The Red Bulletin_1010_UK

Page 95

Photography: Yev Kazannik (1), Getty Images (2). Illustration: Mandy Fischer

DJ and producer Isa GT transforms traditional Cumbia music for the 21st century. The Colombian takes us on a foray into the black markets and late nights of her home town “Papaya puesta, papaya partida”: a Colombian saying you should commit to memory before visiting Medellín. It means, “If papaya’s on offer, we’ll eat it.” Or, in other words, if you’re going downtown, you’re better off leaving your jewellery at home. And don’t be surprised if you lose it if you don’t. But you shouldn’t be afraid either; my home city’s not nearly as dangerous as it once was. Ten years ago, nobody wanted to come to Medellín because they were afraid they’d be kidnapped. That’s when I got myself a second home in London. But for a while now I’ve noticed that the longer I stay, the safer and more international the city is becoming, thanks to burgeoning tourism. The best thing about Medellín is the ubiquitous love of music that you find on every street corner. Cumbia is a music genre that was born in Colombia and has just been rediscovered by my generation. It’s also had new life breathed into it with electronic beats. There’s salsa, which you can carouse to every night at El Tíbiri (2). Or tango. It’s particularly popular in Medellín because Carlos Gardel [the legendary Argentinian tango crooner] died here. The Casa Gardeliana, a museum and bar with Gardel memorabilia on Carrera 45, was opened in his honour. But you’ll find tango trios on every street corner. Music is usually played outdoors here. The club scene is really snobby, but I can recommend El Cuchitril (1), a small place where I often perform and that lives up to its name (it means the dive) in the most charming way possible. Lots of Medellín streets shut down at weekends. People play football, cook sancocho – a soup made with sweetcorn, potatoes and plantain – in huge pots, and play music. It might be vallenato, merengue or salsa… Or they go to the park in El

Isa GT made her name with a new take on traditional music











The Cumbia Cartel

ISA GT Medellín

Calle 4

Resident Artist


34 The Gardeliana Museum (top); the best city views are from Las Palmas

le 1


1 El Cuchitril, Detrás de la Virgen 2 El Tibiri, Carrera 70/Calle 44 3 Mondongo’s, Carretera 70 N C3-43 4 Bar Los Saldarriaga, El Poblado Park 5 El Hueco, Carrera 53/Ayacucho

1. El Cuchitril 2. El Tibiri 3. Mondongo’s 4. Bar Los Saldarr 5. El Hueco

Poblado. It’s nothing special, just a big square with trees. But it’s where youngsters in Medellín get together at night. In one corner there’s a bar called Los Saldarriaga (4), named after the family that lives in the house it’s in. They just used to sell cans of beer out the window, but now you can hang out on the terrace till the early hours. On the way home, we go for a snack at one of the food stalls in El Poblado park: a hot dog. But this is a Colombian hot dog with crisps and pineapple. Colombians love sweet and sour. Another traditional dish I love is mondongo and the best is served at a restaurant of the same name (3). It’s a meat soup with coriander and lots of vegetables. You get the best view of Medellín from a viewing platform in Las Palmas on a hill in the south of the city. It’s wonderful, especially at sunset. You look at the

mountains all around you and the valley in among them with the city at your feet. It’s where the video for my song ‘Pela’o’ was shot. I make a lot of the clothes I wear for my gigs myself. When I studied fashion in Medellín, I spent a lot of time at El Hueco (5) [the hollow]. It’s a huge street market where I used to buy materials. San Andresito is another market, where fake brands are smuggled to the mainland. There’ll always be dodgy businesses. I’m amazed at the showy cars and flashy shopping centres downtown. There’s a mall on Avenida El Poblado, the most expensive real estate in the city, which is a building site because the Mafioso who wanted it built ended up in prison. But no one dares demolish the building site. That’s Medellín for you.

Isa GT: Pa´Chikirri (Man Recordings); currently touring Europe with the Girlcore DJ collective