The Vallenato Festival is one of the most traditional and emblematic events in Colombian culture. The festival is centered around vallenato music and draws people together from every corner of the globe to celebrate the rhythm of vallenato music, during the last few days of April.
It is precisely vallenato music that sets the tone, a timeless musical genre that represents the diversity of the country because it comprises the distinct rhythms of the Caribbean region and is played with the accordion, the guacharaca and the drum; instruments that represent the blend of the indigenous, European and African cultures that are the foundation of every form of traditional artistic expression in Colombia.
First, a little context…
During the festival there are concerts on different stages, and parties and competitions for accordion players of all ages who are charged with keeping the tradition of vallenato music alive in Cesar and across the country.
At this year’s festival, which is the 50th, the contest between the accordion players to decide who will be crowned Vallenato King is special. To celebrate the anniversary of this tradition, the competitors will all be former Vallenato Kings, previous winners of the competition, and the overall winner will be crowned King of Kings.
If you want to join in the fun at this Colombian cultural festival and live this experience to the max, here are some tips so that as well as enjoying the city and its vallenato music, you will experience the true spirit of Colombians.
If you go to the Vallenato Legend Festival you need to get your experience off on the right foot and seeing the most important dance competition in the area is a great way to begin.
If you have the chance to see the piloneras parade that opens the festival, you won’t just enjoy a dance show that has brought color, joyful music and talented dancers of all ages to the Vallenato Festival for 20 years, you’ll also appreciate a tradition that celebrates of all of Colombia’s women workers.
Recommendation: Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes so you can walk the entire route and be prepared to practice a few dance steps if the music and festive atmosphere prevails upon you to dance.
An afternoon at the accordion museum
One of the best ways to enjoy vallenato is to know its origins through its history and that’s why it’s worth visiting the home of Beto Murgas, a composer who has turned his house into a museum celebrating the very best of this Colombian musical genre.
The experience begins with a warm welcome from Beto Murgas and his wife who personally receive all visitors in their home to take them on a tour through the history of the accordion, a leading instrument in the region for its representation of the tradition of vallenato music.
In this musical house you can follow the accordion’s evolution and learn about vallenato’s most famous juglares, those singers, musicians and composers who tell the stories of their lives through their songs, accompanied by the sound of the accordion, and who have kept the vallenato tradition alive through the decades.
Recommendation: The museum is open Monday to Friday, from 8am to midday and from 2pm to 5pm, and Saturdays from 9am to midday. If you are interested in learning more about vallenato’s origins you can also visit Turco Gil’s vallenato music academy. Turco Gil is another musician preserving the vallenato tradition by teaching the art of the genre to children and young people and keeping it alive through the generations.
Dance the night away at a vallenato parranda
Colombia’s Caribbean coast is famous for its lively atmosphere where parties always takes center stage and, of course, the Vallenato Festival is no exception.
It is thanks to the festive spirit of Colombia’s coastal people that, besides attending the festival’s official events, you must also experience a traditional vallenato parranda, or party, which will get everyone up dancing, whether in their home, a bar or the street.
You can experience a vallenato parranda in any of Valledupar’s nightclubs or hire a group of musicians to play live, which means you can have a party anywhere and put into practice the dance steps you have learned.
Recommendation: Ask a local about the average prices of musicians and drinks to ensure you receive a fair price and take the opportunity to consult those who are in the know when it comes to night spots and events held throughout the night to ensure you end up at a good party.
If you would like more information about the Vallenato Festival and recommendations for enjoying your trip to Valledupar to the max, read our article:
The Vallenato Legend Festival in Valledupar, the music does not stop