Thursday, January 28, 2010

Diomedes Diaz, "El Lider"

Vallenato (along perhaps with Cumbia) is the most Colombian of all musical styles. Born in the town of Valledupar, Vallenato is mostly played in 2/4 time and prominently features the accordion. The best way to describe vallenato in the American and European context is that of folk music, but its popularity is extremely wide-ranging in Colombia and (these days) other countries as well. As such, it's more like Colombian pop music which everyone listens to, but it's well outside the confines of the pop tradition. When you get in a taxi, vallenato will be playing. When you go to a party, vallenatos will be played. At my sister's quinciañera party, the band played mostly vallenatos (okay and lots of merengue too). Even as a kid growing up, when I only wanted to listen to metal and punk rock, vallenato was as much a part of my life as Slayer. More than music, things like vallenato are simply part of Colombian culture to a degree that is difficult to explain, because it has no equal in the Euro-American mileu.

Ramon Hoyos

Now that I've tried to convey to you just how important and popular vallenato is in Colombia, I should tell you that the undisputed king of the musical style is Diomedes Diaz. I can't even begin to make a comparison in order to make you understand his reign over vallenato. He's it. He's the one. He's the only one. It's with that mind that I offer you this song, which may not be the greatest vallenato song ever...not even close...but it has the best lyrics of any vallenato. Ever. By the way, the musical style is called "vallenato", but so is a song in that musical style.

A little context: the song was recorded in 1987, the year that Lucho Herrera won the Vuelta a España.

Translation of the lyrics below. Note the references to Ramon Hoyos and Chochise.

The video below has been taken down. You can hear the song here.

Lyrics to "El Lider" (The Leader)

I'm so happy because Colombia
is about to enjoy a grand event

There's lots of pride, and great honor
which inspires me to sing (2x)

I'm talking about international cycling
Where Colombians, with great pride,
Show off their professional talents
To cyclists of all other nations

Because in Colombia, we're talking about pedaling
We're so good, that even Colombian cycling fans and amateurs
could compete easily with the world's best cyclists (2x)

Here comes the leader, across the finish line
Let's all get ready to clap and cheer with great fervor
So that all of Colombia can be moved with emotion
Because nothing can hold back our man, from being the Champion

Here comes the leader, so let's make room and clear out the road!

Back from the time of Ramon Hoyos,
To the great Cochise, World Champion!

We are Colombians, and we know
that no one can be as good as us (2x)
Because our cyclists will always understand
that they bring great honor to our beautiful country,
and no one can beat them when they ride
This is why they have reached international fame

If they ever got any better at climbing
They'll need wings so they can fly! (2x)

Here comes the leader, so let's make room and clear out the road!

Go young men! Go young Colombian men!
Keep pedaling, keep climbing those mountains!
Because you will bring victory to our Colombian lands

Here comes the race leader, he's the Champion
He's about to cross the finish line
And he will be our king.

Even if the song was recorded in 1987, I'm sharing it today with you (if you'll excuse me for being a bit sentimental and cheesy) in honor of Jose Serpa (Androni-Giocattoli) for his second place, behind Nibali, at the Tour de San Luis. Additionally, the Colombian national team won the team classification in that race. The national team included Santiago Botero (who finished fifth overall) and Victor Hugo Peña.

Extra credit:

Wikipedia entry for vallenato

Diomedes Diaz on iTunes

An interesting tradition in vallenato is that of piqueria, which is very much like an MC battle in the context of hip-hop. Each signer gets a set number of bars and challenges the other with creative insults and complicated rhyming schemes. Here's a video of a friendly match.

On an unrelated note, I'm looking into frame pumps. Anyone have any suggestions? Most seem cheaply built to me, and I'm afraid they would simply break under the pressure of my Hulk-like strength.


  1. to me cumbia sounds like reggae sound clash composed of a retarded jamaican monkey spinning rock steady @ 33 & 45 rpms Vs a drunk kraut or cajun raging some dope oom-pah/polka on the accordion. w/ some am drive-time dj 'wacky' sound effects thrown in for good measure.

    that said, its my 2nd favorite latin american (after mariachi) music. cant say i really like it a lot, or that it is super musical, but its interesting... like negativeland.

    and i think merengue is pretty cool, too.

    never heard Vallenato before, but im picking up some Caribbean undercurrents.

    one of the things i love about CI is that you continuously take us to skool/eskuela. thanx lucho!

  2. Dude, I love this shit. I am about as white as they come and of course I speak about 8 words of Spanish, but I really like Central and South American folk/traditional music like this.

    Where I live, there's lots of people from Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru. It's very interesting that you said that this type of music was as much a part of your life as listening to Slayer. I went to a metal show at a Peruvian restaurant and they were playing Central/South American music similar to this before and between the bands and all the people were dancing and actually smiling and it was a hell of a lot of actual fun, which is something that's missing from lots of shows.

  3. Lezyne makes good frame pumps. They have one with a little fold-up footstand for better leverage. Either model will get you to 110 psi without killing yourself.

    Great song!

  4. Amazing! I am a Colombian born, American adopted, aspiring cyclist. I've only recently been following your blog to your interviews with Steve Cummings and Joe Papp. I've had a few run-ins with SteveO and have yet to meet Joe, though I am no where near the level of rider they are.

    At any rate, I would just like to share my appreciation for this blog and your Colombian pride. I have no recollection of Colombia myself, being adopted at a far too young age, but there has always been a natural inclination for me to connect with Colombia. Cycling has proved to be a real opportunity recently. Just following the pro Colombians in the pelotons and of course the break out of the Colombia es Pasión cycling team a bit ago allow me to take pride in fellow countrymen doing what I have developed as my own passion.


  5. Yours has to be one of the more interesting cycling blogs out there. I really dig the stuff about cycling in Latin America. Until I read about it here, I had no idea how popular it is there.

    The Zefal HPX and Topeak Road Master Blaster are supposed to be quite good. has a good page on them here

  6. John,
    I'm very happy to hear that you've enjoyed the blog. No worries, few people are the level of riding that they are, which is what makes them special. Hats off to them.

    If I can put my obnoxious internet persona aside for a minute, it warms my heart to hear your story, and I'm happy to hear that cycling – and in some tiny, tiny way– this blog has been a way for you to reconnect with your Colombian roots. There's tons more I want to post about regarding Colombia and cycling, so stay tuned. You were born in an amazing country, with a great tradition in cycling. If you'd like, email me (link at the top right) to chat anytime. Saludos de un Colombiano a otro.

  7. The Topeak Road Master Blaster looks cheap as shit, but I've had mine for years and it still holds up strong. In fact, everyone with minis usually ends up asking to use mine at one point or another.

    P.S. - I have the Hulk like strength too, so no worries there.

  8. I have nothing of value to say here. So i'll just stick with:
    Slayer rule!

  9. Yeah. This blog fuckin rules, Lucho. Keep it up man.

  10. Frame pump? way to much extra weight. You have to go with the CO2 Pumps and cartridges.

  11. i'm a fan of the topeak road morph series. connects to the tire with a hose so it wont tear off stems, has a foot rest for leverage, and i can get my tires up to 120 psi even with cyclist arms.

  12. Slayer rule OR Slayer ruleS ?!!? discuss...

    oh and BTW, in the next episode of my podcast i recap the Tour de San Luis.

  13. slayer is singular, because they are a band. having said that, more often than not, people would say "slayer rules!" at least that's what kids write with sharpie on their lockers.

    thank you guys for the frame pump ideas. i will check them out. bike is not the I'm not too worried about weight. my commuter bike is seriously so freaking's not even funny. I'd like to think that it will make me faster on my regular road bike. we can all dream.

  14. all you haters suck my correct grammar.

  15. Yeah, what Jefe said about the Lezyne pumps, but don't bother with the foot-rest one, just use the regular Pressure Drive. Only other good frame pumps are the old school Zefal frame fit pumps, they're friggin' huge and only look right if your bike is has lugs (but they are good dog deterents).

  16. Death Race, I wasn't hating, i really was wondering if Slayer is plural or singular.

  17. cancion completa, papá

    hasta la meta final!!!!!!



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