The Music of Latin America
After reading through the module materials and viewing the assigned videos, what are your thoughts and impressions on the music of Latin America? Provide specific examples to support your answer.
Questions to help focus your thinking (you don’t have to answer them all): What similarities do you see and how are these musical styles different? How does music reflect transculturation?
Submit a well-composed response by writing in the “Reply” section directly below this prompt. If you would like to reply to other people, write in the “Reply” section below their post.
- Produce a substantial and revised response to the given prompt (about 200 words – remember, your post should be detailed and specific enough to demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the learning materials
Examples of Musical Genres: South America
A few examples of musical styles in Latin America are provided starting below and over the next few pages in this module. We can only scratch the surface of what there is to offer; however, if you haven’t done so already, you will get a sense of just how diverse the music of this region is.
Tango – Argentina
More of a dance than a musical style, tango is synonymous with Buenos Aires, Argentina. Originating in the working class, immigrant neighborhoods of Buenos Aires in the 19th century, the sensual dance is accompanied by guitar or an ensemble consisting of a piano, double bass, violin, flute, and the accordion-like bandoneon. Review a brief history Links to an external site.of Tango and watch a demonstration below.
Cumbia – Colombia
The Colombian cumbia originated as a courtship dance during the colonial period, celebrating the African and indigenous peoples of the Caribbean coast who played this style using African-derived drums and Indian flutes and percussion instruments while singing in Spanish. The traditional dance at first mimicked the Spanish colonizers and later evolved into a graceful and sensual couple dance, with the man bringing the woman a candle as a symbol of fertility. As with most folkloric genres, cumbia comprised several styles or variations, and eventually was modernized as its popularity spread to the urban centers, where it had previously been looked down-upon. With the adoption of cumbia by larger, more modern ensembles, the rhythm became homogenized, yet retained its basic up-beat feeling. It spread throughout Central America by the mid-20th-century, and is considered one of the most popular genres for dancing along with salsa and merengue. Several regional Mexican musical ensembles, including bandas and norteño conjuntos, have adopted cumbia as well.
Vallenato – Colombia
A bit inland from Colombia’s northern coast, specifically from the Valledupar region, comes the genre known as vallenato. Emerging in the mid-20th century, with origins in traditional cumbia, vallenato contains several styles. A traditional group contains button accordion (brought to northern Colombia in the early 1800s), caja (a small, single-membrane drum) and the guacharaca (a palm wood scraper). This humble music was discriminated against—as were its creators—until musicians began adapting vallenato into more modern ensembles during the 1950s and 60s. In the 1990s, artists including Carlos Vives helped to popularize the genre. Contemporary vallenato groups may be much larger, but its humble origins—and traditional ensembles—have recently become wildly popular among young generations in Colombia today.
Contemporary Latino Music
Today in the U.S., one cannot turn on the radio without hearing a song produced or performed by a Latino artist. From radio stations and playlists devoted to Latin music or popular mainstream stations in English, the Latino presence is heard.
Santana performing in 2011, CC Eva Rinaldi
Mexican American guitarist Carlos Santana is a 10 time Grammy and 3 time Latin Grammy winning artist who is known for mixing Latin jazz with ’60s and ’70s rock. He was inducted in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and still performs and produces music, collaborating with various musical artists such as Wyclef Jean.
Hip Hop and Reggaeton
The biggest musical development in Puerto Rico in the last 20 years is reggaeton, which combines digitized Jamaican dancehall beats with rapid-fire Spanish rapping. Some of the most founding and prominent stars of this genre are Daddy Yankee, Ivy Queen, Don Omar, and Tego Calderón. Reggaeton exploded onto the American scene with Daddy Yankee’s 2004 hit album Barrio Fino and the song “Gasolina.”
Don Omar and Daddy Yankee at the 2009 Billboard Music Awards, Creative Commons
Reggaeton has evolved to include “trap” beats from American Hip Hop, giving rise to such current artists as Bad Bunny. The musical genre has been further expanding in Latin America with artists like the Colombian rapper J Balvin who collaborates with Bad Bunny, Cardi B, and other current artists.
It was difficult to find “appropriate” music videos from these artists for educational purposes–but the ones below are more “tame” representations of the genre (and some of your professor’s “guilty pleasure” songs–sorry!) You are more than welcome to further explore these artists on YouTube or other music video platforms.
Pop Latino and Cross-Cultural Hits
Artists like the ones mentioned above have not only made their mark in Latin America, but the have crossed over into the U.S., appearing in and collaborating with popular artists. Hip Hop artist Drake, for instance, can be heard singing in Spanish on Bad Bunny‘s single “Mia” as can Usher be found harmonizing with Romeo Santos on the song “Promise.”
Nuyorican performer Jennifer Lopez and Cuban-American rapper Pitbull are practically household names.
Colombian singer-songwriter-producer Shakira is not only popular in U.S. households but around the world as a global sensation collaborating with pretty much everyone.
Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s electrifying 2020 LIV Super Bowl Halftime Show Links to an external site.made history by having two Latinas headline the much-watched event.
One of the biggest smash hits in recent years is Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” featuring Daddy Yankee. Released in 2017, it topped music charts around the world and won numerous awards. In the U.S., it became the first song primarily in Spanish since Los del Rio’s 1996 “Macarena” to top the Billboard Hot 100 charts, staying number one for 16 weeks. The song was later remixed to include English-language lyrics sung by Justin Bieber causing major eye rolls, but the original cannot be topped. The song’s music video, filmed in the iconic La Perla neighborhood in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, was the most-watched YouTube video of all-time from August 2017 to November 2020, reaching the milestone of 7 billion views!
Clearly, Latin beats have mixed with American and other global sounds to produce new forms of musical expression. That is transculturation.