Hugo Salcedo

"Once I found my opportunity, I focused on it, and I have never looked back".

Hugo Salcedo.jpg

Hugo Salcedo

Country of Origin: Colombia.

State of Residency: SA. Favourite place in Australia: Sydney. Upon arrival: Shocked at how quiet Adelaide was. I come from a culture that is loud and colourful and found the stillness in the streets so surreal. Photo courtesy of Philip Johns

By Trini Abascal

Hugo Salcedo is a versatile Latino musician, DJ, dancer and entrepreneur. Hugo discovered his business opportunity by chance in 2000. Hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm have made him a successful and well-recognised entrepreneur. He is the founder of Latino Grooves, a Latin dance school, events, and entertainment company based in Adelaide. Hugo also performs around the Asia-Pacific region with his Latin bands SALCEDO and Soul Macumbia.

Tell us Your Story

  Hugo with his band Soul Macumbia. Photo courtesy of Philip Johns

Hugo with his band Soul Macumbia. Photo courtesy of Philip Johns

I never imagined myself living in Australia. I arrived in January 1999 to live with my now ex-partner and my son Joseph who was born just one month after I arrived. The decision to relocate was a huge gamble as my career as a musician was just taking off in Colombia. I had just been offered a part in a soap opera and I was touring the world with one of Colombia’s greatest musical icons; Toto La Momposina. I humbly arrived in Adelaide with my instruments and big dreams; however, I quickly realised that it would not be so easy. There was no Latin scene or even a thriving music scene in Adelaide at the time. Many people encouraged me to move on from music and find something more secure as it seemed impossible to make a living from it. Once I came to terms with the fact that the environment I needed for success wasn’t here just waiting for me, I knew I had to create the opportunities for myself. I spent several years working in different jobs to make ends meet. Despite having a couple of false starts and many failures over the years, now I can proudly say that I feel I have succeeded.

I founded Latino Grooves 10 years ago. I have always loved to dance and grew up surrounded by music and dance. However, I never thought that one day I would make a living from dancing. In fact, my business started quite unexpectedly. I was invited to jam at an after-party for the Cuban band Las Perlas del Son, that were in town performing at WOMADelaide. People at the party were in awe when I jumped on stage and started dancing with the band. They asked me if I was a professional dancer and whether I taught classes. Over the next couple of months, people at parties continued to beg me to teach them Salsa and Merengue. People just embraced Latin music and dance so passionately that I realised this could be a big opportunity. I started off with small dance classes and a small Salsa band and over time both grew in popularity. Today, Latino Grooves is a thriving and successful Latin dance school, events, and entertainment company with an amazing team. We are passionate about changing people’s lives for the better through dance and music. I am also a DJ and direct two bands, SALCEDO and Soul Macumbia, with whom I have performed all over Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

Challenges

Settling in - As with the majority of newly-arrived people, I faced several challenges to settling in such as loneliness, lack of money, inability to access information, and lack of contacts. Several times I considered going back to Colombia, but I always decided to stay (mainly for my son). However, once I found my opportunity, I focused on it, and I have never looked back.

Language - Learning English has been a struggle. I tried to improve it as fast as I could by watching TV, reading the newspaper, and connecting with new people as often as possible. Although, my English has considerably improved, I have accepted that it will never be perfect and that I will always have accent. In fact, the accent is part of who I am. People know me for it and I use it to my advantage to either break the ice or make people laugh.

Establishing a network - In the early days, I was lucky enough to have met a good Mexican Australian friend who showed me the ropes. If it wasn’t for his invaluable help and friendship, I really don’t know where I would be today. Now, whenever I can, I always try to help new immigrants. Some encouraging words, a point in the right direction, or even just sharing a beer and a laugh, can mean so much to someone. 

Contrasts

Organisation - I have found that Australians are very organised and structured. They really value their time. On the contrary, people back home are relaxed about time and move slowly with the flow. Whilst I think that there are moments when this is fantastic, it is also important to be structured, particularly when it comes to work.

tito031.jpg

Hugo performing with Tito Puente Junior in his Australian tour. Photo courtesy of Gabriel Rivera

Latin passion - I would say that the Latin zest for life, music, fun and our warmth towards other people has helped me to find success in Australia. Passion and conviction keeps us going no matter what.

Piece of Advice

Prepare before hand - Begin to learn English even before setting foot in Australia. Do your research about the industry you would like to be involved in. Connect with friends, friends of friends, organisations, Facebook groups and the like. Social Media did not exist when I arrived and it was harder to get connected back then. The world is now at your fingertips.

Be open minded - Be ready to embrace a new way of life and a completely new way of seeing the world. One of the biggest mistakes some new immigrants make is to try to emulate the same way of life back home here in Australia. While it is important to retain your identity, it is also important to carve out new experiences and confront new challenges.

Create your own opportunities - Be bold and don’t follow the pack. Always follow your instincts. Everybody has a different path; just stay true to yours. It is not going to be easy. The truth is that the first few years will be extremely hard and will test you in every way possible, but if you stay focused on your goals, the results will be worth it.

  Soul Macumbia band looking good! Photo courtesy of Philip Johns

Soul Macumbia band looking good! Photo courtesy of Philip Johns

In the next few years...

Hugo plans to continue working within the entertainment industry as it is his lifelong passion. He has several exciting projects including producing his first album. If you wish to contact Hugo, email us at latinstoriesaustralia@gmail.com