When Brasil inched Colombia out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, salsa lovers were left with a sweet consolation prize: The introduction to the latest dance craze, “salsa choke.” This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, and dancers in tune with Colombia’s unique moves were already well acquainted. However, with each Colombian goal scored, the team and fans showcased their own spin on salsa that took the world by storm. It was a little different than the salsa everyone knew, and fans began clamoring for more information. It was actually “salsa choke” (or SalsaChoke), which was born in Cali, Colombia, which is also the birthplace of salsa dancing.
Salsa choke is a uniquely Colombian rhythm that skyrocketed to (local) popularity circa 2008. It has obviously strong salsa roots, but also mixes in reggaeton, electronica, house music and urban vibes. Most of the salsa choke music has thick computer generated sounds, featuring salsa rhythm loops as a foundation. Usually, lyrics are easy and dished up with a heavily seasoned urban style. It’s no surprise that salsa choke music has been wildly popular, with the lyrics easy to remember, addictive and repetitive. It’s a common recipe for commercial musical success across all genres.
A New Generation of Salsa Dancers
Thanks to the slightly hip hop infusion of salsa choke, the dancing that evolved along with it also got a little more urban. “Choke” translates to “bump” in Spanish, and SalsaChoke literally means “Salsa bump.” It marries the bump and grind style of dancing with traditional salsa moves, bringing dancers closer and igniting a new level of passion. Simultaneously, the one on one style of salsa choke split into more of a group dynamic. Now, SalsaChoke can mean either a closer, “dirtier” form of dancing as well as a type of group line dance. The moves, much like the Cupid Shuffle or even Electric Slide, are well-known and gets everyone on the dance floor.
At the Brasil World Cup, the Colombian team showcased a common type of SalsaChoke in their team dance. Lining up and dancing side by side to celebrate each goal, while fans followed suit in the stadiums and in living rooms around the world, the era of SalsaChoke spread from Colombia and Brasil to around the world. Now, you can find some examples of SalsaChoke in Latin clubs globally, although it remains most popular in Colombia.
SalsaChoke boils down to being an easier to follow dance than classical salsa, and you don’t need a partner. Just about anyone can do it, and you don’t need to be well-versed in how to lead or follow to participate. It’s no wonder it became a club sensation, especially with those urban lyrics and electric rhythms that draw in younger dancers. For some, SalsaChoke is Salsa 2.0, and younger crowds have claimed it as their own in some Cali clubs.
However, no new sensation is complete without a smattering of controversy. Traditional salsa dancers and musicians sometimes say that SalsaChoke isn’t really salsa, and it’s not a genre of salsa either. Just because it has salsa rhythm roots, that doesn’t make it salsa. Some hardcore salsa traditionalists have even claimed that SalsaChoke “stole” the salsa name in order to be more recognizable. Maybe it’s a brand new musical genre altogether, perhaps it’s a sub-genre, or (more likely) it just depends on who you ask. It might be a passing fad, or it might be here to stick.
There are also a few nay-sayers who complain that SalsaChoke might cause the demise of “real” salsa music. Due to the electronic music and very accessible lyrics, does this mean traditional salsa will degrade? Some are worried about this possibility, while others say SalsaChoke will only benefit salsa in Colombia. Already, there’s some concern over reggaeton and bachata overtaking traditional salsa.
Get Your SalsaChoke On
If you’re interested in learning more about SalsaChoke, check out some of the music online. You might find that it’s just your style! Popular musicians include Edwin Klinger, DJ Darlyn, and Ley Brown. Some even say that Pitbull’s innovative style is an early version of SalsaChoke. You’ll also find some great examples of hardcore SalsaChoke dancing on YouTube.
There will always be some push back when a beloved style of music or dance is “threatened” by a younger newcomer. Only you can decide if SalsaChoke features a beat and dance that draws you close, and it’s worth looking into. Maybe you’ll fall in love with it—or maybe you’ll be reminded why you’ll always be a traditional salsa lover.