Latin American music

Template:LatinAmericanmusic Latin American music, is sometimes wrongly called Latin music. It includes the music of many countries and comes in many varieties, from the down-home conjunto music of northern Mexico to the sophisticated habanera of Cuba, from the symphonies of Heitor Villa-Lobos to the simple and moving Andean flute. The name Latin America music is prefered to that of Latin music because the later could in refer to other romance-speaking countries.

Music has played an important part in Latin America's turbulent recent history, for example the nueva cancion movement.

Although Spain isn't a part of Latin America, Spanish music (and Portuguese music) and Latin American music strongly cross-fertilized each other, but Latin music also absorbed influences from English and American music, and particularly, African music.

Latin American can be divided into several musical areas. Andean music, for example, includes the countries of western south America, typically Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador and Chile; Central American music includes Belize, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Caribbean music includes many Spanish and French-speaking islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Martinique and Guadeloupe. Brazil perhaps constitutes its own musical area, both because of its large size and incredible diversity as well as its unique history as a Portuguese colony.


Indigenous Latin music

Very little can be known for sure about music in what is now Latin America prior to the arrival of Europeans. Though there are extremely isolated peoples in the Amazon and elsewhere that have had little contact with Europeans or Africans, Latin music is almost entirely a synthesis of European, African and indigenous elements. The advanced civilizations of the pre-contact era included the Mayan, Aztec and Incan empires. These cultures had well-developed musical institutions that were "reduced to simpler levels and styles through the annihilation or reduction of the ruling classes, and through the introduction of Christianity" (Nettl, p. 166).

The ancient Central American civilizations of the Maya and Aztec peoples played instruments including the tlapitzalli (a flute), teponatzli, a log drum, the conch-shell trumpet, various rattles and rasps and the huehuetl, a kettle drum. The earliest written accounts by Spanish colonizers indicate that Aztec music was entirely religious in nature, and was performed by professional musicians; some instruments were considered holy, and thus mistakes made by performers were punished as being possibly offensive to the gods (Stevenson, pp. 14-19).

Pictorial representations indicate that ensemble performance was common. Similar instruments were also found among the Incas of South America, who played in addition a wide variety of ocarinas and panpipes. The tuning of panpipes found in Peru has similarities to instruments played in the Pacific islands, leading some scholars to believe in contact between South American and the Oceanic cultures (Nettl, p. 163).

Popular Latin music


Main articles: Music of Argentina, Tango music, Milonga, Chacarera, Chamamé, Cuarteto

The tango was perhaps the first of many Latin dance crazes to become popular all around the world. The Gaucho's gave Argentina the Chacarera , Cueca, and Zamba; the Guaraní Chamamé, and African slaves Candombe and Murga. More modern rithms include Argentina's Merengue from Córdoba: El Cuarteto, and the popular Argentine Cumbia.


Main articles: Andean music

The Chilean music of the Andes reflects the spirit of the indigenous people of the Altiplano.Also where nueva cancion originated, and also has many popular cumbia bands.


Main articles: Bossa nova, Música Popular Brasileira, samba

Brazil is a large and 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.


Main articles: Canto nuevo, rumba, nueva trova, habanera, mambo, chachacha

Cuba has produced many of the world's most famous styles of music and a number of renowned musicians in a variety of fields.


Main article: Cumbia

Cumbia is originally a Colombian style of popular music, though it is now also found in other countries, especially Mexico.

Dominican Republic

Main article: Merengue

Merengue has been popular in the Dominican Republic for many decades, and is a kind of national symbol.

Martinique and Guadeloupe

Main article: Zouk

Zouk became a dance craze after spreading from Martinique and Guadeloupe to other islands in the Lesser Antilles, and then the rest of the world.


Main article: Mariachi

Mariachi is a kind of popular Mexican music.

Puerto Rico

Main articles: Bomba, plena, reggaeton

Bomba and plena have been popular in Puerto Rico for a long time, while reggaeton is a relatively recent invention.


Main article: Llanera

Llanera is Venezuelan popular music.

Nueva cancion

Main article: Nueva cancion

Nueva cancion is a kind of folky music found throughout the Andean countries, associated especially with Bolivia and Chile.


Main article: Salsa music

Salsa is an amalgamation of Latin musical styles, especially Cuban and Puerto Rican, created in the pan-Latin melting pot of New York City in the early 1970s.

Tejano music

Main article: Tex-Mex and Tejano

The Tejano people live in southern Texas in the United States. They are ethnically Mexican, and have their own form of both folk and popular music which is different from both Mexican and American music.

Imported styles

Imported styles of popular music with a distinctively Latin style include Latin jazz, Argentinean rock and Chilean rock, and Cuban and Mexican hip hop, all based of styles from the United States (jazz, rock and roll and hip hop). Music from non-Latin parts of the Caribbean are also popular, especially Jamaican reggae and dub, and Trinidadian calypso music.


  • Nettl, Bruno. Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents. Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  • Stevenson, Robert. Music in Mexico (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1952), cited in Nettl, p. Musik

fi:Latinalaisamerikkalainen musiikki


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