Working and travelling in Colombia, how cool!

For the Love of Music and Dance July 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelleincolombia @ 10:13 pm

Music is a big part of everyday life here in Colombia.  From the minibuses to the tiendas (corner stores), everyone is sharing their favourite tunes for those around to enjoy.  Music is very important to me, so I can appreciate their love of music and have taken full advantage of having radio access on my cellphone here!  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am rarely caught not listening to music and that I will develop a nervous tic if I don’t go out dancing at least once a week!  There is an impressive supply of talented Colombian artists, much like in Canada, and I am sure I don’t know the half of it.  Straddled by both the Pacific and Caribbean, Colombia has been affected by so many different musical genres and influences over the years, it is not surprising that there are many different musical styles found within the country representing a very dynamic musical environment.

For those who have never been to Colombia, or Latin America, or for anyone just interested, I would like to share some of my favourite Colombian artists, as well as some of my roommate, Angela’s favourites.  So, in the spirit of Hillside Festival, which I am sad to be missing this weekend, and in preparation for a Saturday night out dancing, enjoy!

P.S.  Please feel free to comment on your favourite or post your own favourite local artists and songs, or of any Colombian greats that I have missed (for my Colombian and expat friends reading).

Artist J Balvin (hottest Colombian Reggaeton artist at present) in Sin Compromiso, with plenty of bikini-clad women in Me Gustas Tu, and with Jay & El Punto (also Colombian artists), Bailemos Otra Vez.

Golpe a Golpe, singing No Se Como se Llama.  I spent a month trying to find out who this artist was, every time I heard the song I would ask anyone around!  Obviously they are not well known yet but with songs like these, they will be…

Amazing videos from Choc Quib Town (Hip hop group nominated and pending results for Best Artist of 2011 in Colombia and won several awards in 2010), that give an interesting look at the Colombian people and countryside – Songs Somos Pacificos, El Bombo (song of Fifa 2011), De Donde Vengo Yo (won several awards in 2010), and Oro (nominated for a Grammy in 2011).

People go crazy on the dancefloor when they hear this song, Fuego, by Bomba Estereo.

An example of the famous Colombian Cumbia, Armando Hernandez with La Zenaida.  And multiple-time Grammy-winner, Carlos Vives, performing the popular style Vallenato, in Carito.  Typical Colombian salsa, En Barranquilla me Quedo, performed by Joe Arroyo.

Artist Jorge Celedon whose song Esta Vida brought me great joy during my last Colombian trip. And another good one of his, Parranda en el Cafetal, with more traditional Colombian sounds.

A very different sound, popular Aterciopelados singing Bolero Falaz.

A nod to Colombian artists would not be complete without mentioning Juanes.  I had Juanes’ A Dios Le Pido on a mixed CD I made in about 2003, around the time he  broke away from his heavy metal band to begin his solo career.  Juanes has won so many musical awards worldwide, here are a few of his hits:  Me Enamora and La Tierra.

Of course, last but not least, Colombia’s most famous singer, Shakira and her lastest tunes, Loca and Rabiosa (English version – I don’t think most locals like her English songs though).

I have really only scratched the surface here and I’m sure I’ve missed many amazing Colombian artists, so please feel free to put your two cents in.  Hope you’ve enjoyed this musical look into the Colombian culture!


A Lesson Learned July 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelleincolombia @ 4:15 pm

Colombia is the second most bio-diverse nation on our planet.  Despite its relatively small size, it has a wide range of environments, including snow-capped Andean mountains, lush Amazonian jungle, coffee plantations, desert and coral reef.  Colombia is accessed by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and provides an important gateway between the Americas.  Colombia also suffers the most natural disasters, most notably flooding, due to climate change of all Latin American countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme.  Colombia bears a heavy burden considering it emits very little carbon as compared to other countries.

Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, scored very well on a recent study of large Latin American countries and their environmental practices, performance and policies.  It ranked above average on all but two categories out of eight including transportation, building and land use, and water.  Colombia is considerably progressive for a developing nation.  From its weekly half-day Ciclovia, to the extensive natural-gas powered Transmilenio rapid bus system that has been built only within the last 10 years and replaced thousands of buses run on carbon-intensive fuels.

I spent this past weekend in the country’s second largest city Medellin and was so impressed by the transit system.  Medellin Metro has incorporated the first cable-propelled system in the world, called Metrocable, aimed at reaching the underdevelopment barrios, previously unreachable by public transit because they are situated high up the hills surrounding the city.  The city prevented 180,000 tons of carbon emissions last year, nearly 1% of the country’s total emissions, because of its very efficient and extensive metro system, not to mention the social benefits associated with better connectivity and access.

I expected to encounter resistance to the “greening” of Colombia’s built environment, when I decided to take the summer internship opportunity with the Colombia Green Building Council.  Considering the country’s abundance of pressing problems including poverty, crime and corruption, I had figured that environmental issues would not be top of mind, but was happily surprised to find that that is not the case.   I have learned that regardless of a country’s (or person’s for that matter) income, reputation, crooked politicians, drug problems and history, it is still very capable of achieving great things and paving the way for other, more developed, and privileged countries.  It is a perfect example of the age-old idiom: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.  Colombia has proven this true.  While it still struggles to get a handle on the drug problems, Colombia has made significant advances to curb the violence that it had been synonymous with in the past and improve the standard of living for its residents.

With many other green (and social) initiatives underway, including low-income sustainable housing, methane capture projects, and extensive environmental education for children, we will hear more about the innovative and inspiring country of Colombia, as it manages to create new opportunities amidst great challenges.  Given its conscientious, driven and passionate people, Colombia is sure to remain the innovative environmental leader in Latin America for years to come.

For more information about green initiatives in Latin American cities, as well as cities around the world including Toronto, see the green city studies conducted by Siemens at: