Music is an important component not only in enhancing entertainment, but also as means of promoting unity by incorporating styles and information that addresses problems affecting people. In most cases, the production and dissemination of music locally, regionally or internationally has been based on the historical, geographical, and cultural factors. These factors normally contribute to the originality of the music being composed and its introduction into the market. Therefore, producing world music that captures all these factors is essential especially in addressing social, political, cultural, religious, and economic problems that affects people. Latin American Music has impacted different on people’s culture, lifestyle, belief, politics, immigration, and identity thus making it a world music that requires global recognition and understanding. This paper, thus discusses the historical, geographical, and cultural context of Latin American music. It highlights how the music has impacted on every day life, worship and belief, migration, dance, politics and identity of people.
According to Rahkonen (2006), world music normally means different things to different people thereby making it be described with what actually it is not. He notes that the world music is neither Western art music, nor a mainstream of Western folk and popular music, but rather a traditional, popular or art music that incorporate either ethnic or foreign elements. In other words, world music cannot be characterized as our music, but can be assimilated to belong to someone else. Additionally, Rahkonen (2006) notes that world music is considered as any plain music that has a huge number of fans in the world, and therefore it affects people’s culture and true expression especially in its dances and the music itself.
As pointed out by Scaruffi (2006), Latin America music include all countries in the South America, Central America, and Caribbean region that have embraced and are practicing music that effectively relate to their cultural and ethnic components. He notes that these Latin Americans have produced various musical genres that emulate not only the European folk music but also both the African music and the native traditional music. Scaruffi (2006) adds that in Latin America, local musical genre inherit both the cultural and ethnic factors based on a region or a particular group rather than emanating from political framework and boundaries. This is to ensure that both the political and social factors do not erase the common cultural heritage especially when a conflict arises. According to him, this is why the cultures shared among the Latin Americans have survived for long irrespective of the growth in music.
The impact of Latin American Music on their culture, lifestyle, belief, politics, immigration, and identity makes it to be a world music that requires global recognition and understanding. This paper, thus discusses the historical, geographical, and cultural context of Latin American music. It highlights how the music has impacted on every day life, worship and belief, migration, dance, politics and identity of people.
Historical, Cultural and Geographical Context of Latin American Music
According to Hampson & Maria (2008), music was used in Latin America not only as a link between the white and the black, but as a folk tradition that was developing into an art of traditional music. They points out that with the intertwinement of the indigenous and European musical roots, rich and diversify music were produced that were distinctive and illustrated the cultural and beliefs of Latin Americans. In this respect, both hymns and work songs were produced. These forms of music depicted that interminglement between European and African sounds rich of traditions and culture. Additionally, they note that Latin American music is normally produced based on musical style being used, geographical set up, and the language of the composer.
As pointed out by Olsen & Sheehy (2008), during the colonial, revolutionary, and federal period in the sixteenth and eighteenth century, most of the Amerindian population who occupied South America was decimated by the presence of European, Iberian, and African slaves. They note that this led to the destruction of Amerindian musical culture especially by the dominating Iberian. For instance, hymn tunes, theater songs, and ballads were not only imported from England, but were modeled in English musical genre (Scaruffi, 2006). Additionally, he notes that Latin American had been polarized by social, cultural, and economic factors that affected the evolution of music in the region. Therefore, the Latin Americans resorted to locally use their music in enhancing the cultural norms and beliefs. This limited the faster and widespread growth of the music.
Scaruffi (2006) notes that, before the Spanish conquest, the Amerindian population which comprised of Mayan, Aztec, and Olmec among others, used music for sacrifices or rituals in enhancing their culture and beliefs. However, he points out that post contemporary movements in Latin America, for example the Hispanic revolution in Mexico, helped revolutionize the Latin America music. This came about as a result of the promotion of a perfect blend of both European and local music. As the revolutionary movements became more active, people begun to feel their influence in the field of music as this enabled the musicians to come up with a regional based folk music. According to him, Mariachi, a famous regional musical genre used by revolutionary movements, and which became popular during the time, incorporated both the narrative and folk music. This was partly a strategy by the revolutionary movements to enable them participate in determining their country’s involvement in current affairs pertaining to war and politics as well as those of the larger society.
According to Miller, Vandome & McBrewster (2009), rock music was not a popular music in Latin America during early ages. But, they point out that, just like the white people stole the pop music from the black Americans, the Latin Americans did so from the white Americans. They note that in the late 50s, Latin Americans had not mastered the English language, and therefore sung the covers of the pop music in Spanish. Miller, Vandome & McBrewster (2009) add that this led to the establishment of notable rock and roll bands such as Los Rebeldes del Rock and Los Locos del Ritmo in Mexico. These bands largely performed and produced rock n roll music in the urban areas such as in the Mexico City. Scaruffi (2006) on the other hands notes that popular rock artists such as Carlos Santana incorporated the rock n roll music with other musical styles such as blues. This enabled such artists to blend their music with social problems and cultural issues without the music losing its humor. This was to improve their cultural heritage.
Moreover, Scaruffi (2006) points out that the evolution of internet and the establishment of Northern America Free Trade Agreement brought together most of the world music in Latin America. This also acted as a catalyst to their musical composition. For instance, he note that the 90’s prominent Mexican rock bands, Caf and Tacuba, composed their music from a mixture of regional folk and rock music. Scaruffi (2006) adds that evolution of technology has enabled most of the Latin American artist to electronically mix mariachi, banda, regional folk songs, with popular rhythms in adapting to current world music.
It is thus clear that it was the geographical and cultural contexts which were the main factors that contribute to the kind of music that was being written, recorded, and produced in Latin America. According to Stienstra, Nigro & Clemente (2011), Spanish music and Latin rhythms are the basic musical styles that describe the type of music that comes from broadcasting stations in the region. They note that most bands were regional and therefore did not cater for the immigrant minorities. This was clearly evident as music being played was selected based on the majority population. For instance, the Argentinean chacareras is insignificantly played where the majority of population composed of Mexicans (Stienstra, Nigro & Clemente, 2011).
Latin America Music Styles and Dances
As pointed out by Stienstra, Nigro & Clemente (2011), the insurgence of Iberian and African populations in Latin America adversely affected the musical style of the region. For instance, they note that the Mesoamerica Indians in the regions now produce their music by playing harps, guitars, and fiddles that emanate from Spanish model. Some have also started to play Marimbas which is of African origin. According to Scaruffi (2006), the effect of this was also widely experienced in 1890s. This was when the Argentinean working class, Boca, invented a musical rhythm known as tango; the name which was derived from the drums of the African slaves.
Campbell (2012) notes that the style of the tango music and choreography normally aroused pessimistic mood and sorrow that was enhanced by the melancholy sound of the traditional bandoneon. He points out that the choreography of the music originated from an obscene scene of mimicry which depicted a disjoint in relationship between a prostitute, her bodily gestures, and her male rival. Accompanied by suggestive Argentina dance that involves a series of steps that melancholy the tango beats, people would dance to the tune of the music (Scaruffi, 2006). He adds that it is such choreographic characteristics of the tango music, in addressing the incoherency in daily human social activities that, the enabled it to become a popular dance in Europe and U.S.
Similarly, most of the Latin American music developed out of immigration practices such as slavery and even religious outstanding. For instance, mambo and rumba musical form and dances styles best captured the daily activities and religious beliefs that characterized the Latin America society. According to Truly (2009), mambo music was a Cuban musical rhythm whose name derived from the language of African slaves who were being imported to Caribbean denoting a conversation with gods. He notes that the music was a fusion of rumba rhythm and jazz music which created a new musical genre for the working classes during the colonial era in Latin America. For instance, Perez Prado smoothly introduced jazz sound accompanied by rumba tunes that created an appealing mambo dance which was dynamic with compelling styles of pelvis swinging that were in unison with the Latin music (Truly, 2009).
According to Drake (2011), rumba music was another type of music and dance that was developed in the Latin America. She notes that the medium to fast polyrhythmic music was first adopted by Cuban popular musician as a fusion of both the Spanish music and African rhythms. She points out that the term rumba refers to various Afro-Cuban musical and dancing styles in the United States during the early 30’s and 40’s. She notes that rumba music improvised a call to response. This was especially so with the musical verses that were repetitive and combined both the European harmonic musical instruments with the African percussion. Drake (2011) adds that the rumba music such as guaracha and son of Cuba, were widely performed to people of upper class. Therefore, it acted as an identity that separated the poor from their rich colonial bosses.
Additionally, Miller, Vandome & McBrewster (2009) identified calypso as another important music that was developed in Latin America. They note that the music was developed at Trinidad in Caribbean. It deployed witty and humorous styles that highlighted people’s attitudes regarding the social, political, and economic issues they were faced with. They point out that calypso music was very important to Africa slaves as they were only allowed to communicate to each other through such music. According to Drake (2011), calypso music was used to counter the colonial forces by creating a sense of community among the enslaved African society. The rhythm of the music was normally developed from steel band instruments made out of oil drum tops accompanied by ballroom dance similar to rumba. The musicians would thus provide carnival performance based on African religions and taboo in order to enhance their identity in countering colonial forces.
Another popular music and dance style that is performed across the Latin America is salsa. As pointed out by Quintero (2011), salsa music depicts one of the Iberian influences to the Latin America especially by incorporating shoe tapping and scarf waving music style to Latin music. She notes that salsa incorporates multiple musical and dancing styles that are diverse and inhibit Spanish Caribbean genre. According Miller, Vandome & McBrewster (2009), salsa was formed to fight the predominance social classes in Latin America that were seen to undermine the rights of other people.
Therefore, following the establishment of salsa music and dance by Cuban immigrants and Puerto Rican migrants in late 60’s, the world started emulating and performing the music and dance. Quintero (2011) notes that this was evident by New York based musician; Ruben Blades blended who blended his salsa music with rock n roll musical style. He also incorporated political issues in 1978. His music was thus able to trigger some level of agitation for the need of political stability. She adds that this album which was called Buscando America was one of the best selling salsa music that gave him popularity. Records have shown that he almost won it in 1994 as Panama president.
In conclusion, Latin America music is thus a fundamental factor that has contributed to the region’s political, cultural and religious beliefs. It has been established that most of the world music and dances such as salsa and rumba originated from Latin America as a result of historical colonial ruling that had undermined democracy. The study has thus pointed out the need for artists and musicians to develop music and dances that addresses their daily human activities and encounters in promoting not only their identities, but also culture.