With Songlines – where the heart beats – Part 2 – the culture

I am sitting under an avocado tree in the middle of a coffee plantation as I write this – had no idea that avocados grow on such large trees – some pics to illustrate…


This is the second part to the blog relating to the Songlines tour – here I will focus on the cultural aspects of the trip while the first one was focused on the music. The pedants amongst you will no doubt be thinking that music is a part of culture surely. But given that such a huge part of the trip focused around music, I thought it worthwhile to have a dedicated one just for it. I will, however, cover the BOmm (Bogota Music Market) show cases here.

During two of the evenings in Bogota we attended the BOmm showcases – a sample of the current musical trends in Colombia. We saw the following artists … But first – thanks Russ (Russ Slater – South American music expert, editor of Sounds and Colours – www.soundsandcolours.com – a bible for music by each country and will my guiding light for this journey) – who stepped in at the last minute to be our tour lead – many thanks for stepping in and for the summary descriptions below …

Animales Blancos – indie / punk / rock, not really our type

Sango Groove – musica Pacifica – general consensus was that they were good

Burning Caravan – gypsy rock – I liked them

Curupira – fusion of Cumbia and rock – popular in Colombia and well received by the group

Canalon de Timbiqui – also musica Pacifica which everyone loved

Hety and Zambo – hyperactive dancehall flavours from the San Andres islands

BOmm has very helpfully created a playlist on Spotify with all the showcased artists, including the above …

A sample of pics in no particular order …



But the universally accepted (by the group at least) cultural highlight of the trip was the graffiti tour in Medellin. First, some background. The itinerary simply said “graffiti and hip hop tour where we will visit the local hip hop communities of Crew Peligrosos and Son Bata”. Not being a fan of hip hop or, really, graffiti, I was not especially looking forward to this. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Medellin has had bad press with the serialization of narcotics baron Pablo Escobar who was based here and founded the Medellin cartel. With the resulting tensions between the government and the residents of the city, there was a near breakdown in community relations. The project Crew Peligrosos aims to change all that, by providing artistic and cultural channels in which the energies of the young people of Medellin, specifically of Comuna 13 (Medellin is broken down into administrative “comunas”, and Comuna 13 was one of the most dangerous areas and the scene of near warfare at the height of the communal tensions in October 2002 when the army was brought in to ‘restore order’) can be directed. The 4 Elementes Skuela was established to harness 4 artistic elements – music (hip hop), dancing (specifically break dancing), art (graffiti) and poetry (rap). From this project there has emerged a hip hop band called Crew Peligrosos who has cut several records and have gone on to win the Colombian grammy award for best hip-hop band in 2015.

Excellent coverage of the transformation of Comuna 13 can be found at …



Our tour guide is Carlos who works for Casa Kolacho, an NGO founded by Jeihhco. Both are hip hop artists and inspiration for the Medellin Graffiti Tour. Carlos is accompanied by his cheeky and adorable son, pictured above, and in others below. Jeihhco explains the importance of hip hop and graffiti culture as a tool to educate and transform societies. You can see his TED talk at Jeihhco @ TEDxTigre.

And you can see Carlos presenting the tour here…

Medellin Graffiti Tour Info

Comuna 13 is not just a hip hop graffiti project, it is a transformation project, where the communities have taken charge of their own destinies. You will rarely hear me say these two things – that I like hip hop and that I buy a holiday t-shirt – in Comuna 13, I did both.

Photos cannot do justice to the vibrant colours of the graffiti all around the area, but here’s an attempt (including Carlos’s son giving ‘attitude’) …






No trip to Medellin is complete without a tribute to Botero – his statues in Botero Plaza were a treat …


As a group we had one free day to do with what we wanted in Cartagena. We chose to go to a nearby bird sanctuary and pay tribute to Playa Blanca, supposedly one of the best white sand beaches in this part of the world. Expectations were rather low for the bird sanctuary and high for the beach – reality proved the exact reverse. Spectacular species of birds were seen at the former, and the latter was a sand pit for tourist traps and vulture like parasitical swindlers, the less said about that experience the better! “Select” photos of the bird sanctuary (including the odd iguana) below.






On that last night we also took in some spectacular street dancers, Pacific coast influence with the African drums and dance moves – I especially liked the woman deeply immersed in her newspaper, more than the dancing – mind of her own!


After Cartagena the group splits, most of us head back to Bogota with onward journeys. I have decided to go to Cali to take in salsa, and have a brief respite on a coffee plantation. The next blog will cover both. Until then …

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