Latin American Music

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The term Latin American as used here encompasses the Americas south of the United States, as well as the entire Caribbean. The musics of this vast area are perhaps most efficiently discussed in terms of ethnic components--European (especially Iberian), Amerindian, African, and mestizo ("mixed" or acculturated). Amerindian Background

During the colonial period in Latin America (16th-19th century) many Amerindian populations were decimated, and much traditional Amerindian musical culture was destroyed or syncretized with Iberian. Little evidence remains as to the real nature of music in the Aztec, Inca, and Maya civilizations apart from the testimony of 16th-century Spanish chroniclers and what can be seen of instruments--percussion and winds, with almost total absence of strings--depicted in hieroglyphs and pottery decorations. Modern Andean Indians still make extensive use of vertical flutes and panpipes, along with European instruments such as bass drums, harps, and guitars of different sizes. In Mesoamerica Indians now play harps, fiddles, and guitars based upon archaic Spanish models, or MARIMBAS of African origin, all of which have largely replaced indigenous instruments. Only in certain tropical areas (as the Amazon basin) are virtually unacculturated Amerindian musics found. Iberian Influences

relatively few Iberian genres have been retained in their original forms, Iberian origins of many song and dance forms are evident in the use of harps, fiddles, guitars, and many song types derived from Spanish verse structures such as the copla and decima. Such genres include the desafio of Brazil, cueca of Chile and Bolivia, joropo of Venezuela, sones and corrido of Mexico, seis of Puerto Rico, and punto of Cuba. They are usually danced in couples and often incorporate such features as shoe tapping and scarf waving. In addition to the above dances of Iberian derivation, pan-European ballroom dances such as the polka, mazurka, and waltz developed many regional...
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