Salsa Capital of The World An auralgraph from Cali, Colombia.


Downtown Kali.

It is usually spelled Cali but the vibe of the Hindu goddess is more powerful than the Inquisition itself in the capital of musical memory. Any ambient sound I record will have music with its roots in Africa. Every house and every corner of this city is filled with the Sunday melancholy we all try to avoid. From Miles Davis to Ruben Blades, from jazz to salsa, from the north to the south, reaching the blues in the depth of a tango, the drumming heart of those who were unjustifiably enslaved beats without a rest: “If the past does not forgive, cure yourself by crying…”

They are playing “El Pasado No Perdona” (The Past Doesn’t Forgive) by Ruben Blades.

I want to dance but I am by myself at the bar and it still feels a little weird: I just got divorced.

Somehow I feel freer and lighter than I have in years.

Auralgraph: Salsa Capital Of The World, Cali, Colombia, 2022. © Laura Sotelo.


I live in Cali, the salsa capital of the world.

Cali and salsa are two migrant female forces—mother and daughter—that magically came together in a story like this:

Salsa was born in the New York of the 60s. She, who drives everyone crazy, is music that arises from the union of artists from the Antilles, the north, centre, and south of the American continent. It is discovery, fusion, ancestry and virtuosity; it is the voice found in Cali,the salsa capital of the world—that female force that already listened and danced to boleros, tangos, guarachas, waltzes, criollas, corridos and cumbias; a mother that jealously cares for her children among records, salsa clubs, dancers, music lovers, collectors, musicians, and cultural managers. Although adoptive, the relationship between salsa and Cali is deep and complex.

Cali is also a migrant. They say that its name comes from the Paez word “caly”—weaving without needles; from the Nahuatl word “calli”—house; or from the indigenous tribe “Cali Cali” in Quito, Ecuador.

Remembering the words of an old wise man who lives on the hillside of the city, led me to Kali, a Hindu goddess who promotes destruction as a vital part of love.

“Kali means ‘black’. Her name appears to be a feminine version of the Sanskrit word kāla—darkness; it also means ‘black woman’.”

Muses, witches, or goddesses—Kali and salsa are women.

Everything makes sense.

Laura “Sumercé” Sotelo is a Colombian teacher. Her writings focus on the history of music and how it relates to people’s memories. She created the project Agúzate Cultura in 2018, a platform that promotes African-rooted music genres focusing on the role women play in them. She mixes music and patakis in Orisha Sessions on Mixcloud. She is currently conducting research on the presence of the Yoruba culture in Cali, Colombia.

Cover Image: Anette Bratteberg on Unsplash.