When it comes to Latin American music, we often hear about the vibrant scenes of countries such as Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico. However, the hidden gem of the Latin music world is undoubtedly Colombia. Despite the global success of Colombian artists such as Shakira and J Balvin, many people still remain unaware of the rich and diverse music culture of this South American country.

In this article, we aim to unveil the mystery of Colombian music and provide a comprehensive overview for those interested in exploring the country’s musical landscape. We begin by diving into the top 10 most popular genres among locals, move to take a closer look at traditional styles, explore the role of music in Colombian culture and celebrations, and examine the impact of modern technology on music consumption habits.

Top 10 most popular Colombian music genres among locals

Colombian music is a beautiful blend of indigenous, African, and European influences resulting in a diverse range of rhythms, melodies, and styles. Below we discuss the top 10 genres that locals have embraced throughout the decades:

1. Vallenato – Originating from the northern Atlantic coast, Vallenato is a genre characterized by its accordion-driven melodies and narratives that often tell stories of love, life in the countryside, and everyday struggles. Some of the most well-known vallenato artists include Carlos Vives and Diomedes Diaz.

2. Cumbia – Known as Colombia’s national rhythm, Cumbia is a danceable genre that combines African, indigenous, and European rhythms. It’s often played during celebratory events such as weddings and outdoor parties. Shakira is one of the most internationally recognized cumbia artists.

3. Champeta – Hailing from the Caribbean region, Champeta is a fast-paced genre that blends African and Latin rhythms. It’s often played at parties and dance clubs. Some of the most popular Champeta artists include Kevin Florez and Mr. Black.

4. Salsa – While often associated with Puerto Rico and Cuba, Salsa has a strong presence in Colombia as well. Colombian salsa is unique due to its emphasis on brass instruments. Some of the most famous Colombian Salsa artists are Joe Arroyo and Grupo Niche.

5. Joropo – This genre originated in the plains of eastern Colombia and Venezuela and is characterized by its use of string instruments such as the harp and cuatro. Joropo is often played at traditional dances and celebrations. Some of the most famous joropo artists are Jorge Guerrero and Reynaldo Armas.

6. Bambuco – A genre that originated in the Andean region, bambuco is characterized by its use of stringed instruments such as the guitar and mandolin. The lyrics often describe rural life in the mountains and highlands. Popular Bambuco artists include Los Hermanos Martínez Gil and Jaime Llano González.

7. Porro – Hailing from the Caribbean coast, Porro is a high-energy genre featuring brass instruments and African rhythms. It’s often played during carnivals and street parties. Some of the best-known Porro bands include Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto and Fruko y Sus Tesos.

8. Bullerengue – Originating in the Afro-Colombian communities on the Caribbean coast, Bullerengue is a genre characterized by its use of percussive instruments such as the maracas and drums. The lyrics often incorporate social and historical themes. Popular Bullerengue artists include Petrona Martinez and Totó la Momposina.

9. Pacific – Originating from the Pacific coast, this genre is a blend of African and indigenous rhythms and incorporates instruments such as the marimba. The lyrics often depict life in the Pacific region and cultural traditions. Chocquibtown is one of the most renowned Pacific artists.

10. Reggaeton – This urban genre originated in Puerto Rico but has found a home in Colombia, particularly among younger generations. Colombian reggaeton differs from its Puerto Rican counterpart in its incorporation of indigenous rhythms and instruments such as the guacharaca. Some of the most popular Colombian reggaeton artists include J Balvin and Maluma.

Colombian music: A cultural melting pot and its influence today

Colombian music is a beautiful fusion of indigenous, African, and European influences that developed over centuries as various groups interacted in the region. The Spanish conquest in the 16th century brought European instruments such as the guitar and harp, leading to the development of traditional Andean music styles such as the bambuco and pasillo. The influx of African slaves also contributed to the development of new rhythms and dance, including cumbia, porro, and champeta.

Today, Colombian music continues to evolve and influence the global music scene. Shakira, J Balvin, and Sofia Vergara are just a few examples of Colombians who have achieved international success in the entertainment industry. Moreover, Colombia’s music scene has influenced the creation of new genres, such as the electro-cumbia style that has taken off across Latin America.

7 traditional Colombian music styles you need to know

For those interested in exploring traditional Colombian music styles, we’ve outlined seven genres below:

1. Pasillo – This Andean genre is characterized by its waltz-like rhythm and romantic lyrics. The Pasillo originates from the Ecuadorian Andes, but it is also popular in Colombia, particularly in the southwestern part of the country.

2. Tango – This genre of music originated at the turn of the 20th century in Argentina, but it was also popular in Colombia, particularly in the port cities of Cartagena and Barranquilla.

3. Merengue – This genre of music originated in the Dominican Republic, but it has had a significant influence on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

4. Guabina – This genre of music is a type of folk music that was popular in the central Andean region of Colombia, traditionally played with string instruments such as the tiple, guitar, and bandola.

5. Sanjuanero – This genre of music from the Huila department is unique in that it’s often combined with a dance known as the Sanjuanero in regional celebrations and is often played during festivals.

6. Carrilera – The carrilera genre is a catchy rhythmic style, developed in the Andean region. Carrilera is known for its accordion and guitar instrumentals and the humorous lyrics that it uses.

7. Guasca – This genre of music is another folk influence autochthonous to the Andean region of Colombia and popular in the central Andean towns like Boyacá and Cundinamarca.

What type of music do Colombians listen to? A comprehensive survey

A recent survey conducted by Colombian market research company YanHaas found that among the different genres, vallenato, salsa, and reggaeton were the most popular among Colombians. Younger generations generally preferred reggaeton and Champeta, while older generations tended to prefer traditional Andean and Colombian rhythms such as bambuco and pasillo. The results also highlighted the power of music as a social connector, with 85% of respondents reporting that they listened to music every day.

The rise of urban music in Colombia: A close look at the phenomenon
The rise of urban music in Colombia: A close look at the phenomenon

The rise of urban music in Colombia: A close look at the phenomenon

Urban music, a genre that combines reggaeton, hip-hop, and trap, has taken off in Colombia in recent years. As the country grapples with social and economic challenges, young artists have turned to music to express their frustrations and communicate with their communities. Urban music is also notable for its incorporation of traditional Colombian rhythms and instruments such as maracas and the gaita.

Some of the most popular urban music artists include J Balvin, Maluma, and Karol G, all of whom have achieved international success. In 2019, J Balvin collaborated with Bad Bunny on an album that won a Latin Grammy and further cemented the influence of Colombian urban music on the global music scene.

How modern technology changed the way Colombians consume music

Modern technology has transformed the way Colombians consume and engage with music. Streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube have become increasingly popular among all age groups. Social media has also played a role, with artists using Instagram and TikTok to share their creative process with their fans.

However, the digital revolution has not been without its challenges. The illegal downloading of music and piracy remains a significant issue in Colombia, leading to the loss of revenue for artists and the industry. Additionally, the rise of streaming has changed the album format, leading some analysts to worry about the potential loss of the concept of the album as a cohesive work of art.

Understanding the role of music in Colombian festivals and celebrations

Music is an essential aspect of Colombian culture and is deeply rooted in all celebrations and festivities. For example, in December, people across the country celebrate the novena, a traditional nine-day Christmas celebration that includes singing, dancing, and traditional food.

Another notable celebration is the Barranquilla Carnival, a four-day festival that takes place in the coastal city of Barranquilla. The carnival features a variety of music styles, including cumbia, salsa, and vallenato, and sees many locals and tourists come together to enjoy the festivities.


Colombia’s music scene is rich, diverse, and deeply rooted in history and culture. From traditional Andean rhythms to new urban styles, Colombian music is an informative and enjoyable way to learn about the country’s fascinating cultural heritage. Understanding the different genres and styles helps promote appreciation and enjoyment of this vibrant music scene that significantly impacts the world stage.

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By Happy Sharer

Hi, I'm Happy Sharer and I love sharing interesting and useful knowledge with others. I have a passion for learning and enjoy explaining complex concepts in a simple way.

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