Tipos de música latina/ Types of Latin Music
Latin American music includes a wide variety of sounds that differ in many ways, from the instruments used to create unique sounds to the rhythm and associated dance moves. The music has evolved over the centuries and continues to change today.
History of Latin Music
Latin American music is influenced by indigenous, Spanish-European, African and, most recently, the United States of America cultures.
Original music in Latin America began with indigenous populations. These communities used very diverse materials to make instruments from natural sources. Instruments were created by making sounds from striking one material with another, such as rattles made of beetle wings, striking sticks, marimbas, split-cane clappers, hollow tree trunks, and bamboo sticks, gourds, and turtle shells struck with a stick or animal antler. Wind instruments such as flutes, trumpets, and panpipes were also common.
Little music documentation exists prior to the 1490s. However, when the Spanish arrived in the New World, they encountered three major civilizations: the Incas in present-day Peru, the Aztecs in Mexico and the Mayans in Mexico and present-day Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. There were many isolated tribes as well that all had unique music.
The era prior to 1492 and before the European-Spanish occupation of the Americas (voyage led by Christopher Columbus) is known as the ‘pre-Columbian era.’ Indigenous populations migrated from the Americas to the Caribbean around 1200 AD and existed for centuries. They had a rich musical heritage of performance chants in call and response style and music-dance ceremonies which were accompanied by maracas-style rattles, guiros, and slit drums.
Much of the Caribbean musical heritage was lost after the Europeans arrived due to conflict, forced labor, enslavement, and cultural abandonment as well as the spread of disease. For example, the Taíno tribes of the Caribbean consisted of 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 people before Christopher Columbus arrived, and by 1548 the native population had declined to fewer than 500 people.
Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing the Spanish language from the Old World (Europe) to the New World (The Americas and surrounding islands) beginning in 1492. There are controversy and heated debate surrounding this period in time, but history classes will claim this was the beginning of the exploration and settlement of the modern western world.
The Europeans introduced new instruments such as the guitar and other string instruments.
Africans were abducted from their homeland and brought by ships to the Americas- known as the slave trade. The Africans brought with them a rich musical background and influenced American music. Latin America is known for having the “largest concentration of people with African ancestry outside Africa.”
African music was very different from European music in many ways. One major way is that European music was written down and documented – therefore the musician could replay the same music again and again (such as written piano music). African music was passed down orally and this allowed for improvising and modification each time the dance or music was shared.
African music also incorporates interactive call-and-response styles. This means a soloist will sing a phrase and the chorus responds. As researcher Tim Marcus explains, the introduction of this technique sounded “different and unstructured to a European ear, but will sound completely structured and patterned to an African ear.”
Probably the largest musical instrument introduced from Africa is the drums.
Music continues to evolve, and a good example is the creation of Tejano (“Tex-Mex”) music which began in Texas and Mexico in the 1920s. The music began with the introduction of the accordion by German, Polish, and Czech immigrants.
Latin America music continues to thrive in the United States with Latino (someone from a Latin American country) and Chicano (someone from Mexico who grew up in the USA) influence.
¡Viva la música!
Latin American music is representative of generations of cultural and musical influences that originated and descended upon Mexico, Central America, South American and parts of the Caribbean.
It is hard to discuss Latin American music without considering Latin American dance – the two are interdependent. You can’t help but tap your feet or get up and dance when hearing Latin music due to its colorful, rhythmic, and inviting sounds.
Each country takes pride in its contribution to the Latin American music scene. For example, the marimba was created in Guatemala – and they celebrate Marimba Day!
Types of Latin Music
This list shows a wide variety of music in the Latino community. Of course, it is not all-encompassing since music, like language, is fluid and cannot be placed into a neat box.
What is your favorite rhythm or dance??
Comment below on what your favorite type of Latin music or who your favorite artist is. Or, sign up today for a free class and discuss music with one of our teachers!
I began speaking Spanish at age 11 and have been interested in language and culture ever since! While at university, I studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and got a B.A. in Environmental Economics with a minor in Spanish. After spending over a decade in Corporate America, I now enjoy the simpler things in life.
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