When we refer to any Latin element that has been influential at the European continent or vice versa, it is almost inevitable that we think back to the Discovery of the Americas on the part of Christopher Columbus. It was about this time when various instruments present in cumbia and salsa started to be used. No wonder we attach so much importance to this event, as this is how Spanish and the Portuguese arrived in the so-called New World. It is no coincidence that these languages are the protagonists of these rhythms at this time.
While it is true that Europe gave its languages to Latin music, we cannot fail to mention that the African slave trade played a major role in this context. Its beats and drums closely tied to religious ceremonies were inspirational for salsa, bachata and samba, and African-American music, in which the famous Jazz may be included.
Neither can we leave out the fact that many pre-Colombian civilizations created many types of percussion music instruments, which are very present in Andean music and its very traditional flute-like sounds.
What has led Latin American music to become so popular in recent times?
There is no denying that Latin music has achieved a tremendous global reach in recent years, but things were not always like this. In the past, it was ballads of love with heartbreaking lyrics that dominated this market and its primary target audience was female.
With the passing of years, this reality radically changed. We can see it in the emergence of an encouraging number of commercial songs and very simple to dance like La Macarena by Los Del Rio, Livin La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin, A Dios Le Pido by Juanes, among others. These pieces of theme music were the ones that broke the barrier of traditional radio in due course.
Later, hip hop and R&B gave origin to other urban rhythms that took hold of everyone’s attention
Latin music for some time now
That mode of nightclubs of Latin origin that have been inaugurated the length and breadth of the old continent is nothing new. What is new though is the type of attendees received in these places in recent years. There’s a very large audience of all ages who show real interest in rhythms whose language they don’t even know, but they do not seem to care at all. In fact, this peculiarity seems to give an extra touch of excitement to the point. They see Latin music as an array of sounds and rhythms that may not understand, but that simply cannot stop dancing them.
When making a comparison of the monotonous pop style with this recent wave of Latino artists that have been conquering hearts throughout the world, it is evident that things are different now and did not seem to go back to the way they were. What is true is that traditional styles have been overthrown surprisingly.
It is not a secret that singers such as Shakira or Ricky Martin became immensely popular in the late nineties and the early 2000s, but now things go much further. We are saying that there is a very important number of musicians in these genres that have drawn the attention of all audiences of all ages and countries. Further, there is a lot of Americans who have appropriated these styles and the Spanish language to give a lot of freshness to their musical projects. A telling example is the Canadian Justin Bieber who has worked with Luis Fonsi and other artists from Latin America, giving as a result a fan base that became interested in these genres and the Spanish language.
It looks like musical lyrics no longer need to be in English to reach all corners of the globe and make everyone dance. In fact, many people look for this type of music to enjoy it, even if they understand little to nothing about it.
What can we deduce from all this?
After having analyzed all these data, we can say that Latin music is a very rich and intense mix of a cluster of cultures that were linked up between them until we find the heterogeneity that we see today. Undeniably, this whole process of miscegenation between so many rhythms would not have been possible under the influence of pre-Columbian, African, and European culture. However, the same can be said in the opposite case.
Yes, this also occurs on the contrary case. Europeans’ musical tastes are no longer those of a few decades ago. Nowadays, there are many adults and young people who cannot stop dancing when they listen to certain salsa or merengue songs that have gone across all possible borders.
In short, we are talking about a continuous feedback loop between both cultures that keeps going until now. No musical rhythm is completely pure and Latin rhythms are the perfect example.