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Cartagena Colombian Music

Sheryl Lozano-Zahm; was born in Cartagena, Colombia, she is now a United

States Citizen. In 1963, she and her family moved from their lavish home in Cartagena,
and arrived in Miami, Florida. After a two week stay they moved to Manhattan, New
York. Sheryls family had left behind a life in which they had servants to take care of all
things domestic, such as: cleaning, cooking and daily up keep of the home. Sheryls
family came to the United States to gain a better education opportunity while her father
was deployed at sea with the Colombian Navy.

The first place they lived was in an efficiency apartment in Manhattan, New York,
with four apartments to one community bathroom. Sheryl attended a public school that
was far removed from the schooling style of her native Colombia. Some of the
differences were strict dress code enforcement and academic performance that were
standardized in all Colombian schools. Students were required to wear a uniform and
were expected to be prompt and well-mannered during class attendance. New York was
much more lenient in their policies for a dress code and academics, Sheryl elaborates on
how awful the attitudes and penmanship was among her fellow U.S. students.

Sheryl endured many cultural hardships as an immigrant when viewed by other

individuals from Latin based cultures. The Puerto Rican kids seemed to be the most
critical and liked to tease the Colombian kids, the African American kids (Black Kids)
beat up on kids like Sheryl and her sister for being of Latino descent.

Sheryl and her family returned to Colombia in 1969. Her parents had high hopes
of starting their own transportation business. Sheryl found that the idea of going home to
Colombia felt very refreshing and she was excited to return to the lifestyle that she left

Sheryl explained that the culture in Colombia had a strong matriarchal family
structure. The Catholic Church was very prominent and Holy Communion was a goal to
achieve among the youth. Life seemed more sheltered and no major life concerns at the
time she lived there. Sheryl says that there was a time that people would sell their teeth
for money. Although the Colombian peso was strong, there was clearly a large gap in
income between the lower and upper classes.

The 1970s gave rise to a very lucrative business opportunity in Colombia;

Cocaine production. Sales of this drug boomed in the early 1980s and along with the
cocaine industry, the birth of Cartels and the Drug Lords started to emerge in Colombia.
This was a time of great violence and war within the country of Colombia according to
the travel website, Lonely Planet, a company that is based on
fact checking on travel and the history of countries. The information is then published in
their travel guides and informational travel website.

As her parents business attempt failed, Sheryls mother had talked of returning to
the United States. She wanted to stay in Colombia and was considering attending
boarding school in Colombia to avoid spending her high school years in New York.

In 1972 Sheryl and her family returned to the United States. They moved into a
project housing development in Queens, New York. Sheryl attended 6th through 8th grade
and felt like she began to fit in better, she had made friends with other children living in
her apartment building and was viewed as equal. Sheryl believes that this is related to the

impoverished living state they all had in common. She remembers an incident at school
where Viet Nam war protesting was being exercised by middle school students in the
streets. All of her classmates were scared as profanities and shouting could be heard
inside her class room from the protesters on the street. The Viet Nam war was viewed as
the most unpopular war in the history of the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.

Sheryl moved back to Miami 1975 where she attended 9th through 12th grade. The
dominant culture in the area that she lived in was Jewish; this was much different from
her familys typical Catholic neighborhood. Cubans were the largest Latin community in
her town and so the music was very colorful and seemed to be a way of life for the
majority of the population living in the area. Salsa music and dancing became very
popular at this time, the night club and disco scene was very prominent and people
seemed to be happier with life in general. She remembers dancing and music being
played in the neighborhood streets; this seemed to be a regular nightly occurrence.
In 1979, Sheryl decided to enlist in the United States Air to get away from home.
She shipped out as soon as she graduated high school and was off to basic training in San
Antonio, Texas. She was 17 y/o when she enlisted without the approval or knowledge of
her father. He was stationed at sea with the US Merchant Marines.
Sheryl is now a United States Citizen and works as a nurse at the Department of
Veterans Affairs hospital. She is happily married to her husband and has four children,
one grandchild with one more on the way.
Music and tradition fuses together in Cartagena, Colombia, the songs and dances
tell stories of times when settlers from Spain came to the continent and brought along
slaves from Africa. There is a mix of cultures, along with different instrumental sounds
and styles of music.
The African influence in the music is clearly heard in the drums called the

tambora, tambor alegre and lamador, each have their own distinct pitch. In addition to the
drums, they use rattles called maracas and metal guaches, these are all played during the
traditional cumbia dance ritual.
The Spanish influence brings in other instruments such as different sized flutes.
Modern cumbia music has a larger variety of instruments: clarinets, accordions, trumpets,
trombones, bongos, pianos, guitars and voice. These Spanish versions are more of a
tributary to the folklore and celebration of the culture.

In the musical performance the cumbia, the women wear a very long dress that
has a pleated section and can be held up by their arms. The dress is fanned out as they
would turn their bodies back and forth. The men wear a hat that they take off and put
back on, imitating a gesture of salutations and introductions. There is also a scarf worn
around the waist that the men would take off and try to wrap around the women they are
courting during the dance.
The dance folklore of cumbia started with a slave that had an injury to his foot
from an ankle shackle that caused him to hobble around while dancing with his partner.
People perform the same hobble movement today to commemorate or sympathize for the
way he danced.
The cumbia dance dates back to the 17th century when Spain was settling the
Caribbean coast of Colombia. The word cumbia is descendant to the African word
cumbe which is the word for dance.
A typical example of traditional Colombian cumbia music is heard in a song
called La Pollera Colora this translates to: The colorful skirt in English.
Cumbia style and instrumental fusion can be heard by listening to songs arranged
by artists such as maestro Luis Enrique Martinez and a variety of Latin club deejays that
remix the traditional sounds with new dance, house and hip hop sounds.
Cumbia has been deemed the foundation sound and style of Latin based music
found in the United States. This is according to an article called Cumbia: The Musical

Backbone Of Latin America posted on the National Public Radio website:
In conclusion: Many sounds of todays music are influenced by the traditional
Afro Latin music that came about so long ago. The musical genres of merengue, salsa,
calypso and many other island styles have flourished and taken root in almost every
culture in society. People may not always agree on one particular style of music or song
that is played, but they have ancestral roots that take them back to the very foundations
that started with the basic sound of an instrument playing a set of tones which eventually
became known as music.
I found that studying this style of music known as the Cumbia has broadened my
range of listening and experiencing music. I have always been open to listening to new
music that isnt from my generation or culture and found that I really enjoy the
differences and begin to notice the similarities in all music.
I enjoyed experiencing Colombian cumbia and learning about the history and
culture behind it. The music is difficult to listen to without moving or tapping your feet to
the rhythm.

Reference Page

Historical Timeline of Colombia
Music Video
Cartagena | Colombia History
Cumbia | The Rhythm of Colombia
Cumbia: The Musical Backbone Of Latin America