How Afro-Colombian Champeta started as a musical genre and evolved into art and film

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In this Latinx Heritage Month, mitú shines a light on the root of Latinx joy. We dig deep into the subcultures and traditions that have shaped our communities – the reason for our song and dance. We continue to build thriving communities together through our strong roots and with the support of State Farm.

¡Tremen!

If your mind immediately said, ‘Bórralo, bórralo/Yarly, Yarly, Yarly;’ then, it is likely that you have heard a champeta. Specifically TikTok viral El Avioncito by GiBlack, a song that recently hit social media again via a Tweet from the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol. As one of many examples in recent memory, this trend shows that Afro-Colombian champeta continues to evolve beyond music into other forms of media.

Hailing from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, champeta is a musical genre that has proven to be truly revolutionary. According to New York educator Bryan Prado Ceron, who spoke to mitú, “La champeta is about mixing a rhythm with strong African influences such as socca, reggae, etc. The DJ scratches the records and adds random sound samples throughout the mixes that were readily available within their boards. Along with the DJ, the MC was educating the crowd. Educate them on social issues, teach them new dance moves or just how to dance on the song that was already playing.

Having become popular in the 80s, the champeta will find its place in the Colombian barrios. As a port city, Cartagena facilitated the cultural exchange that led to the creation of champeta. Given its location, it has gradually become the main selection of entertainment for people affected by social stratification. In turn, those in power would disapprove of it while those in favor of it would turn it into a shared act of resistance and positive change. Despite overwhelming rejection, champeta would continue to thrive on the fringes of pop culture throughout the 90s and break into mainstream culture in the 21st century.

One of the earliest films centered on the champeta was filmmaker Luis Silva’s 1990s short, “Los reyes criollos de la champeta”. This documentary aimed to raise awareness of the many MCs and DJs who had kept the movement alive at that time and remained a seminal work on the champeta. To this day, Silva’s piece remains a classic and is acclaimed by avid followers around the world. Years later, “Champeta Paradise” would mark another example of the burgeoning cinematic representation of this genre.

It’s been more than two decades since “Los reyes criollos de la champeta” and “Champeta Paradise” kept the champeta movement going in the 90s and 2000s, and it’s only going from strength to strength. The 2020s saw the champeta danced on the Super Bowl stage by international icon Shakira, as well as on TikTok by thousands around the world.

With the Disney+ streaming service soon to release worldwide the youth comedy-drama “Champeta, el ritmo de la Tierra” – a series that will do very well for Afro-Colombian representation on a major platform. – Cinema, music and TV fans will have no choice but to appreciate the cultural phenomena Champeta has been and continues to be.

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