South America is increasingly becoming a popular location for tourists. As city streets get safer and with Rio de Janeiro hosting the Olympics and the World Cup in the coming years the region is opening itself up for outsiders to experience the culture of the continent.
However as foreigners continue to discover the best of South America more and more are searching out the less tourist riddled locations for a traveller’s respite.
Quito is waiting in the wings of its more famous city counterparts. With the city’s museums and theatres undergoing revamps and allocated funding in recent years it’s as if the urban sprawl is anticipating a surge of outside interest or at the very least trying to garner some.
Although it’s more likely given the importance of music to Quito’s cultural fabric that the government and institutions are only serving the will of their music loving people.
The city has everything from festivals, theatres to unique galleries and music venues that provide for the full depth of musical interest of Ecuadorians.
While you’ll find venues dedicated to alternative and experimental styles there is also an incredibly healthy Metal scene here that is likely to draw the envy of even the metal crazed Scandinavians.
However much of the music that tourists will experience are the traditional Latin American staples such as salsa, cumbia and so forth. It spills out onto the streets from restaurants and bars. Quito is unlikely to forget its origins anytime soon.
Music and politics also form an integral partnership in Ecuador. With the country just a stones throw from the Amazon music is used as a tool to promote the health of the environment.
As environmental lawyer and drummer for the band L.O.B.A. tells The Globe and Mail “We want our music to help create a more environmentalist and humanist society.”
While there are still a few years to pass before Quito is mentioned in the same sentence as Rio or Santiago, those who want to move past the hype of a travel destination can safely pinpoint the Ecuadorian capital as a place where music is central to the experience.
There are few music stores in Quito and the ones that do only sell CDs and they’re almost always South American titles. So don’t expect to find many English releases here. Due to the proliferation of piracy and bootlegged copies of CDs and DVDs on the streets many of the city’s music stores are quickly going bankrupt. You’ll find quite a few bootleg music stores on The Amazonas avenue from Colón to Patria.
Musicalísimo, Av. El Parque & Alonso de Torres – Centro Comercial El Bosque
With two stores at the El Jardín and CCI malls this store sells original CDs, however the majority of their selection is dedicated to Ecuadorian music. This establishment provides the perfect opportunity for tourists to get a taste of local music.
Libri Mundi, Quicentro Shopping, Pasaje de Lujo Av
While this library is more known for its book selection you can also find original Ecuadorian CDs of the new age and alternative variety. The store also has a small selection of DVDs. Take some time to dig through both their book and DVD selection to see if you can find any music related content, you never know what you might find.
Catekil, Foch OE 5 43 y Reina Victoria
Lovers of alternative music and underground vibes this recently opened music house is for you. The best of the city’s alternative acts play here, while the punters resemble dissatisfied youth culture. Expect a wide variety of different music styles from rock to more experimental territories here.
El Pobre Diablo, Isabel La Católica N24-274 y Galavis esq. La Floresta
Given its history this music venue is an institution to Quito. When local artist Pepe Aviles opened the jazz and new music club it was one the few music venues in the city. Now this venue has become the place to see emerging local bands. The young musicians nicely juxtapose the history the old building has seen.
El Aguijón, José Calama E-7-35 y Reina Victoria
This industrial setting draws crowds of all ages as independent bands take the stage on most nights. While Wednesdays are reserved for salsa, other nights are no less fun for tourists with lively and hilarious karaoke featuring amongst some of Quito’s best local bands.
It’s one of the biggest festivals in the country and it’s also free of charge. Held during September since 2003 the lineup features local and international acts from across South America with everyone from metal heads to hip-hop fans catered for. With crowds of around 80,000 attending in recent years the festival has grown from strength to strength.
Central Bank Museum, Patria Avenue, between 6 de Diciembre y 12 de Octubre
Housing a multitude of different exhibitions from Colonial art to sculptures and paintings The Museum of Musical Instruments located within is one of this establishments best features. The Central Bank Museum is one of the most important buildings of its kind in Ecuador and the music component of the building is obviously one of the most important historical sites for Quito’s music scene.
House Of Music, Calle Valderrama and Mariana de Jesús Avenue
Since it was constructed in 2003 this building has cultivated a reputation as one of the most prominent cultural developments in Quito’s history. With an array of events, exhibitions, concerts and recitals the performances are enhanced by its architectural design, which has allowed the building to be labelled as one of the highest rated theatres in the continent in terms of intensity and clarity of sound. The exterior is also one of the most stunning establishments you’ll see in Quito.
Quito Acts You Should Check Out
Munn – Soundcloud
Using the five-piece’s signature downtempo electronic textures with a trip-hop bent this band have developed their music with an even broader palette of sounds as their tenure has developed. Having toured nationally since 2010 Munn has achieved moderate success in Chile by touring there in support of their most recent release in their self titled debut album.
Suburbia – Soundcloud
This independent act have garnered a loyal following since their inception in 2002. Combining the elements of ska, reggae and other tropical sounds Suburbia have crafted a sound, which contains the traditional aspects of music culture from across South America. Take a listen below.
Mamá Vudú – Soundcloud
Over the course of their twenty-year career this indie rock act have released seven albums where they explored the depths of alternative music. The band has toured across the continent throughout their career and in 2012 they released the triple disc album Ultra Motel.