Latin Popular Music Essay

Latin Popular Music Essay

1. The three Afro-Cuban religions are Santeria, Palo Monte and Abakua. Santeria, syncretised with Catholicism, is highlighted with bembe, an event that has musical repertoire which the Cubans describe as “party for the orishas.” Palo Monte uses ngoma drums and most of Palores songs are in Spanish. The Palo songs are simpler and its dances are more vigorous than the Santero. Abakua religion is an all-male secret society. A masked dancer known as Idem or Ndem dances with a broom and staff. This Abakua ritual is for cleansing and chastity.

2. When the importation of slaves ended in 1807, there were only few African slaves left in English speaking countries, thus the neo-African practices in those places weakened. On the other hand, Cuba continued to receive African slaves. This added fresh infusion of African cultures. Another reason is that in Jamaica, African slaves were repressed. In contrast, African slaves preferred the more lenient Creole with its free black population.

3. Contradanza was very popular in the first half of 19th century. Many composers during that time were fascinated with this kind of music. Perhaps two of the greatest composers in Cuba that time were Ignacio Cervantes (1847-1905) and Ernesto Lecuona y Casado ( 1895-1963). They used contradanza as the basis in most of their musical compositions.

4. Son is a style of music that originated in Eastern Cuba and became popular in 1930s  worldwide. It is a combination of the elements of Spanish cancion, the Spanish guitar, African rhythms and the percussion instruments of Bantu and Arara. This foundation of Cuban music is thought to derive from Changui. Son contributes to the development of salsa.

5. Son has two basic parts: montuno and clave. Montuno is a repetitive section with call and response vocals. The clave is the most important part. It is five-notes musical improvisation played on two sticks.

6. Clave is important because it serves as the foundation for the rhythmic style of salsa and son. Clave is more than two sticks played together; it is the force behind salsa and son, a framework wherein the rest of the music must relate.

7. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, trova nova, a movement of Cuban music was formed. The leading perfomers were Silvio Rodriguez, Vicente Feliu and Pablo Milanes. Their music was very important because it depicted political and social changes.

8. The Puerto Rican farmers and peasants were called. They were associated with black and white Creoles, some of whom were rich ranchers and the others were peasants too.

9. The influence of African culture is obvious in two Puerto Rican musics: plena and bomba. Plena, a narrative song, is associated in the city of Ponce in the Southwestern portion of Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, the bomba, a musical genre for dancing, is associated in San Juan City.

10. Puerto Ricans always considered New York a gate of opportunity and they have been migrating to the Big Apple since 1840s. Puerto Ricans considered themselves Americans. They coined the word “ Nyuricans” to refer to people who were born in Peurto Rico but lived in New York City.

11. Salsa music became popular in New York when Fania, a New York-based recording company, promoted it. Several of the Salsa performers were Larry Harlow, Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Bades and Tito Puente.

12. Ruben Blades was the prominent salsa artist who ran for presidency in Panama in 1994. Although his stardom attracted votes, he lost that race. He was appointed minister of tourism in 2004. He believed that music was very essential in stressing a point, a case or a truth.

13. Plena is the Jamaican dancehall that serves as the back beat or reggaeton. Raggaeton evolves from Jamaican dancehall. The two are similar in way that both are influenced by merengue, bachata, salsa and valienato. Reggaeton and dance hall are dance music.

14. Tego Calderon is a rapper who was born in Puerto Rico. He was said to like all kind of music, but he believed that the roots of reggaeton included Jamaican dancehall, reggae, hip hop and salsa. He also incorporated in his songs bomba and plena genres.

15. Merengue represented Dominican national identity because, in the first place, the Dominicans created this music based on the country’s musical elements like drums, brass, chorded instruments and musical style that belongs only to the Dominican Republic.

16. Political unrest during the reign of the dictator Joaquin Balaguer plus the relaxation of the U.S. on its migration policy caused many Dominicans to migrate to New York. The migrants then gradually spread meringue music in New York, displacing salsa as the top Latin music.

17. Bachata originated from Cuba and it evolved from bolero. Bachata involves guitars and/or any stringed musical tools as the main instruments. Bachata means worthless because, at first, Dominicans rejected the music.

18. The African slaves that fled to remote mountains were called mawon. They resisted the French by sneaking back to their plantations to free their captured family members and by joining the Taino settlements. Dutty Boukman and Francois Mackandal, both considered vodou priests, were the slave leaders who were instrumental in the Haitian revolution.

19. One street festival in Haiti is the Rara. It begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates at Easter Weekends. Rara involves flocks of people marching in the street and dancing to vodou music which is a blend of band style jazz with samba-like drumming., beguine, kadans and gwo ka.

20. The carribean musical styles fused in zouk are the compass,balakadri, beguine, kadans and gwo ka. Zouk is popular Guadaloupe, Martinique, Haiti, France, Brazil, franco and lusophone countries in Africa and in Quebec in Canada.

21. Jamaicans love music, it part of their popular culture; hence, sound system plays a vital role in the rise of Jamaican musical genres. Although the sound system is politicized and commercialized, it is still fuses new music to the popular culture of Jamaica.

22.Reggae is developed in Jamaica. It can be defined as “Jamaicanness” because it has a slow beat which is a characteristic in Jamaican rhythm. Aside from that, reggae develops from rocksteady and ska, two musical genres that belong to Jamaica.

23. Dancehall is criticized as sexist because some of the vulgar and sex-oriented lyrics it contains which are downgrading not only to women, gays and lesbians but also to those who have more conservative preference in terms of sex.

24.Calypso and Soca are two carnival musical genres in Trinidad that have been influential worldwide. Calypso, characterized by rhythmic and harmonic vocals, is used as means of communication among the slaves. Soca involves Indian instruments like dholak, table and dhantal. It rivals reggae as the most popular Carribean music.

25. Calypso, since it is used as means of communication, contains more lyrics. Soca, on the other hand, has less lyrical content; it focuses more on melody. Calypso’s beat is slower than soca’s.

26. The emergence of steel drums coincided with the increase of crimes rates and widespread violence and the bands were suspected to be involved in gangs. British authorities arrested many band members in their effort to suppress steel bands. The issue was settled afterwards.

27. Chutney-soca music resulted from the crossover between chutney and soca. The term was coined by Drupatee Ramgoonai in her first album entitled “ Chutney Soca.” Chuney-soca has the melodious elements of chutney and the beat of soca.

28.Tropicalismo, also known as Tropicalia, a Brazilian art movement in the 1960s, is associated with musical expression. It is also a form of Brazilian music that developed from boss nova, rock and roll, Bahian folk music, African music and Portuguse fado.

29. Samba is a ballroom dance characterized by backward and forward steps and tilting, rocking body movements. Bossa nova, developed at the Copacabana nightclubs, is a fusion of jazz harmonies and slow beat of samba. Samba-reggae is a fusion Jamaican reggae and samba.

30. Fado is a Portuguese sad song characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics. It is nostalgic and often linked to flamenco music and dance. Fado is usually sung with guitar as accompaniment.

31. Evolution of steel band. 1883: British authority banned drumming at Carnivals; Tamboo-Bamboo was created. 1934: Tamboo-Bamboo was banned. 1940: Winston Simon designed concave drums as all-steel bands were common. 1944: Steel bands were banned due to crimes, violence and rowdiness of the musicians. 1946: Simon developed an instrument that played 14 notes. 1947: Ellie Mannette used 55 gallon steel convex drum and rubber-tipped sticks. 1951: First steel band using oil drums.

32. Recording companies played a vital role in promoting calypso, steel band and dance hall. Calypso was also used in movies. Steel band and dance hall, however, faced early criticisms and suppression which contributed to their slow progress.

33. Rastafari beliefs: there is only one God called Jah; Jah is included in the Holy Trinity; Jah is in spirit form and lives within the human and God incarnated onto the earth in Jesus Christ.

34. Rasta believes that Africa is the land which Jah had promised he would build the paradise. Rasta also believes in black supremacy and asserts that evil society or Babylon is white dominated. Rasta prefers larger logical constructions of languages.

35. They say that perhaps because salsa and son are practically similar in some aspects. However, the two musical genres are different. Son is a music style from Cuba which is essential into the development of salsa.


Bilby, Kenneth M, Largey, Michael D. and Manuel, Peter. Carribean Currents. Temple University (2006)

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