This is one of the most African influenced-styles in all of Colombia, and has its roots among the Afro-Colombian/African-descendant/Black people of the Pacific coast. All together, there are 34 types of Pacific genres, with currulao being the most popular. (In case you’d like to skip to listening to the style of music, go here)
The name of the musical style comes from a Colombian municipality and town in the Department of Antioquia (although the picture below shows the entire Pacific region).
In its most basic form, the currulao is played by a group of four musicians.
One musician plays a 6-8 rhythm on a drum known as a “cununo”, which superficially resembles the “alegre” drum (used in Cumbia) to the untrained eye, but is narrower and taller. The Currulao rhythm is created by both striking the skin of the drum with the one’s hand and tapping the side of the drum with a small stick.
The second musician keeps time on a shaker known in parts of Colombia as a “guasá”(goo-ah-SAH) or “guache”(goo-AH-cheh), which is typically a hollow cylinder made of metal, wooden, or guadua bamboo, filled with light seeds, rice is sometimes used in home-made guasás.
But the main instrument of the currulao style is perhaps the colombian marimba, a wooden xilophone which resembles the african balafon also for the style of playing.
Many groups in Colombia perform this traditional style of music. Currently, the most renowned groups include Grupo Socavón, Grupo Gualajó, and Grups Bahia Trio. A well renowned figure among the old marimbero masters in Colombia is Baudilio Cuama Rentería from Buenaventura Colombia.
In the United States two Colombian Bands performing this genre with authentic traditional instruments are La Cumbiamba NY, on the east coast (New York), and Aluna Band in the west coast (San Francisco).
There’s a great introductory site to Colombian music I found called A Small Trip Through Colombian Music, which explains the currulao in words, pictures and music (especially recommended) on this page here.
In addition, on the blog La Guayabita, there’s an article answering the question, “What is currulao?”
Also, I found a video presentation (in Spanish) of the Festival de Currulao held in Tumaco.