Kuzumbo records got started in Brooklyn back in 2018 during a record cleaning session after a trip to La Feria de Cali. I had returned with a bag full of LP’s full of Colombian music, Salsa, and other Tropical sounds, all in great shape, a little dirty but nothing a little water/vinegar/alcohol/soap mix couldn’t get out. I would clean each record one by one, taking a closer look at these finds, finally able to look at the details on the covers, the credits, the labels, etc. I listed a few of these and opened up the online store. I ended up falling in love with these records and took them off the market. Instead, I decided to create T-shirts and other merch based on the music and designs found on these LPs and 45s I was bringing home.
I have been record hunting in Cali a few times before and now I have a decent idea of the kinds of things you find. LOTS of Salsa and the wide umbrella this definitions cast over many genres that predate the term, Afro Antillan rhythms as it is referred to in Cali by people selling music. The main area to look for records in Cali is in El Centro. Pro tip: when looking for records in a new city, look for the people selling books, they can usually point you in the right direction. Libreria Atenas and Libreria Atlas are good starting points when visiting La Sultana del Valle in search of records.
Cali is still a strong trench in the musical battle against full digitalization. A hot city in the Cauca Valley near the Pacific coast of Colombia where salsa is life, and I mean that. Melomanos and Record Auditions keep the vinyl scene active, alive and competitive. Record Auditions or “Audiciones” are Bring-Your-Own-Vinyl meetups where people share music with a presentation about the song, the album, the production and other relevant information. There is usually a theme to each auditions, from a specific artist to a certain place. There are lots of cultural projects in Cali’s that revolve around it's musical history and heritage. There is plenty of digging and researching to be made through the record stacks in Cali's record shops and sellers. I came looking for those documents that tell the story of this Cali.
Orlay - Su Artista Favorito
I landed in Cali on a Tuesday night. By Wednesday noon I was visiting Orlay’s cart, Su Artista Favorito. He parks his cart every weekday morning right by the Old Telecom building, now Movistar, by La Plazoleta de San Francisco.
I met Orlay a few years back at a Encuentro de Melomanos y Coleccionistas, a record fair held during la Feria de Cali. His cart was the last stand in a row of vendors with designated spaces, some with thousands of records for sale, some with different types of merch, even some radio stations transmitting the event to the rest of the world. Orlay’s cart stood out to me for its uniqueness, a blue 2 meter high structure made of aluminum and wood on top of 4 wheels. The sides had hand painted letters on the side. Once I started to look a bit closer I saw things that made me realize I had found what I was looking for. While other vendors were super focused on selling hard core salsa, things from Cotique, Fania, Vaya, and other American and Cuban labels. Orlay had the things I was in Colombia for, Colombian music.
His cart has 3 rows of about 100 records each, he places the things he is recommending that day on the front of these and a second feature hangin sandwiched halfway in the row. He also has more music inside the cart's storage all worth taking a look. The first record I chose from his stock was an Angel Canales album he was featuring. I told him I was on the lookout for music from Grupo Niche and Nelson y sus Estrellas and he started to pull out what he could find. From flipping through the rows of music I found other stuff I was interested in. Tito Rojas, Paquito Guzman, Jerry Rivera and other Salsa Rosa stuff was welcomed to my stash. Orlays selection is pretty varied for the limited stock he has on him. From ABBA to Rancheras, Tango to Melomerengues. He has a soft spot for Toña la Negra and Eleonor Gonzales Mina and is always ready to share a story or two.
Location: Movistar Building
Notable finds: Grupo Bronko, Tito Rojas, Sirena Label Salsa Compilation
I ended up at Librería Atlas following a hot tip from local DJ Poncho Collazos. “Look for the book store by El Viajero hostel, it's a small garage that recently started selling records.” I had gone out for a morning walk around San Antonio, and stumbled upon the street where this place was located. When I got there, there was a little impromptu listening session going on. Some city workers were there for some sort of official business, but were taking a break and listening to some tunes. One guy would request something and the lady taking care of the place would play it. I started to go through the outermost row records and I noticed most didn’t have a price. It was mostly compilation albums, records produced by companies as promotional items for end of year celebrations or to give as gifts. These are usually looked down upon the collector world
After browsing a bit I asked “Soooo, what's up with the price on these records?”
“It’s on the back” she replied,
“Ummm I don’t see anything,” she came by and noticed I was going through the stack of random compilations stuff.
“Oh, those are all mil pesos.”
“Nice!” I said to myself. I love going through those compilations cause you are bound to find interesting stuff. I got stuff from Poultry companies, radio station’s best of the year selections, and other compilations that seemed interesting. When I started to look through the 45s I realized I knew this place, it was a Libreria Atlas. They have another store in El Centro, and it's where I have purchased lots of 45s in the past. The ones here weren’t in great shape so I didn't grab many singles this time around.
Location: Calle 4ta and Carrera 5
Notable finds: El Lobo by Alfredo Gutierrez (Maxi 45), Eleonor Gonzales Mina, Compilation with Fly Robin Fly
Mr. Oscar Bonilla is a character straight out of Cali's magic realism. The first time I knocked on this door asking for records he was not in the best of moods. I stood on the other side of his tall white rod fence that protected the house. He was standing from his window shirtless asking what I wanted. “I noticed you have a sign outside that says you buy records, do you by any chance also sell them?” “Sure, yeah yeah I do. I don’t have much right now but you are welcome to come in and take a look.” That day, I ended up with a bag full of singles for all the money I had in my wallet that day (it wasn’t much).
This time around he had moved the records to another room. To access it, he had to move a small fridge that was blocking the door. Once in there, the familiar smell of dust and moldy cardboard made me feel warm and fuzzy. He has long rows of records on the floor, a stand full of LPs, a bathroom with columns that I didn’t even touch, "There is good stuff in there," he said "I gotta sort through it, it's from a Viejoteca that closed recently."
It was around 3 PM when I went in there. I had been walking the hot streets of Cali all afternoon and was sweating like crazy in that room. I went through the rows that were on the floor and pulled out a lot of salsa compilation with interesting covers. I usually look for funny illustrations, interesting typographic treatments. Pretty girls are also good leads. I got 3 from the series La Salsa es mi Ley (Salsa is my law) featuring a Rambo painting on the cover. I ended with a varied selection of Salsa, some new some old, some of it sped up Cali style. I walked out of Mr Bonilla's place with about 60 LPs, he was out of 45s this time around.
Location: Calle 5ta and Carrera 17
Notable Finds: Pachanga Fiesta Voy
This trip to Cali was very much a search into it's musical history and tradition. I was looking for things that defined the sound of the city through the decades. I ended up learning about these characters and places that are still moving music in this city. A place still to be further explored, a wild musical landscape full of forgotten treasures.