's dancing to a variation of the exact same beat.

  • In its most basic form, it sounds like this.

  • "Cumbia de Colombia!"

  • Did you catch that?

  • "Cumbia de Colombia".

  • The music is called cumbia.

  • You can even hear it in electronic dance tracks.

  • And it has its own category in the Latin Grammys.

  • And it all started here, up near the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

  • I traveled to the villages where cumbia comes from.

  • And I learned that this specific place, here along the Magdalena River, was fertile soil

  • from which this music could grow.

  • But cumbia is in fact a blend of several strong musical traditions.

  • Mainly African and indigenous, but also European, mixing together to make something new.

  • Something totally unique to the time and place from which it came.

  • Okay now just watch what these two drummers are playing.

  • We can also look at this another way.

  • This beat is the backbone of cumbia.

  • And I wanted to find out where it came from, so I flew to the beautiful Caribbean city

  • of Cartagena and drove south to a village that was founded hundreds of years ago.

  • In the early 1500s, the Spanish came to Colombia as part of their Latin American conquest.

  • And with them they brought more than 100,00 captive Africans.

  • But some of these slaves managed to escape and build their own communities.

  • And that's how this village was formed.

  • This place is the first known settlement of slaves who rebelled and started their own

  • community back in the 17th century.

  • And so because of that, they were able to maintain a great deal of their African culture.

  • The residents of this village preserve their history with music, which is based on the

  • rhythms their ancestors brought over from the homeland.

  • These songs are a living, breathing part of the town's culture and history.

  • And with time, these beats started to spread in the region, influencing different styles

  • of music.

  • Does this sound familiar?

  • This is the beating heart of cumbia and no matter how many instruments are incorporated,

  • or in what country it's played, the beat always stays the same.

  • The drumbeat brought over from Africa is the main ingredient of cumbia, but eventually

  • the rhythm started blending with instruments from a totally different musical culture:

  • that of the indigenous people of Colombia.

  • I came to visit the Gaiteros de San Jacinto, a musical group that has been playing cumbia

  • since the 1950's.

  • In 2007 they won a Latin Grammy for their folk album and they're able to continue by

  • training up new generations, who keep these old traditions alive.

  • We're in the backyard of one of the drummers,

  • who's showing me how they make their own instruments

  • using the same methods their ancestors did, like these maracas.

  • And this flute, called the Gaita, which is a quintessential indigenous instrument.

  • So this is what the cultural fusion of the root of cumbia looks like: you have the Gaita,

  • a key element in indigenous music, and then you have the drum section playing rhythms

  • directly influenced by the African village just an hour from here.

  • Together they create this unique cumbia sound.

  • In addition to the African rhythm and the indigenous wind instruments, there's one more

  • ingredient to this fusion: the European influence.

  • The cumbia is always evolving and there's one

  • more European influence that is more recent.

  • It's this instrument that Yeison is holding: the accordion.

  • And in fact, it was his grandfather, dubbed the "King of cumbia," who traded his Gaita

  • flute for an accordion, thus changing cumbia forever.

  • But once formed in this region, it didn't stay put.

  • In the past century, cumbia has spread throughout all of Latin America, further evolving in

  • the process.

  • While I was in Colombia, I shot an extra bonus episode for

  • our friends over at Eater.

  • It's about this amazing fruit market in Bogota that I visited and it was really fun.

  • I think you'll love it.

  • It's gonna be published on Eater's YouTube channel, so head over there to subscribe and

  • I hope you like the episode.

If you go to a Shakira concert, you may see her do this.

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Why Shakira loves this African beat

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    Justin posted on 2019/02/05
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