Even though Vallenato has always enjoyed enormous popularity in Colombia, the world has been only exposed to this vibrant rhythm for about two decades. In fact, the first international audience for Vallenato came with the music that the charismatic singer Carlos Vives produced back in the early 1990s. From Los Diablitos' "Los Caminos De La Vida" to Carlos Vives' "La Gota Fria," the following are some of most popular vallenatos ever produced in history.
The song "Los Caminos De La Vida" is a Vallenato song that belongs to the modern romantic style of this genre. Since its inception in 1983, the group Los Diablitos has been one of the most important names of romantic Vallenato in Colombia. This track has been one of the most popular vallenatos ever produced by this group.
Los Hermanos Zuleta (The Zuleta brothers) have been producing vallenatos since 1969. Their father was the famous Vallenato composer Emiliano Zuleta who wrote the single "La Gota Fria," the most popular Vallenato song in the world. "La Espinita," which is one of their most enduring songs, moves between the classic and modern versions of Vallenato. The solo of accordion is plain fantastic and creates a very nice transition between the different segments of this song. This is one of my favorite vallenatos of all time.
This has been one of the most popular Vallenato songs ever produced. To a big extent, the lyrics of this song are responsible for this popularity. "El Santo Cachon" is a hillarious song that deals with the story of someone who has been cheated on. This is by far the most popular single ever produced by Los Embajadores Vallenatos.
Otto Serge and Rafael Ricardo were among the pioneers of romantic Vallenato. Their elegant style allowed this legendary duo to capture audiences all over Colombia helping to introduce Vallenato to the interior part of the country. Although "El Mochuelo" is not the typical romantic Vallenato song, this single offers all the unique style that defined the career of the legendary Vallenato duo.
El Binomio de Oro is an authentic legend in Vallenato music. The original group was formed in 1976 by Rafael Orozco (lead singer) and Ismael Romero (accordionist). El Binomio de Oro played an important role in the transformation of Vallenato into a mainstream phenomenon in Colombia. After the assassination of Rafael Orozco, the group changed its name to El Binomio de Oro de America. From the 1980 album Clase Aparte, "Dime Pajarito" is one of the most beautiful vallenatos ever written.
Patricia Teheran's tragic death when she was only 25 years of age, elevated this Colombian singer to the status of Goddess of Vallenato. Besides her very nice voice, Patricia was also a talented musician who knew how to play clarinet and accordion. "Tarde Lo Conoci" (I Met You Late) is a timeless Vallenato song that tells the story of a woman who falls in love with the wrong man.
Jorge Celedon is one of today's most popular Vallenato artists. He was a lead singer of the Binomio de Oro after the death of Rafael Orozco. After spending some time with this group, he moved with success into a solo career. With "Esta Vida," a very uplifting song that talks about the good things in life, Jorge Celedon became a huge star not only for Vallenato but for Colombian music as a whole.
Although Carlos Vives is the most popular Vallenato singer in the world, the true king of this genre is Diomedes Diaz. This singer represents everything Vallenato is all about. If you want to get a feeling for real Vallenato, you have to listen to the songs of Diomedes Diaz. "Sin Medir Distancias" is one of the best vallenatos in history… if not the best one.
Rafael Escalona is usually considered the father of Vallenato and one of the best songwriters in the history of the rhythm. He is the author of some of the most popular vallenatos in history including songs like "La Casa En El Aire," "La Custodia de Badillo" and "El Testamento". If you want to discover the original sound of Vallenato, which was softer than later expressions of the rhythm, you have to get your hands on the stuff that produced Rafael Escalona.
Thanks to Carlos Vives, Vallenato music moved beyond the Colombian borders. Without sacrificing the original sound of Vallenato, this charismatic singer and actor added a new sound to this rhythm transforming it into an authentic mainstream phenomenon. If we could define Colombia by one song, the answer will probably be "La Gota Fria". Because of his contribution to Vallenato and Colombian folklore, Carlos Vives is one of the most influential Colombian artists in history.