The sweaty salsa clubs of Cali, the jubilant accordions of vallenato or the hypnotic rhythms of cumbia are usually what comes to mind when thinking of Colombian music. If Medellín had its way, however, that would all change.
Tango has always been popular in the ‘City of Eternal Spring’, however its iconic status in the city was cemented in 1935 when, in a plane crash in Medellín, Carlos Gardel died. Among the rumours and controversy about where he was born (France, Argentina, Uruguay or even Colombia), the fact that he died in Medellín is crucial to locals. This gives them reason to celebrate his life, and the life of tango, and gives a certain amount of legitimacy to Medellín being claimed by some as the ‘Tango Capital of the World’.
Buenos Aires, we’re sure, begs to differ.
Nonetheless, it’s true to say that in Medellín you’ll hear a great deal of tango. Among the usual fixtures of Colombian radio, tango has found a way into the playlists. Not only that, but the city is home to many famous tango clubs which are famous for their strong traditions and dedication to the tango tradition.
One such club, and perhaps the most famous, is Salon Malaga. Open since 1957, it’s considered the center of tango in the city and is a must visit for any tango aficionados that travel to Medellín. There are plenty of other places to visit, however, including Casa Gardeliana. This is notable for being both a museum and cultural center dedicated to Carlos Gardel’s life.
But is Medellín the capital of tango? Certainly the tango you encounter feels less tourist-driven than in Buenos Aires, but whether that’s enough for the city to take the crown we’re not sure. We’ll let the paisas and porteños decide among themselves…