Tin Tin Deo: Cali’s classic salsa bar
As you climb the stairs, bathed in blue and pink neon, to Cali’s historic bar, Tin Tin Deo — you immediately get why this spot is famed as the city’s classic salsa joint. Presided over by retro posters and the soft glow of red lanterns, the bar has become a symbol of Cali salsa culture. For 30 years and running, salseros of all ages, levels, and nationalities have gathered here to groove until the wee hours. If you’re planning a trip to Cali, this salsa staple is not to be missed. Here’s what to expect.
The vibe: New friends, old-school music
The bar boasts a generously-sized dance floor, lined with old-school bar stools and booths angled towards the dancing. But you won’t want to spend much time sitting. With this high-energy crowd, you could easily show up solo and get down with dancers — of all levels — until closing time. No need to BYO (bring your own) dance partner here, or get hung up on your skill level. The scene is both diverse and beginner-friendly.
When it comes to style of dance and dress, Tin Tin Deo is decidedly choose your own adventure. You’ll see elegant old couples dancing cheek-to-cheek, off-duty professional dancers breaking out rapid-fire Cali-style salsa, college students in ripped jeans grooving LA style, and everything in between. Expect a lot of Cali style, of course — but if LA or Cuban style is more your speed, you’ll likely to find your people here! Not something that can be said of many Cali salsa bars.
When the pro dancers take the floor, the crowd will often clear out to nurse their drinks and watch in awe. Case and point — Salsa Classes Cali instructor, Miguel’s impromptu show of Cali-style footwork:
30 years of classic salsa
Founded in 1985 by a group of students at Universidad del Valle, the bar has long seen itself as a stronghold of old-school salsa and Cuban son. Named after a salsa classic by Larry and Andy Harlow, Tin Tin Deo is actually an onomatopoeia (who knew?). The words mimic the sound of drumming tambores in African rumba music. Classic Afro-Latino rhythms — the tambor, the clave, the tumbao — are still spun in the bar to this day by one of the spot’s original DJs, James Polania.
While Tin Tin Deo is a fervent defender of the classics — it also gets down with the new and experimental. If you’re lucky, you might catch a synchronized salsa choke line dance, a modern fusion of salsa and reggaeton. Never fear if you’re a salsa choke novice, the bar brings in a choreographer to lead the crowd in some fresh moves.
Rumba sana: More salsa, less shwasted
The tradition of Tin Tin Deo goes beyond the music. In what you might call a salsa manifesto, the bar gushes about its mission to bring people together through “camaraderie and good music, where all human languages are fused.” It’s all about crafting a culture of rumba (partying) that goes heavy on the dancing, and light on the boozing.
“We don’t want people to come just to drink,” longtime bar administrator, Luis Alberto Rodriguez, tells Salsa Classes Cali. “For Cali, and all of Colombia, we represent salsa culture. We try to offer rumba sana (partying in a healthy way), that is welcoming and comfortable. Rumba sana is culture. It’s Cali.”
Here here! As die-hard dance nerds, sometimes we just want to dance! We appreciate when a bar doesn’t force drinks down our throats, please and thank you. And Rodriguez is right. What makes Cali unique is its inextinguishable drive to dance and celebrate, with or without booze, and at any hour of day or night. “It’s what differentiates us,” says Rodriguez, with a wide smile. “The cultural vein of salsa we grow up with, the sabrosura (flavor.) We always want to be dancing. You won’t get that in other cities.”
Plan your visit to Tin Tin Deo
Planning a trip to Cali? Come by Tin Tin Deo Thurs-Sun. Friday is best, but you really can’t go wrong. Especially not if you brush up on your salsa, or try out some Cali style steps, with one of Salsa Classes Cali’s pro instructors. We hope to see you around!
WHEN: Thursday – Sunday 8:30 pm – 3:45 am
WHERE: Cl. 5 #3871, Cali, Valle del Cauca
$$: Expect a 15k cover (for men), and 10k cover (ladies) — but you’ll get 10k back in drink credit at the bar.
Salsa Classes Cali
(Want to book private salsa classes in Cali? Message us on Facebook Messenger!)