5 music artists to connect with Bolivia’s culture

by Daniel Alexander

Chila Jatun featured on the Amizade blog

This blog post is part of a series called 5 picks in which we pick music artists, movies, books, and other items to help you connect with different cultures. In this post, we talk about Bolivia’s music artists!

Before continuing with our series, which successfully kicked off with some Brazilian music and movies a few months ago, Amizade wants to share a few curiosities about our next highlight: Bolivia.

Some in our network might already know this. Still, if you don’t, we’ve been working in “the Tibet of the Americas” for over 20 years, with our beloved Jean Carla Costas holding the title of site director for almost the entire time. Although the beautiful La Paz is a popular destination among travelers in South America, our hearts fell in love with the charming Cochabamba, also known as the City of Eternal Spring, given its spring temperatures all year round. The city is also known for being a gastronomical paradise for both locals and visitors. That’s where we established meaningful community partnerships with organizations such as the CEOLI Foundation and Agroflori, and that’s where Amizade participants get to immerse themselves in the colorful Bolivian culture and traditions.

Speaking of colors and arts,  let’s talk about Bolivian music! Bolivian music immediately grabs the listener’s attention due to its uniqueness and authenticity. You can hear the drums, guitars, and bass played creatively in many different genres, but traditional Bolivian (and other South American) musical instruments are the highlights here. Have you ever heard of charango? What about ronroco, quena, reco reco, and tarka? That’s only a few to list here out of many others. Music plays an important role in representing the diversity in Bolivia, especially the Indigenous groups. 

Selecting five artists to connect you with Bolivia’s culture is not an easy task. To help us with that, we invited Amizade community partner and former youth ambassador Adri Navid to scroll through her playlist and pick artists that best represent the country. Here are Adri’s top five.

Los Kjarkas

One of the most known music groups from Bolivia, Los Kjarkas has been on the road for a while, with their first album being released in 1976. The group had different band members throughout the years, including a member who in 2010 became the mayor of Cochabamba. If by any chance you’ve heard Jennifer Lopez’s song “On The Floor,” get to know that the song’s original melody belongs to Los Kjarkas’s hit “Llorando Se Fue.” 

Kala Marka

From La Paz, Kala Marka officially started their career in 1984, and is considered one of the best folkloric music groups in the country. The group calls themselves a successful identity project in a contemporary world, especially for carrying their Bolivian identity within their songs and on their vests. Kala Marka is a good example of how traditional instruments are mixed with contemporary rhythms. In 2016, the United Nations nominated the group as the Ambassadors of Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia. 

Guisela Santa Cruz

For those who like love ballads, Guisela Santa Cruz blends the rich Bolivian folklore into melodic pop songs. She may not be quite as well known as some of the artists on this list, but her powerful voice puts Guisela on a different level. The talent of this native of Santa Cruz de la Sierra is recognized by fans in South America, Asia, and Europe, where she is hugely popular.

Dalmiro Cuéllar

Native from Tarija, Dalmiro Cuellar is a “gaucho” by nature. He always performs dressed in his Bolivian cowboy vest which is commonly seen in some regions of Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. The combination of typical clothing and a tenor voice give Dalmiro his signature style adored by many of his fans. 

Chila Jatun

The apple never falls far from the tree. We’re saying this because Chila Jatun members are sons and nephews of Los Kjarkas members, and are considered the next generation of Bolivian musicians. Their music not only highlights the beautiful folklore of Bolivia but also addresses the social injustices faced by people in their country. 

We hope that you enjoy the artists in this list. If you have any other suggestions for our team and participants, please share them with us on Amizade’s Instagram where we often talk about music from our sites. A huge thank you to our former youth ambassador Adri Navid who volunteered to help to sort out music artists. We’re proud to see that Adri is becoming a social media influencer in her community and is proudly promoting Bolivia’s a culture in other countries too. Follow her on Instagram and Tik Tok.

Last but not least: we offer in-person and virtual global service-learning programs with our partners in Bolivia. Find out more about opportunities here. ¡Hasta la próxima!