A Music Lover's Guide to Bogota

Live music in Bogota
Live music in Bogota | © Esteman. / Flickr
Chris Bell

The Colombian capital of Bogota is a hive of creativity: from incredible street-art to huge annual theatre and book festivals, Bogota is the Colombian capital of culture. When it comes to music things are no different; Bogota has an amazing wealth of live music venues, local bands, and record stores to satisfy even the most music-obsessed visitor. So here’s how to make the most of Bogota as a music lover.

Bands

The Bogota music scene is more varied and diverse than ever before, with a multitude of exciting new bands and record labels putting out new music seemingly every week, and more than enough interesting live shows to please even the pickiest music fan. If you’re visiting Bogota as a music lover, then make sure to seek out some of these diverse artists and see if they happen to be playing during your time in the city.

Kids practicing cumbia music in Bogota

Many of Bogota’s best and most creative artists regularly play on each other’s records and form new bands together: the artistic triangle of Eblis Alvarez, Pedro Ojeda, and Mario Galeano between them make up some or all of the members of Los Piranas, Meridian Brothers, Romperayo, Frente Cumbiero, and Chupame El Dedo. If you see any of these bands listed on your trip to Bogota, then you’re definitely in for a great night of live music! Likewise, keep an eye out for shows by Ghetto Kumbe, Chongo de Colombia, La Tromba Bacalao, La Sonora Mazuren, YOPO, La BOA, Kokodrilo, Mucho Indio, Edson Velandia, El Leon Pardo, and many more of Colombia’s best bands.

The best venues for live alternative music in Bogota are clustered around the Chapinero neighbourhood and, although there has been a concerted effort by the new mayoral administration to shut down many live music venues, there are many excellent spots still putting on interesting concerts every weekend (and often during the week too). The most important venue in Bogota’s live music scene is undoubtedly Matik-Matik, a small bar which has been putting on gigs for 10 years now. Matik has hosted classic shows by every alternative band going and offers a space for the most experimental artists in the country to perform. Los Piranas’ classic debut record Toma su jabon Kapax was even recorded live in Matik during a show there.
Other top venues for alternative artists include Boogaloop, Latino Power, and Armando Records (a more upmarket venue, but one which commonly hosts popular international bands). Check out the listings for any of these clubs – particularly on the weekend – and you’re bound to find something interesting. Alternatively, just turn up: there’s so much fascinating experimentation going on in Bogota’s music scene that there is always a unique concert happening.

For fans of electronic music, there are still plenty of excellent clubs where you can enjoy sets by the best national and international DJs every weekend. The pick of the litter is Video Club in Chapinero and Baum, a well-established venue beloved by Bogota’s young, hip crowd. Both these clubs are always putting on interesting and popular nights with the most cutting-edge DJs, not just in Colombia but worldwide.

Festivals

Bogota also plays hosts to some of Colombia’s best live music festivals. The most famous are the ‘Al Parque’ festivals: a series of free festivals in Simon Bolivar Park each dedicated to a unique musical genre. Rock Al Parque, Salsa Al Parque, Jazz Al Parque, Hip-hop Al Parque, and Colombia Al Parque (which is dedicated to Colombian folk music) are all excellent ways to enjoy the festival experience in Bogota, as well as the cream of local and international artists.

Rock al Parque Festival

For those looking for a greater mix of Colombian and international bands, there are also several more contemporary music festivals to enjoy: Estereo Picnic brings together a great collection of world famous bands (Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Strokes, The Killers, and many more have graced the stage) and new Colombian acts. Likewise, Baum Fest celebrates the best electronic acts in a festival which always proves hugely popular in Bogota.

If you’re looking for a more Colombian musical experience, then don’t miss Festival Centro, a festival celebrated every January in various live music venues in La Candelaria neighbourhood. This festival brings together a fascinating mix of iconic Latin American artists with the new generation.

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