At Spanish Schoolhouse, you hear music every day! Why is music such an important part of the Latin culture? It expresses the happiness and cultural traditions of the Latin people, and makes you want to dance with its great rhythms! Our End of Year Show is the time when the children share what they have learned about Latin music and culture through dance, song, and cultural presentations. In today’s blog, we’ll explore the roots of just a few of these amazing genres, and even share some links so you can catch the beat.
Latin music is always evolving. Traditional Latin music from specific geographic areas combined with African beats to create some of the most popular rhythms, such as Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata. Here’s a small “sampler” of some of the most traditional Latin music styles.
Andean music, from the Andes Mountain region of Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, is usually played with different types of pan flutes, a small guitar-like instrument called a charango, and bombo drums. Close your eyes and imagine you are on a mountaintop while you listen to this sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Pv85HRmqh0
Cumbia, from Colombia, has a strong African influence and uses multiple drums, combined with large gaita flutes. Its rhythm makes you want to dance! Traditional cumbia dancers wear colorful flowing skirts and dance in a circle, holding the edges of their skirts up and moving in and out, to create a beautiful image of a flower opening and closing. Tap your feet to this beat! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y3lmS0L-co
Tango, one of the most distinctive Latin music styles, hails from Argentina and Uruguay. Its influences include Africa, Spain, and Cuba. Tango music can be played with just guitar, or with an ensemble of violins, flutes, piano, basses, and bandoneones (an accordion-like instrument). The tango is a partner dance with dramatic, gliding steps. The lyrics to tango music often deal with love and heartache. Can you just feel the romance? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7_ZLN9NLOk
Samba is recognized around the world as the dance of Brazil, and especially of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Samba has roots in Africa. It uses a series of drums, led by the bass drum (called a surdo), which sets the beat. In addition, you’ll hear shakers (ganzá & chocalho), bells, and a whistle which signals the breaks in the music. Samba dancers wear colorful costumes, including elaborate headdresses with feathers and sequins. Here’s a sample of samba beat! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqao21cZ5nM
Cuban Danzon is a combination of European sounds and African influences. It is a slow, formal partner dance including set footwork, syncopated beats, and elegant pauses. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndq2bMczZAE
Son, also from Cuba, is one of the most influential forms of Latin music and is an essential ingredient of Salsa. Son uses bongos, marimbula, timbales drums, cowbells, botijas (earthenware jars played by blowing into a reed), claves (cylindrical wooden sticks which are struck together, producing a metallic sound which keeps the rhythm), and trumpet. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7jgtCAtuBU
Vallenato originates from Colombia and was a method of communication used by travelling farmers when they took their cattle to market at fairs. Vallenato is a type of folk music typically played with guacharaca (a percussion instrument), accordion, and caja (a type of drum). There are four main types of ‘beat’ that Vallenato music is played with. ‘Son’ and ‘Paseo’ are two Vallenato beats that have a 2/4 time. ‘Son’ has a more sorrowful and slower feel. Finally, ‘Puya’ and ‘Merengue’ are very similar styles, with ‘Puya’ being distinct mostly because of the length of its lyrics. Enjoy a sample here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L9itEadUCE&index=2&list=RDazAjn8jHt5Y
There are literally hundreds of Latin music styles from specific regions and across genres! We hope this little traditional music “sampler” encourages you to continue to explore Latin music, including newer styles like Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Latin Pop and more. Get the kids involved and learn some new dance moves! It’s one more way to bring the Latin culture home, and broaden the global perspective for the whole family!