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History of Latin Music

Latin music is a genre of music that comes from the countries of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries. There is no commonly accepted opinion regarding the development of music in Latin America. Spanish and Portuguese music has been evolving differently from the music of Hispanic America. This research focuses on Latin music as the specific phenomenon of South and Central America. It has a long history and eclectic nature. The Native American traditions, the influence of European and African music, the strong dancing rhythms, and the complex melodies make Latin music unique on the global musical stage.

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Pre-Columbian music of Latin America

The history of Latin music started long before the European invasion of Americas. There are not many artifacts from the Pre-Columbian era, but it is known that Native Americans used the wind and percussion instruments. The frescoes of religious festivals on Mayan pyramids depict the trumpets, flutes, rattles, and drums. Starting from ancient times, the locals have been using the fruits to make a g?iro, a specific percussion instrument. The guiro creates the specific rhythm and sound for salsa, for example. The guiro can be replaced with other instruments, but it remains the first known instrument of that type in Latin America. Miguel Pozo, the modern musician, demonstrates different techniques of guiro play (Pozo). According to the European documents, it is known that music was a very important part not only in different religious rituals but also on the battlefield during the Pre-Columbian era. Spanish soldiers described the local music as the annoying loud noise that demoralized the enemy troops. Modern musical bands refer to Pre-Columbian music by adding the elements of folk sounds. For example, Chico Sanchez in his project Sounds of the past uses authentic musical instruments to reproduce the music of Pre-Columbian America. He uses clay, deer horns, turtle shells, a string of butterfly cocoons, and other natural materials to reconstruct the ancient instruments and sounds (Sanchez). The instruments are divided into aerophonic (wooden, horn, and clay flutes) and membranophonic (drums and guiro). He plays his folk melodies as a solo artist. He vividly represents Latin folk music played in Central America during the Maya civilization. Sanchez proves that the Native American musicians could create polyphony using four notes simultaneously. Unfortunately, the ancient musicians did not transcribe their music, so their melodies are unknown.

Colonial music: Baroque and folk

European settlers brought their music and instruments. Spanish and Portuguese music of that time was also syncretic; it combined common European musical traditions with Arabian musical heritage. The old images of Spanish guitars prove that the primitive guitars were used in Latin America by the first European settlers. With the beginning of the European invasion, Native Americans started to develop their own music genres on the base of European style. Due to the fact that the European colonization of the West was sponsored and inspired by the Catholic Church, the settlers introduced their religion with their rituals, music, and instruments to the natives. With the development of European settlements, cathedrals appeared in every large city. The Mass required music. Undoubtedly, the simplest kind of melodies was the church polyphonic singing. Later, Latin chapel masters used the instruments of the Italian style, such as violins, citterns, and organs. They referred to European melodies and composed new rhythms. However, church music was not the only European musical import. Folk music, especially Spanish, was also prominent in Latin America. Unfortunately, not many folk compositions survived. However, it is known that Spanish settlers introduced the dances with castanets and the rhythms supported with shoe tapping and finger snapping. Spanish folk music had a great influence on the further development of Latin music, especially dance music. Chatham Baroque has samples of baroque music from Latin America (Chatham Baroque). This modern group represents complex vocal melodies and the accompaniment of violins, clavicorns, and other instruments. For example, the composition Ill fly away is a traditional Appalachian composition. There are four artists: two violins, banjo, and voice. The instruments are chordophonic and string. Initially, it was the religious song that later transformed into the folk one.

Influence of slavery: African rhythms in Latin America

Together with the musical tendencies from Europe, the settlers brought African music with the slaves to Latin America. African slaves could not take the African instruments, but they brought the rhythms. For example, the African drums served not only for entertainment and religious rituals but also for distant communication. That communicative function was amplified with the singing traditions. Thus, the main features of African music in Latin America are based on the cross-rhythms, call and response singing style, and massive use of percussion. The influence of African style varied in different parts of South America. While the Western part was conservative and calm, the Eastern shore of Central America developed new syncretic styles. African slaves traveled across the Caribbean region changing music according to the emergence of the trading network. As the result, a new Afro-Caribbean musical style, which is popular nowadays, appeared. The use of drums and percussion, including guiro, call and response singing, supported by the flutes and trumpets are typical for this genre. In the video of Scott Rathbone, the typical Afro-Caribbean music is performed by local musicians (Rathbone). The name of this song is unknown. It is performed by three musicians and a group of singers, including some people from the audience. Two drums and the percussion are supported with call-and-response singing. The types of instruments are membranophonic and idiophonic (guiro). It is a type of Latin street music that is performed for common people. The impact of the Afro-Caribbean style is profound. Most of the popular modern styles of Latin music salsa and bachata are based on African beats.

Latin music goes global: early 20th century

The international popularity of Latin music started before the invention of recording technologies. At the end of the 19th-century, tango emerged from the immigrant culture of Central America. Tango is a mix of European, African, and newly-appeared New World music. Initially, it was a dance accompanied by the violin and the harp, later by the accordion. However, the first mechanical musical machines made the real revolution in the music world. The rhythms of tango turned to be the most recognized. The exchange of melodies, rhythms, and traditions became global. The development of radio broadcasting fastened that process. Popular melodies circulated all over the world. During that time, the music in Latin America developed in different genres, the styles varied from country to country, and musicians and composers became internationally famous, including Carlos Chavez in Mexico and Alberto Ginastera in Argentina. The fragment of Sinfonia India (1935) by Carlos Chavez proves that it is the Latin symphony inspired by the classic European motives and performed with local instruments, such as clay flutes (Carlos Ch?vez: Sinfonia No.2, "Sinfonia India). The symphony was performed in the large concert halls by the symphonic orchestra with all types of instruments for the upper-class audience of Latin America. However, there was no term Latin Music in the early twentieth century, it appeared later.

After War World: good neighbor policy and Latin Music

Before World War II, the presidents of the USA and Brazil signed the trading agreement, known as the Good Neighbor Policy. The agreement had to stimulate the trade. The musical exchange reflected the interaction. In the 1940s, the world started to discuss Latin Music as a phenomenon. In fact, South and Central America were not engulfed in military conflicts. People associated the popular melodies with peace, festivals, dances, and other entertainments. Therefore, no wonder that the music business reacted to that demand and started to promote Latin musicians and styles. In the middle of the 20th century, the most popular Latin instruments were maracas, bongos, and timbales.

From the 1960s- till now: rock, salsa, pop, electro

The 1960s were marked by the birth of rock-n-roll. The new style adopted the rhythms of Latin music, and Rock en espa?ol became part of the global rock-n-roll movement. The virtuoso guitarists found a new niche. In the 1960s, the glory of Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana began. Santana is of Mexican origin, but he performed his music in the United States. In Soul Sacrifice, his guitar solo is supported by the strong Latin rhythms (Santana). The instruments are chordophonic and membranophonic. They were accompanied by the first electrophonic instruments. This Latin psychedelic rock song was performed live at The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a great rock festival for the progressive youth of that time.

The 1970s and the 1980s are known as the salsa romantic era. The rough rock guitar melodies were replaced with the soft salsa and sweet vocal by Julio Iglesias (Popurri de Julio Iglesias (Salsa)). Actually, Julio Iglesias modernized classic salsa melodies with new rhythms, percussion instruments, piano, and trumpets. Another prominent Latin artist of that period is Selena Quintanilla. Her song Amor Prohibido was a huge hit. The root of her popularity was in the strong dancing rhythm of cumbia popular in Columbia and Panama (Selena). The instruments are membranophonic (drums) and electrophic (synthesizer). The song was recorded by Sony Music Publishing for the global audience.

At the end of the 20th century, the boom of Latin pop music introduced this term in mass media. Three leading artists supported the so-called Latin breakthrough: Columbian teen Shakira, Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin, and Enrique Iglesias, Julio's son. The new generation of Latin musicians added electronic elements to the traditional African rhythms (Shakira). The Latin pop singers referred to the pop versions of the Latin folk songs, for example, Macarena by Los Del Rio or Lambada by Kaoma. The combination of famous dancing rhythms with aerophones, membranophones, and electrophones sounds provided great popularity to Latin pop music.

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Latin music is a syncretic musical style that originated in South and Central American countries. It is comprised of European, African, and New World musical styles. The main feature of Latin music is the strong dancing rhythms of African beats. Latin music can be played on all types of instruments, but the most popular are guitars, drums, percussion instruments, trumpets, and flutes. In the second half of the 20th-century, Latin music became a phenomenon at the global music stage.

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