Latino music is rich with cultural history and instrumental diversity. What makes this particular kind of music so special is the fact that it originated from other cultures throughout the history of Latin America’s societal development. Each genre of Latino music is a harmonious blend of rhythms and beats that originated from the first inhabitants of Latin America and with the arrival of the Spaniards, a new society began to develop where different ethnic groups began to intermingle as well as their music and instruments. Latino dance was also derived from following the rhythms of the music as well as ritualistic celebration that used music as a key element. Modern Latino music continues to play the musical instruments and sound that has first originated from the first colonization of the “New World.”
The three major ethnic groups that helped Latino music flourish to what it is today were the Iberians, or Spanish, the Ameri-Indians, such as the native tribes of the Americas, and the Africans, those brought over for slave labor. In time, these ethnic groups will help define not only Latin music but the rest of Latino history, tradition and culture as well.
Influences that shaped Latin American music and dance
In early colonial times, churches allowed native Indians and African slaves to maintain their ritualistic music and dance and correlate it with Catholic music and prayer as a form of Christian evangelization. This ultimately led to the evolution of popular modern day Latin music genres such as salsa, merengue, bachata and cumbia.
Believing to improve morale and production, plantation owners allowed African slaves to celebrate their rituals and celebrations.
Ethnic integration has helped in the creation of the diverse Latin music and dance enjoyed today. The varying degrees of ethnic integration depends on societal acceptance, geography and national identity. For example, Brazil having a high population of African descent due to the arrival of slaves during the colonization, has music that is African in nature such as drum beats while in Central America, Ameri-Indians influenced the course of music there with heavy music use of wood winds such as flutes.
The various instruments that are played even today originated mainly from Spain, Africa, and the Ameri-Indians that first occupies the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans.
Latino Music from Different Regions
Despite the differences from many Latin countries, Latin music has the common purpose of telling a story, expressing love and expressing one’s national identity and love for country.
Two examples of Latino music that were very poular throughout history originated from two distinct Latin regions in the western hemisphere. There is Ranchera from Mexico and Salsa from the Caribbean, particulalrly from Puerto Rico and Cuba. These two genres illustrate the fact that although Spanish is the common language, the history, culture, and sound behind them differ greatly but the common purpose to praise identity and expres emotions is evident.
The history of what is called Salsa was the result of a musical evolution of various types of Latino rhythms. It began in Cuba and Puerto Rico in the 1930’s taking influences along the way from different Latino music styles and Afro jazz. Because of the social and political pressures and restraints enforced in Cuba and Puerto Rico, many people emigrated and fled into exile to New York and various other cities of the United States. It was these Caribbeans who grew up in the Spanish Harlem of New York that developed this genre together with other musicians in the Caribbean. Popular salsa artists such as Celia Cruz and Tito Puente helped lead and strengthen this festive genre and pass it along to the next generation of young salsa singers who want to keep the tradition alive.
Drawing on Mexico’s rural traditional folklore, Ranchera was conceived as a symbol of new national consciousness in reaction to the aristocratic tastes of the era. Vicente Fernandez is an artist seen all over Mexico as icon of Ranchera music.
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