Song You Need To Know: Kevin Florez and Captain Planet, 'Borracho Bailando Champeta'

Seconds into the video for “Borracho Bailando Champeta,” the singer Kevin Florez walks by a neon-bright pico, the booming sound systems known for roaring out Afro-Colombian melodies at dance parties in predominantly Black communities across Colombia’s Caribbean coasts. These iridescent selectors have been called the “radio stations of champeta,” a genre that’s deeply rooted in African music traditions and originated in the Palenque region around the 1960s and 1970s — and the sound that Florez and the producer Captain Planet proudly highlight on “Borracho Bailando Champeta.”

Florez, who grew up in Cartagena, has been an ambassador of champeta for decades, often fusing it with modern hip-hop influences to create what he’s dubbed as his signature blend of “champeta urbana.” On “Borracho Bailando Champeta,” he and Captain Planet employ sunny, prickling guitars to capture champeta at its most carefree, celebrating the layered world influences embedded deep in the music: Touches of soca, dancehall, and highlife, as well as Colombian folk rhythms like cumbia and bullerengue.

Florez says that as soon as Captain Planet sent him the effusive instrumental, he knew he wanted to record it. “Suddenly I said, let’s make it different by putting international sounds in the mix, so ‘Borracho Bailando Champeta’ is a global champeta,” he tells Rolling Stone.

There’s a throwback quality to the track as well, which the pair nod to in the video by recreating a party in a smoky Nigerian pool hall from the Seventies. Florez’s voice is smooth and sonorous as he sings about happily imbibing and losing himself in the boozy buoyancy of dancing to champeta. The track’s gleeful, convivial spirit reflects the urge to break out of the restrictive pandemic era during which it was made.

“We made this song during a year when it was basically impossible to come together and dance, but maybe that absence helped us see clearly just how important that part of our lives is,” Captain Planet says. Beyond inspiring people to find euphoria on the dance floor, “Borracho Bailando Champeta” is a testament to just how much champeta hooks listeners in and leaves them wanting more.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.

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