Music & Dance in Latin America
Samba, Rumba, Salsa and more
Deeeesss-paaaaa-cito isn't exactly new anymore, but it's still a real catchy tune every summer. And once again proof that Latin America stands for pure rhythm. Be it pure joie de vivre, mystical sounds or real passion, Latin American sounds draw us from the woodwork.
Luis Fonsi, Juanes, Ricky Martin, the famous Buena Vista Social Club, J Balvin and of course the incomparable Shakira are the most famous musicians from Latin America and Disney has also jumped on the bandwagon of the irresistible Latino sound world with Coco and Encanto and gave us even more catchy tunes.
Everyone from Brazil, Cuba and the Caribbean knows Samba, Lambada, Rumba and Salsa. Bachata from the Dominican Republic also made it to the other side of the world with Aventura's hit "Obsesión". But there's a lot more music on this wonderful continent than what's arriving in the US or Europe.
In the following we introduce you to THE sound for each of our destination countries that makes no one sit back and with which an entire nation can identify... even if it's not easy given all the diversity.
Argentina IS tango. There's nothing to sneeze at. Tango developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the slums of Buenos Aires and Montevideo (Uruguay), where immigrants from many different countries lived in close proximity. Polka, mazurka and waltzes from Europe slowly merged with the rhythms and melodies of the African slaves and their descendants into something new and unique, which today stands for Argentina as only football does.
Bolivia plays quena (bamboo flute with six finger holes) and charango charango (small guitar made of armadillo shells) – at least in the Andean highlands, where our image of Bolivia is shaped. The typical Andean music has its origin in the cultures and traditions of the indigenous peoples of the high Andes and reflects the barren beauty of this landscape and the difficult life there with captivating melodies between melancholy and joie de vivre. In addition to the quena and charango, typical instruments include the zampoña (pan flute with several tubes), the bombo (large bass drum), the tiple (a small guitar) and the classical guitar.
Chile dances Cueca! Although Andean music is at home in northern Chile, just like in Bolivia, and there are also sounds of their own in the south of the long country, the national dance is the Cueca. The most important instruments are the guitar and harp, but the accordion also features frequently. Even if the complicated sequence of steps in 6/8 time seems very confusing to outsiders, it is completely impossible not to clap along and be enthusiastic. For Chileans, the Cueca, actually a courtship dance, is a solemn, almost state-supporting affair. Nevertheless, the texts are mostly romantic or funny and can even remind you a little of hand-made speeches.
In terms of music, Colombia actually has all of Latin America under control. That's because cumbia originated on the Colombian Caribbean coast but has spread throughout the continent. The cumbia is also a mixture of the music of African slaves, European immigrants, and indigenous people - a Caribbean mix version, so to speak. Drums, flutes, accordion create such a lively and rousing rhythm that nobody can remain calm - "Colombia te quiero tanto" from Encanto is a perfect example!
Costa Rica dances cumbia - but that actually comes from Colombia, so more about that under “Colombia” 😉. The cheerful "Punto Guanacasteco" comes from Costa Rica itself. To foreign ears it sounds a bit like mariachi, marimba and salsa thrown into one pot - no wonder with so many rhythmic neighbours! It definitely puts you in a good mood and therefore fits perfectly with Costa Rica's motto "Pura Vida".
Ecuador has a wide variety of music to offer...hard to pick just one. We did it anyway and would like to introduce you to the Pasillo. This music originated in the 19th century and is often referred to as the "father" of Ecuadorian music. The pasillo is a romantic, rather slow and melodic style of music, the singing of which is usually accompanied by one or more guitars and often accordion and quena. It has its origins in the Andes region of Ecuador but is strongly influenced by European influences.
In Guatemala nothing goes without marimba music. The marimba is like a very large xylophone with wooden bars that is played by several musicians together. Each musician plays on a section. The marimba is played in Guatemala at celebrations, religious festivals and cultural events and is a symbol of Guatemalan identity. Like so much in Latin America, the marimba came to the region with African slaves and was integrated and further developed by the indigenous peoples in the country's traditional music. Today, the marimba is the country's national instrument, and the music is a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
Mexico stands for mariachi…there's no mistaking it. Men in great uniforms, wide hats, trumpets, violins, guitars, and extra-romantic songs are simply the epitome of romantic Latino music. It's a cliché, but that's the way it is.
In Panama you can still clearly hear the African origins of the Tamborito: lively percussions plus singing, where a soloist often sings something, and a choir repeats the whole thing are so rousing that you just have to dance and jump to them.
The Huayno from Peru is happy, lively and rhythmic and is often accompanied by lyrics that deal with life in the Andes, nature and the customs of the indigenous communities. Like the music from the highlands of Bolivia and Chile, this includes quena, zampona and charango - no wonder, since the Andean region between the three countries has a common culture that is much older than the national borders. The cajón is also part of the Huayno: a wooden box that you sit on and drum on the front.
Uruguay comes full circle again with tango – but not only. Candombé is the rhythm here that everyone must follow. Camdombé also has African roots and is mainly played with cylindrical wooden drums, the "tamboriles". Each tamboril has its own role in the piece of music, played together creates a unique rhythmic sound that can be heard above all in "Llamadas". These are musical processions with drums and dancers, which can remind us inexperienced visitors of the Brazilian carnival. Candombé is also an intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.
And what else? The entire continent loves merengue and reggaeton!
Merengue is an upbeat and rhythmic style of music originally from the Dominican Republic. Over time it has become one of the most well-known and popular Latin American music genres and is now spread all over the world. Fast beats on the bass drum, a driving beat plus accordion simply lures everyone onto the dance floor. It's a good thing that dancing to it is as easy as walking... just kick to the beat and twirl great figures!
Reggaeton originated in Puerto Rico in the late 1990s as a fusion of reggae, dancehall, hip-hop and other Latin rhythms and then spread across the world. Reggaeton is characterized by distinctive beats plus a mix of rap and singing, often in Spanglish (Spanish + English). The music is mostly fast-paced and danceable, which has made reggaeton a popular genre of music in clubs and on dance floors.
Would you like to dance on this side of the Atlantic? Then feel free to contact us, we are guaranteed to find your favorite project in one of our destinations! By the way, dance courses are always offered with our Spanish courses 😊.