Music of Latin America
The music of Latin America refers to music originating from Latin America, namely the Romance-speaking countries and territories of the Americas and the Caribbean south of the United States. Latin American music also incorporates African music from slaves who were transported to the Americas by European settlers as well as music from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Due to its highly syncretic nature, Latin American music encompasses a wide variety of styles, including influential genres such as cumbia, bachata, bossa nova, merengue, rumba, salsa, samba, son, and tango. During the 20th century, many styles were influenced by the music of the United States giving rise to genres such as Latin pop, rock, jazz, hip hop, and reggaeton.
Geographically, it usually refers to the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking regions of Latin America, but sometimes includes Francophone countries and territories of the Caribbean and South America as well. It also encompasses Latin American styles that have originated in the United States such as salsa and Tejano. The origins of Latin American music can be traced back to the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the Americas in the 16th century, when the European settlers brought their music from overseas. Latin American music is performed in Spanish, Portuguese, and to a lesser extent, French.
Popular music styles by country and territory
The tango is perhaps Argentina’s best-known musical genre, famous worldwide. Other styles include the Chacarera, Milonga, Zamba and Chamamé. Modern rhythms include Cuarteto (music from the Cordoba Province) and Electrotango.
Argentine rock (known locally as rock nacional) was most popular during the 1980s, and remains Argentina’s most popular music. Rock en Español was first popular in Argentina, then swept through other Hispanic American countries and Spain. The movement was known as the “Argentine Wave.” Europe strongly influenced this sound as the immigrants brought their style of music with them.
Bolivian music is perhaps the most strongly linked to its native population among the national styles of South America. After the nationalistic period of the 1950s Aymara and Quechuan culture became more widely accepted, and their folk music evolved into a more pop-like sound. Los Kjarkas played a pivotal role in this fusion. Other forms of native music (such as huayños and caporales) are also widely played. Cumbia is another popular genre. There are also lesser-known regional forms, such as the music from Santa Cruz and Tarija (where styles such as Cueca and Chacarera are popular).
Brazil is a large, diverse country with a long history of popular-musical development, ranging from the early-20th-century innovation of samba to the modern Música popular brasileira. Bossa nova is internationally well-known, and Forró (pronounced [foˈʁɔ]) is also widely known and popular in Brazil. Lambada is influenced by rhythms like cumbia and merengue. Funk carioca is also a highly popular style.
Many musical genres are native to Chile; one of the most popular was the Chilean Romantic Cumbia, exemplified by artists such as Americo and Leo Rey. The Nueva Canción originated in the 1960s and 1970s and spread in popularity until the 1973 Chilean coup d’état, when most musicians were arrested, killed or exiled.
In Central Chile, several styles can be found: the Cueca (the national dance), the Tonada, the Refalosa, the Sajuriana, the Zapateado, the Cuando and the Vals. In the Norte Grande region traditional music resembles the music of southern Perú and western Bolivia, and is known as Andean music. This music, which reflects the spirit of the indigenous people of the Altiplano, was an inspiration for the Nueva canción. The Chiloé Archipelago has unique folk-music styles, due to its isolation from the culture centres of Santiago.
Music from Chilean Polynesia, Rapa Nui music, is derived from Polynesian culture rather than colonial society or European influences.
The music of Costa Rica is represented by musical expressions as parrandera, the Tambito, waltz, bolero, gang, calypso, chiquichiqui, mento the run and callera. They emerged from the migration processes and historical exchanges between indigenous, European and African. Typical instruments are the quijongo, marimba, ocarinas, low drawer, the Sabak, reed flutes, accordion, mandolin and guitar.
Cuba has produced many musical genres, and a number of musicians in a variety of styles. Blended styles range from the danzón to the rumba.
Colombian music can be divided into four musical zones: the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast, the Andean region and Los Llanos. The Atlantic music features rhythms such as the cumbia, porros and mapalé. Music from the Pacific coast such features rhythms such as the currulao —which is tinged with Spanish influence— and the Jota chocoana (along with many more afro-drum predominating music forms)—tinged with African and Aboriginal influence. Colombian Andean has been strongly influenced by Spanish rhythms and instruments, and differs noticeably from the indigenous music of Peru or Bolivia. Typical forms include the bambuco, pasillo guabina and torbellino, played with pianos and string instruments such as the tiple guitarra. The music of Los Llanos, música llanera, is usually accompanied by a harp, a cuatro (a type of four-string guitar) and maracas. It has much in common with the music of the Venezuelan Llanos.
Apart from these traditional forms, two newer musical styles have conquered large parts of the country: la salsa, which has spread throughout the Pacific coast and the vallenato, which originated in La Guajira and César (on the northern Caribbean coast). The latter is based on European accordion music. Merengue music is heard as well. More recently, musical styles such as reggaeton and bachata have also become popular.
Merengue típico and Orchestra merengue have been popular in the Dominican Republic for many decades, and is widely regarded as the national music. Bachata is a more recent arrival, taking influences from the bolero and derived from the country’s rural guitar music. Bachata has evolved and risen in popularity over the last 40 years in the Dominican Republic and other areas (such as Puerto Rico) with the help of artists such as Antony Santos, Luis Segura, Luis Vargas, Teodoro Reyes, Yoskar Sarante, Alex Bueno, and Aventura. Bachata, merengue and salsa are now equally popular among Spanish-speaking Caribbean people. When the Spanish conquistadorssailed across the Atlantic they brought with them a type of music known as hesparo, which contributed to the development of Dominican music. A romantic style is also popular in the Dominican Republic from vocalists such as Angela Carrasco, Anthony Rios, Dhario Primero, Maridalia Hernandez and Olga Lara.
Traditional Ecuadorian music can be classified as mestizo, Indian and Afro-Ecuadorian music. Mestizo music evolved from the interrelation between Spanish and Indian music. It has rhythms such as pasacalles, pasillos, albazos and sanjuanitos, and is usually played by stringed instruments. There are also regional variations: coastal styles, such as vals (similar to Vals Peruano (Waltz)) and montubio music (from the coastal hill country).
Indian music in Ecuador is determined in varying degrees by the influence of quichua culture. Within it are sanjuanitos (different from the meztizo sanjuanito), capishkas, danzantes and yaravis. Non-quichua indigenous music ranges from the Tsáchila music of Santo Domingo (influenced by the neighboring Afro-marimba) to the Amazonian music of groups such as the Shuar.
Black Ecuadorian music can be classified into two main forms. The first type is black music from the coastal Esmeraldas province, and is characterized by the marimba. The second variety is black music from the Chota Valley in the northern Sierra (primarily known as Bomba del Chota), characterized by a more-pronounced mestizo and Indian influence than marimba esmeraldeña. Most of these musical styles are also played by wind ensembles of varying sizes at popular festivals around the country. Like other Latin American countries, Ecuadorian music includes local exponents of international styles: from opera, salsa and rock to cumbia, thrash metal and jazz.
Salvadoran music may be compared with the Colombian style of music known as cumbia. Popular styles in modern El Salvador (in addition to cumbia) are salsa, Bachata and Reggaeton. “Political chaos tore the country apart in the early 20th century, and music was often suppressed, especially those with strong native influences. In the 1940s, for example, it was decreed that a dance called “Xuc” was to be the “national dance” which was created and led by Paquito Palaviccini’s and his Orquestra Internacional Polio“. In recent years reggaeton and hip hop have gained popularity, led by groups such as Pescozada and Mecate. Salvadorian music has a musical style influenced by Mayan music (played on the El Salvador-Guatemala border, in Chalatenango). Another popular style of music not native to El Salvador is known as Punta, a Belizean, Guatemalan and Honduran style.
Some of the leading classical composers from El Salvador include Alex Panamá, Carlos Colón-Quintana, and German Cáceres.
Guatemala has a very long musical tradition.
Haitian music combines a wide range of influences drawn from the many people who have settled on this Caribbean island. It reflects French, African rhythms, Spanish elements and others who have inhabited the island of Hispaniola and minor native Taino influences. Styles of music unique to the nation of Haiti include music derived from Vodou ceremonial traditions, Rara parading music, Twoubadou ballads, Mini-jazz rock bands, Rasinmovement, Hip hop Kreyòl, the wildly popular Compas, and Méringue as its basic rhythm.
Evolving in Haiti during the mid-1800s, the Haitian méringue (known as the mereng in creole) is regarded as the oldest surviving form of its kind performed today and is its national symbol. According to Jean Fouchard, mereng evolved from the fusion of slave music genres (such as the chica and calenda) with ballroom forms related to the French-Haitian contredanse (kontradans in creole). Mereng’s name, he says, derives from the mouringue music of the Bara, a Bantu people of Madagascar. That few Malagasies came to the Americas casts doubt on this etymology, but it is significant because it emphasizes what Fouchard (and most Haitians) consider the African-derived nature of their music and national identity.
Very popular today is compas, short for compas direct, a modern méringue made popular by Nemours Jean-Baptiste, on a recording released in 1955. The name derives from compás, the Spanish word meaning rhythm or tones. It involves mostly medium-to-fast tempo beats with an emphasis on electric guitars, synthesizers, and either a solo alto saxophone, a horn section or the synthesizer equivalent. In Creole, it is spelled as konpa dirèk or simply konpa. It is commonly spelled as it is pronounced as kompa.
The music of Honduras varies from Punta (the local genre of the Garifunas) to Caribbean music such as salsa, merengue, reggae and reggaeton (all widely heard, especially in the north). Mexican ranchera music has a large following in the rural interior of the country. The country’s ancient capital of Comayagua is an important center for modern Honduran music, and is home to the College for Fine Arts.
Mexico is perhaps one of the most musically diverse countries in the world. Each of its 31 states, its capital city and each of Mexico City’s boroughs claim unique styles of music. The most representative genre is mariachimusic. Although commonly misportrayed as buskers, mariachis musicians play extremely technical, structured music or blends such as jarabe. Most mariachi music is sung in verses of prose poetry. Ranchera, Mexico’s country music, differs from mariachi in that it is less technical and its lyrics are not sung in prose. Other regional music includes: son jarocho, son huasteco, cumbia sonidera, Mexican pop, rock en español, Mexican rock and canto nuevo. There is also music based on sounds made by dancing (such as the zapateada).
Northeastern Mexico is home to another popular style called norteña, which assimilates Mexican ranchera with Colombian cumbia and is typically played with Bavarian accordions and Bohemian polka influence. Variations of norteña include duranguense, tambora sinaloense, corridos and nortec (norteño-techno). The eastern part of the country makes heavy use of the harp, typical of the son arocho style. The music in southern Mexico is particularly represented by its use of the marimba, which has its origins in the Soconusco region between Mexico and Guatemala.
The north-central states have recently spawned a Tecktonik-style music, combining electro and other dance genres with more traditional music. Salsa (music) has also played an important role in Mexican music shown by Sonora Santanera. Currently, Reggaeton is very popular in modern Mexico.
Martinique and Guadeloupe
The most popular style of music in Nicaragua is palo de Mayo, which is both a type of dance music and a festival where the dance (and music) originated. Other popular music includes marimba, folklore, son nica, folk music, merengue, bachata and salsa.
The music of Panama is the result of the mestizaje, It has occurred during the last five hundred years between the Iberian traditions, especially those of Andalusia, American Indians and those of West Africa. Mestizaje that has been enriched by cultural exchange caused by several waves of migrations originating in Europe, in various parts of the Caribbean (mostly Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and Saint Lucia) in Asia and several points in South and North America. These migrations were due to the Spanish colonization of America, which was forced to use the Royal Route of Panama as an inter-oceanic trade route, which included the slave trade (an institution abolished in Panama in 1851); To the traffic, product of the exploitation of the silver mines in the Viceroyalty of Peru during centuries XVI and XVII; To the legendary riches of the Fair of Portobelo, between centuries XVII and XVIII; To the construction of the Transísmico Railroad, begun in 1850, and the Interoceanic Canal, initiated by France in 1879, concluded by the United States in 1914 and expanded by Panama from 2007.
With this rich cultural heritage, Panama has contributed significantly to the development of Cumbia, Decima, Panamanian saloma, Pasillo, Panamanian bunde, bullerengue, Punto Music, Tamborito, Mejorana, Panamanian Murga, Tamborera (Examples: Guarare and Tambor de la Alegria), bolero, jazz, Salsa, reggae and calypso, through composers like Nicolas Aceves Núñez (hall, cumbia, tamborito, Pasillo), Luis Russell (jazz), Ricardo Fábrega (bolero and Tamborera), José Luis Rodríguez Vélez (cumbia and bolero), Arturo “Chino” Hassan (bolero), Nando Boom (reggae), Lord Cobra (calypso), Rubén Blades (salsa), Danilo Pérez (jazz), Vicente Gómez Gudiño (Pasillo), César Alcedo, among many others.
Paraguayan music depends largely upon two instruments: the guitar and the harp, which were brought by the conquistadors and found their own voices in the country. Polka Paraguaya, which adopted its name from the European dance, is the most popular type of music and has different versions (including the galopa, the krye’ÿ and the canción Paraguaya, or “Paraguayan song”). The first two are faster and more upbeat than a standard polka; the third is a bit slower and slightly melancholy. Other popular styles include the purahéi jahe’o and the compuesto (which tell sad, epic or love stories). The polka is usually based on poetic lyrics, but there are some emblematic pieces of Paraguayan music (such as “Pájaro Campana”, or “Songbird”, by Félix Pérez Cardozo).
Guarania is the second-best-known Paraguayan musical style, and was created by musician José Asunción Flores in 1925.
Peruvian music is made up of indigenous, Spanish and West African influences. Coastal Afro-Peruvian music is characterized by the use of the cajón peruano. Amerindian music varies according to region and ethnicity. The best-known Amerindian style is the huayno (also popular in Bolivia), played on instruments such as the charango and guitar. Mestizo music is varied and includes popular valses and marinera from the northern coast.
The history of music on the island of Puerto Rico begins with its original inhabitants, the Taínos. The Taíno Indians have influenced the Puerto Rican culture greatly, leaving behind important contributions such as their musical instruments, language, food, plant medicine and art. The heart of much Puerto Rican music is the idea of improvisation in both the music and the lyrics. A performance takes on an added dimension when the audience can anticipate the response of one performer to a difficult passage of music or clever lyrics created by another. When two singers, either both men or a man and a woman, engage in vocal competition in música jíbara this is a special type of seis called a controversia. Of all Puerto Rico’s musical exports, the best-known is reggaeton. Bomba and plena have long been popular, while reggaetón is a relatively recent invention. It is a form of urban contemporary music, often combining other Latin musical styles, Caribbean and West Indies music, (such as reggae, soca, Spanish reggae, salsa, merengue and bachata. It originates from Panamanian Spanish reggae and Jamaican dancehall, however received its rise to popularity through Puerto Rico.Tropikeo is the fusion of R&B, Rap, Hip Hop, Funk and Techno Music within a Tropical musical frame of salsa, in which the conga drums and/or timbales drums are the main source of rhythm of the tune, in conjunction with a heavy salsa “montuno” of the piano. The lyrics of the song can be rapped or sung, or used combining both styles, as well as danced in both styles. Aguinaldo from Puerto Rico is similar to Christmas carols, except that they are usually sung in a parranda, which is rather like a lively parade that moves from house to house in a neighborhood, looking for holiday food and drink. The melodies were subsequently used for the improvisational décima and seis. There are aguinaldos that are usually sung in churches or religious services, while there are aguinaldos that are more popular and are sung in the parrandas. Danza is a very sophisticated form of music that can be extremely varied in its expression; they can be either romantic or festive. Romantic danzas have four sections, beginning with an eight measure paseo followed by three themes of sixteen measures each. The third theme typically includes a solo by the bombardino and, often, a return to the first theme or a coda at the end. Festive danzas are free-form, with the only rules being an introduction and a swift rhythm. Plena is a narrative song from the coastal regions of Puerto Rico, especially around Ponce, Puerto Rico. Its origins have been various claimed as far back as 1875 and as late as 1920. As rural farmers moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico and other cities, they brought plena with them and eventually added horns and improvised call and response vocals. Lyrics generally deal with stories or current events, though some are light-hearted or humorous.
Llanera is Venezuelan popular music originating in the llanos plains, although a more upbeat and festive gaita version is heard western Venezuela (particularly in Zulia State). There are also African-influenced styles which emphasize drumming and dance, and such diverse styles as music from the Guayana region (influenced by neighboring English-speaking countries) and Andean music from Mérida.
Uruguayan music has similar roots to that of Argentina. Uruguayan tango and milonga are both popular styles, and folk music from along the River Plate is indistinguishable from its Argentine counterpart. Uruguay rock and cancion popular (Uruguayan versions of rock and pop music) are popular local forms. Candombe, a style of drumming descended from African slaves in the area, is quintessentially Uruguayan (although it is played to a lesser extent in Argentina). It is most popular in Montevideo, but may also be heard in a number of other cities.
Based on Cuban music (especially Cuban son and son montuno) in rhythm, tempo, bass line, riffs and instrumentation, Salsa represents an amalgamation of musical styles including rock, jazz, and other Latin American (and Puerto Rican) musical traditions. Modern salsa (as it became known worldwide) was forged in the pan-Latin melting pot of New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Latin trap has become famous around 2015. It has influences of American trap and reggaeton music.
Reggaeton (also known as reggaetón and reguetón) is a musical genre which originated in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s. It is influenced by hip hop and Latin American and Caribbean music. Vocals include rapping and singing, typically in Spanish.
The Latin (or romantic) ballad is a Latin musical genre which originated in the 1960s. This ballad is very popular in Hispanic America and Spain, and is characterized by a sensitive rhythm. A descendant of the bolero, it has several variants (such as salsa and cumbia). Since the mid-20th century a number of artists have popularized the genre, such as Julio Iglesias, Luis Miguel, Enrique Iglesias, Alejandra Ávalos, Cristian Castro, and José José.
Imported styles of popular music with a distinctively Latin flavor include Latin jazz, Argentine and Chilean rock and Cuban and Mexican hip hop, all influenced by styles from the United States (jazz, rock and roll and hip hop). Music from non-Latin parts of the Caribbean are also popular throughout Latin America, especially Jamaican reggae and dub, Trinidadian chutney, calypso music and soca. Flamenco, rumba, pasodoble and fados from the Iberian peninsula are well known due to the Iberian heritage in Latin America.
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