This is the second part in our feature on Latin American music, you can read the first part here. While the Portuguese speaking giant Brazil is united as one country, the former Spanish colonies stand as independent countries, each steeped in history, culture and of course music.
Mexico conjures up images of stereotypical mariachi bands performing the Mexican hat dance. But Mexico is well known for its musical depth, and music has been an important way historically of telling the news. Each one of the Mexican states boasts its own unique musical heritage, and I've given some examples below. The Spanish influence is undeniable (the skilled guitar playing and language itself), but Mexico's history, like in Brazil has found its way into the music in beautiful folk songs such as “Cucurrucucu Paloma”. Mexico today offers a wide range of music, from rock to rap, which when in the Spanish language sounds infinitely cooler than rap in English. However, if you don't know them already, check out my favourite Mexican group, Rodrigo y Gabriela.
The stereotypical image of Mexico.
An example of a Mexican folk song.
Some of the most incredible guitar playing.
The late Ritchie Valens, who like many Mexican-American musicians has become well loved in the USA.
Further south, where once stood the mighty Inca Empire, is Peru. Peruvian music has become hugely popular, blending old Inca instruments such as the haunting pan pipes with Spanish influenced guitar-esque instruments. The sound is incredible and ethereal, and since I was a little boy, it was what fascinated me about Latin America and the once mighty empires that stood there. The sound transcends time, and hails back to a mysterious lost world, yet the Spanish influences can still be heard. Once again, we see a successful blend between the indigenous and the immigrant, that seems to define Latin American music.
A beautiful song.
Argentinian music has had huge international success with its famous musical symbol: tango. While in the Andes, and tribal areas of Argentina, the music is typical of the Andes, using traditional instruments, in the cities, tango took off as a fusion of many different genres. Tango draws its inspiration from the Gauchos (Argentinian cowboys), Cuban music, Slavic music, Spanish music and Italian folk music, and in a way mirrors the modern Argentinian history of immigration. The genre has had significant worldwide influence, and is a huge source of pride in Argentina. Despite a turbulent history of dictatorship and violence, Argentina has found its ability to express itself musically, and developed the rock nacional genre in the 1960s, similar to the Spanish rock genre over the pond. Argentina continues to supply the world with astounding music, from tango, to two of my favourite artists: los Cafres (a reggae band) and the award winning guitarist (composer of the soundtrack to Babel and Brokeback Mountain) Gustavo Santaolalla.
Tango music with dance.
Great Argentinian reggae.
One of the most incredible composers.
Cuban music is sometimes referred to as the most popular form of world music and with good reason. It has influenced not only music in Latin America, but music around the world; from the United States, to Mali. In the beginning of the colonisation of Cuba, Spanish settlers brought over slaves from Africa during one of the most tragic chapters of human history. The musical traditions of the different groups of settlers has led to the rise of genres such as mambo and conga, and despite having one of the most turbulent histories in the Americas, continues to export fantastic music to a world which eagerly listens. Although the Cuban government is repressive, it still recognises that music is an incredibly important part of its history and celebrates that fact.
An example of Mambo.
A famous example of Conga music.
In Puerto Rico we once again see influences from natives, Africans and Europeans. With popular classical genres such as danza and bomba, to recent innovations, there's a huge array of music for such a small island. It is one of most influential Latin American nations in terms of music, and its recent innovation of reggaeton music has caused much controversy due to its links with promiscuity and violence. However, there is still much musical talent and no denying the importance of Puerto Rico's music in terms of world music and has seen many successful genres, each as lively as the next, rise. Puerto Rico has drawn its inspiration from its native inhabitants, Africans and Europeans, as well as nearby Cuba and the USA. Like Mexico, the rap and other influenced genres are hugely popular, while also balancing it with incredible acoustic acts like Jose Feliciano.
Classical European influenced Puerto Rican music.
African influenced Puerto Rican music.
An example of reggaeton.
A lovely Christmas song by Jose Feliciano.
Latin America: Music Against Madness
In Latin America we see a huge variety of music, but what stands out is the successful mixture of hugely different genres that has captured the attention and affection of the world. It has influenced popular music in the USA, UK and Europe through recent exports such as Shakira, but also influenced the way in which music can be approached; introducing musicians to new methods and styles of music. Despite huge problems with crime, politics, violence, drugs and poverty, we see an incredible celebration of life in Latin America, and it would do us good to remember that in face of turmoil, music will always be there as a way of expression. They tried to stop it in Argentina, they tried to stop it in Brazil, but the music continued, and despite witnessing some of the most terrible events in history, and having some awful problems, the joyous export and experience of music never ceases. There is a sense of unity in Latin American music, with Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil all influencing other countries; sharing the music, and allowing others to be inspired, which is what music should always strive to be. Here at St Pauls Lifestyle we're happy to welcome any contributions from Latin American artists who would like a LISTING on our site.