World Music Appreciation: Music of Latin America

People have used music as a form of expression since the dawn of humankind. The tradition to apply sounds to convey emotions and meaning evolved together with civilizations. Music is deeply rooted in the cultures of all nations, and it is interconnected with other processes that take place in society, provides insights about the people who live in the area. Latin American music has played a significant role in political and social processes that took place in the region, shaping Latin Identities, and it went beyond the national boundaries affecting world society.

Latin American music is a syncretic phenomenon that emerged out of the interaction of various cultures in the region. Many trends from around the world have further influenced it, creating its unique appearance. Multiple musical genres originated in the Americas and the Caribbean, combining elements of Spanish and Portuguesa tradition and music of indigenous people (Brill, 2017). African people, who were brought to the continent as slaves during the colonial era, also contributed to the process of development of music in the region (Brill, 2017). Thus, from the very beginning, the music of Latin American was developed as a synthesis of various cultural practices.

The range of styles and traditions make Latin American music a vast subject, as all genres have their distinct futures and history. The wide-ranging geography of this cultural phenomenon is another source of diversity of the material. The list of the most famous genres of Latin Music includes Argentinean tango, Brazilian bossa nova, Cuban rumba, and many other types of music (Brill, 2017). Furthermore, salsa that historically originated in New York is also considered a part of this tradition (Brill, 2017). In addition to that, during the twentieth century, the culture of the United States had an impact on Latin music, leading to the creation of Latin jazz, rock, hip-hop, and pop music (Brill, 2017). All these genres further influenced one another, contributing to the exceptional diversity inherent to the music of Latin America.

Music has played a significant role in political and social processes on the continent since the colonial era. As a means of protest, it became especially popular in the second part of the twentieth century when a wave of public unrest led to a major political shift in the region. After the revolution in Cuba, socialist groups started to emerge across South America, demanding profound social changes (Muzio, 2018). These movements used music for inspiration and motivation of masses to rise against the suppressive political regimes and bring about a new fair society (Muzio, 2018). Providing a way to convey a political message, this type of music grained popularity, despite the attempts of the local governments to censor it.

The wide-spread tendency of using music as a form of social protest that is often referred to as “militant song movement” was a significant cultural phenomenon of the time. It was especially prevalent in Chili, Argentina, and Uruguay, where music was an influential factor during the socialist activity in the 1960s, inspiring the revolutionary action of people (Muzio, 2018). Artists advocated for social justice and made efforts to draw the attention of the people to inadequacies in society. Their music worked as a catalyst for the protests that unfolded across the continent at that period. This fact increased the popularity of this form of music among activists around the world, making it associated with left-wing social and economic movements (Muzio, 2018). As a result, Latin American music was influenced by political and social processes and was used as a means of protest, and, thus, affected local and global societies.

Globalization processes led to more interaction between cultures and facilitated mutual influence between the music of Latin America and the genres famous in the west. Migration played an essential role in this process, as cultural practices moved together with people. This tendency resulted in the spread of Latin American music around the world, making it especially popular in the United States and across Europe (Román-Velázquez, 2017). As Immigrants from South America were integrating into the cultural environment of their new home counties, they formed a new identity. This tendency directly influenced the course of political, social, and cultural change in the world, with music playing a fundamental role in the process (Román-Velázquez, 2017). Thus, as the popularity of Latin American music went beyond the national binderies, it became a factor in the international process.

To summarize, Latin American music is a unique phenomenon that combines elements of European, African, and indigenous musical traditions, and was influenced by other cultural trends. This broad category includes dozens of distinct genres and styles, each of which has its history and unique elements. Music was involved in social and political processes that historically took place in Latin America, and it reflected the people’s strive for social, economic, and political change. Globalization and immigration contributed to the spread of Latin American culture around the world, making Latin music an essential and inseparable part of global culture.


Brill, M. (2017). Music of Latin America and the Caribbean. New York, NY: Routledge.

Muzio, R. (2018). “Music as political actor in Latin America”. Latin American Perspectives, 45(6), 171-174

Román-Velázquez, P. (2017). The making of Latin London: Salsa music, place and identity. London, England: Routledge.