TRAVEL

Most vis­i­tors skip Bo­gota, but time spent in the city means dis­cov­er­ing one of the best mu­sic and nightlife scenes in Latin Amer­ica

Friday - - Contents -

Bo­gota is emerg­ing as a travel des­ti­na­tion in its own right – with a thriv­ing mu­sic and nightlife scene.

Bowl­ing al­leys will never seem the same once you’ve been to Colom­bia and played tejo. Here’s how this lit­tle-known Colom­bian sport works: you throw a lump of metal – it looks like a squashed ver­sion of what shot­put­ters throw – down what looks like a bowl­ing lane, aim­ing for a far-off sand­pit. If you hit the right spot, bam! There’s a crackle of ex­plo­sives, a cheer and a clink of glasses.

I ex­pe­ri­enced my first tejo game on a trip to Bo­gota, af­ter call­ing on An­drés Martinez, a mu­si­cian with elec­tro-cumbia band Monareta, to show me some high­lights of his home­town. It turned out to be one of the best nights I have ever had in an un­known city.

We jumped from the gritty tejo courts to hip record bars , base­ment restaurants and a wild club. I knew then the city had me un­der its spell.

For most for­eign­ers vis­it­ing Colom­bia, Bo­gota is typ­i­cally cast as a sup­port­ing ac­tor, rather than the coun­try’s star. It is the cap­i­tal, trans­port hub, and a gate­way to more ex­otic des­ti­na­tions: the Caribbean coast, the wilds of the Ama­zon, pic­ture-per­fect Carta­gena and balmy Medellin.

Some over­seas vis­i­tors stay in the cap­i­tal only for one night. They tick off the gold mu­seum, take a ca­ble car to en­joy

the views from the top of Mount Mon­ser­rate, and then move swiftly on.

Per­haps that’s fair enough. Not ev­ery­one wants to spend time in a traf­fic-choked, cli­mat­i­cally chal­lenged city of eight mil­lion peo­ple. And it must be said that, at 2,640 me­tres above sea level, this An­dean metropo­lis is no stranger to fog and rain.

How­ever, for those who thrive on big cities and cul­tural high­lights, time here is richly re­warded. By day, it’s fun to chain-drink tin­tos (small black cof­fees) in cafes around colo­nial La Can­de­laria and hip­ster-friendly Chap­inero. By night, the restaurants of Zona G and Zona Rosa are the pre­lude to a thor­ough im­mer­sion in one of the coolest mu­sic scenes on the con­ti­nent.

The coun­try has been fus­ing its tra­di­tional trop­i­cal sounds with cumbia rhythms and elec­tron­ica for some time now, but, as An­drés told me on my re­cent re­turn visit, it’s now reach­ing ‘boil­ing point’. Renowned for be­ing re­cep­tive and ex­per­i­men­tal, the cap­i­tal has be­come a test­ing ground for Latin mu­si­cians.

The COUN­TRY has been fus­ing its TRA­DI­TIONAL trop­i­cal sounds with CUMBIA rhythms and ELEC­TRON­ICA for some time now, but, as An­drés told me re­cently, it’s now reach­ing ‘BOIL­ING POINT’

If you can make your sound work here, it can be a spring­board for wider things, even the cov­eted US mar­ket. RPM Records (Car­rera 14 #83-4), a gig venue-cum-record store, is a good place for an in­duc­tion into the lat­est bands, as is Ar­mando Records (Calle 85, 14-46), a DJ bar that has proved so pop­u­lar it is reproduced across town and even has a new palm-dot­ted out­post in Mi­ami.

The orig­i­nal venue is still the best, though. Be­hind a mod­est, slightly ram­shackle ex­te­rior is a mul­ti­lay­ered mu­si­cal labyrinth, capped with buzzing roof ter­race.

‘The thing I love about the mu­sic in Bo­gota is the crossovers,’ said Pamela Ospina, a Colom­bian mu­si­cian who di­vides her time be­tween the cap­i­tal and Medellin. She also of­fered to show me some city hotspots. ‘There are so many mu­si­cal in­flu­ences here - salsa, rock, cumbia - and we’re get­ting more and more over­seas bands com­ing,’ she said.

At the height of the coun­try’s civil war, very few in­ter­na­tional artists vis­ited; but things have been slowly open­ing up over the past decade, and the newly signed peace treaty is boost­ing con­fi­dence.

Pamela and I met up in Tr­ef­fen (Car­rera 7, 56-17), a base­ment club that’s an ex­plo­sion of pri­mary colours and has seats made from old train benches. At the week­ends it’s so busy that turn­stiles fil­ter in the par­ty­go­ers, but it was quiet early on a week­day, al­low­ing us to

talk over the mu­sic while shar­ing a plate of pat­a­cones (fried plan­tain).

Pamela is a cre­ative pow­er­house. She grew up in Canada af­ter her par­ents em­i­grated, but later re­turned to Colom­bia, and now seems to be seiz­ing every op­por­tu­nity the coun­try can of­fer: when she is not play­ing the drums or writ­ing songs, she is a ra­dio host and a stand-up co­me­dian.

Pamela also took me to Hip­pie (Calle 56, 415), a cosy res­tau­rant that felt like some­one’s house, both out­side and in. Typ­i­cal dishes in­cluded fish with chon­taduro (peach palm fruit) puree, or prawns and mango viche (an un­ripe ver­sion of the fruit that is usu­ally served as a savoury street food). We fin­ished our night at nearby Salvo Pa­tria (Calle 54a, 4-13), an­other suc­cess story which has moved to a big­ger lo­ca­tion to keep up with de­mand.

We said our good­byes on the pave­ment out­side, as it started to driz­zle. From T-shirt weather to tor­ren­tial storms, I had ex­pe­ri­enced every sea­son that day, in typ­i­cal Bo­gota style.

With stand-up com­edy on my mind, I thought back to some­thing Billy Con­nolly once said: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. So get your­self a sexy rain­coat and live a lit­tle.’

I can’t think of any­where bet­ter to live out that ad­vice than Bo­gota.

68 From spec­tac­u­lar views of moun­tains to the coolest mu­sic scenes to yummy street food – Bo­gota has it all

Tra­di­tion and moder­nity ex­ist com­fort­ably in Bo­gota

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