A Few Useful Notions Anyone Should Have about Latin Music

As you might have guessed, this article is aimed at praising the classical form of Latin music. It’s the one whose beats are inspiring the commercial Latin songs of today. And if you are among the people who used to bulk all South-American music in one place, here are just some of its most popular variations: Bachata, Bolero, Bossa Nova, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Flamenco, Tango, Mariachi, Mambo, Merengue, Salsa, Rumba, Reggaetón, Lambada, Samba and many more. You probably thought of these only as dances and completely lost sight of the fact that there is specific music for each of them. Know that each style has its own background and evolution. Are you starting to get an idea about the complexity of Latin music yet?


What is Latin music

Flamenco concert

Flamenco concert

Music industry representatives refer to Latin music as all music recorded in Spanish or Portuguese. A professional musician who has spent years mastering the art of the Spanish guitar can tell you this is a very narrow approach to such a complex and rich genre. The rhythm and the harmonies are key in defining Latin music. And you don’t even have to be an expert or hear the lyrics to recognize Latin music from the first few tunes. However, what you have to be an expert in is which is which South American music. Can you recognize Tango or Flamenco music?

A genre you can only approach with enthusiasm

Of all the music genres out there, Latin music is the one you can easily play at a party if you do not have chairs, because nobody will want to sit down, anyway. It is all about the rhythm, be it a slower style like Tango or Bachata, or a more alert one like Salsa or Rumba. For some, these rhythms are hard to get, while for others there is nothing easier than diving right in. But what is it like for musicians?
As a musician, you can become known for your stylings in Salsa but also drop a hit or two in Cha-Cha. It all depends on how well you can understand and recreate the rhythms people want to move on.

Evolution of Latin music

The beginnings

Since you can notice a difference between the Latin music that took MTV by storm in the 1990s and some of the music played before that, it is important for you to understand a little bit about the context. Its outreach began around the 1940s and 1950s, when some of the American all-time favorites started to be influenced by some of the music played by their neighbors. This is how jazz turned into the elegant Bossa Nova style and took over all fancy parties. Apart from that, swing music was not the only one that got people to dance together and Latin music was the perfect excuse. Tango, Salsa, Rumba, Cha-Cha were only some of the party favorites.

The 1960s was the moment Latin rock made waves. The incredibly talented Carlos Santana took to the stage and mesmerized audiences at large festivals such as Woodstock. The combination between the rock guitar and the subtle and playful notes of Latin classical music. It resulted in decades of “rock steady” popularity.

Rise to popularity

Yuri Buenaventura (left), famous salsa musician

Yuri Buenaventura (left), famous salsa musician

By the time the 1970s rolled around, Salsa music was hotter than ever and everybody wanted to get into it. The downside is that some of the people who were less into Latin music would confuse Salsa with every other musical style and assume they are all the same thing. It was also the decade Julio Iglesias made a name for himself, one he managed to pass down.

The 1980s was the decade of Latin ballads, with Julio Iglesias ruling the tops of both South and North America. It is also the time when South American soap operas took the TV scene by storm and transcended the borders into other states. Romance and everything of the romantic genre were at their peak.

Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin

And as we turn our attention to the 1990s, we can remember the rise of Ricky Martin, Shakira, Gloria Estefan, and Enrique Iglesias like it was yesterday. (Because for many of us, the 1990s just happened a couple of years ago.) Whatever it was, if it had Latin beats, it sounded like a sure success. On this note, some songs initially sung in a different musical registry got made over to sound more Latin, to get people more into it.

Latin music today



As the years moved forward, these Latin beats we have grown accustomed to have started to progress toward something more urban. This is how they moved away from the romantic setting of the 1980s and 1990s. In the 2000s, we had Reggaetón, Bachata and other styles of Latin music that took the tops by storm. And if you were not a fan of the genre, good luck avoiding hearing them. They aired at least a couple of times a day on the radio.

The 2010s did not bring on much of a change in this respect. People’s interests made them dive even deeper into the styles promoted in the 2000s and made artists specialize. By contrast, some of the 1990s artists chose to bounce back and forth between styles. Shakira has completely changed her approach to Latin music. But she is still creating music that is very contemporary, and all the while keeping collaborations with other Latin artists. Ricky Martin seems to move back and forth between old and new. But his dedication to the true Latin beats is like a breath of fresh air when the new songs are harder to define.

Classic means timeless

But above all these changes registered by modern Latin music, classical Tango music, Flamenco and other older styles managed to survive and to draw people in, generation after generation. Their timeless beauty, the cultural heritage they hold within them, the promise of bringing people together, in song and dance, keeps them among the favorites of people. And what is most amazing is the fact that Latin music. Although so simply defined as being music from the Hispanic world, has long managed to grow well past its borders.