What you don’t know is that Champeta’s inclusion in this crossover medley, not just in Cartagena, but across Colombia, is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Back when Champeta, or as it was originally known, Terapia, was the musical “therapy” for Cartagena’s hardworking and impoverished Afro-Descendants, Colombia’s “well-to-do” upper classes considered it low-class and vulgar, indicative of a classist society that associated black culture with undesirable. In those days (we’re talking the 70s and 80s), being called a “champetudo” was considered an insult. An entire subculture grew around the genre in defiance; dance, language, art and fashion. Now, decades later, Champeta’s undeniable appeal has earned it a cool-club status that has all Colombians and the rest of the world clamouring to join: National top 10 lists will feature at least 3 Champeta songs, and reformed reggaeton princesses are now trying to learn thost “vulgar” dance moves. If you don’t want to be left out, here’s some Champeta basics to get you started.
Champeta - comes from the word for machete, which the workers arriving to dance at the picós would wear tied around their waist after their day’s shift. Some of the dance steps incorporate a machete chopping action reflecting this.
Picó - The enormous sound-systems that were originally transported to different neighborhoods on the back of “pickup” trucks. The music machines would be painted with images and graphics that would then later give the name to the picó, such as El Tigre or the most famous, El Rey de Rocha.
Meque or meke - is the force and potency of the sound system and the general energy and frenzy of a champeta song.
Espeluque - The third part in a champeta song where the rhythm changes and gets more intense and everyone is whipped into such a frenzy, their hair ends up a big mess
El Caballito - one of the more iconic dance moves represents riding a little horse. Also check out La Borracha and La Camita.