As you walk through the streets of Cartagena, you may hear the unique sounds of champeta. This musical and dance style started on Colombia’s northern coast including not only Cartagena but also Barranquilla and San Basilio de Palenque. It is closely linked with the Afro-Colombian communities that call northern Colombia home.
The original word champeta actually referred to a short curved knife that was used for housework and for defense. In the 1920s, it started being used as a derogatory term for the low-income Afro-Caribbeans who lived in the area. Champeta emerged as a musical movement in the 1970s when Colombian musicians combined the sounds of African beats, Haitian meringue, and indigenous influences. The songs are usually sung in Spanish and accompanied by percussion instruments, electric guitars, bass, and conga drums.