Introduction: Latin

The term Latin music stands for all styles of music of Latin American or Afro-Cuban origin. This includes such different styles as the Argentine tango, the Cuban son or Bossa Nova.

This introduction gives a brief overview of the stylistic characteristics of the various genres.

1. Bossa Nova

Bossa-Nova music is the fusion of South American rhythm elements with North American jazz harmonies. The originator of the genre is Antonio Carlos Jobim, a Brazilian pianist who worked as a bar pianist in Rio de Janeiro when he was young. He appropriated the light music that was common at the time – American jazz – and fused it with the music of his childhood and youth – Brazilian samba, choro and similar styles.

Learn more about bossa nova!

2. Choro & Samba

The choro can be described as the original Brazilian folk music, the music that ultimately gave rise to the styles that are so popular around the world today, such as samba and bossa nova. The choro, in turn, arose from the fusion of European influences such as polka and waltz and the traditions of the African-born population.

Read more about Choro here!

While the choro is primarily instrumental music, a large culture around rhythm, music and dance has subsequently developed with the samba. Often characterized by many percussion instruments and driving rhythms, samba is still the best-known Brazilian music style. The Samba rhythms Batucada and Partido Alto are important building blocks for many songs and accompaniment styles. Listen to guitarist Luiz Bonfa interpreting the Batucada:

3. Tango Argentino

Similar to samba in Brazil, tango in Argentina has become the country’s musical symbol. Here, too, European harmonies mix with Afro-American rhythms to create a unique melange. The most famous representative of modern tango is the bandeonist Astor Piazzolla.

The tango, like the related styles of milonga and habanera, are based on a clave-like rhythm in 2/4 time. In this wonderful interpretation of Marc Teichholz’s “Tango Habanera” you can understand the rhythm very well:

4. Rumba & Son

Afro-Cuban music plays a central role in Latin music. The clave as a central rhythmic unit is essential for almost all Afro-American music styles up to early jazz. The main development here comes from the Cuban son and rumba. Learn more about the Clave!

Many other well-known concepts harmonize with the clave, such as the tumbao (an early bass rhythm) or the montunos (repetitive accompanying piano rhythms). In addition, well-known (dance) styles such as mambo and salsa from Cuba have spread around the world.

Around the turn of the millennium, the son experienced a major revival through the music project “Buena Vista Social Club”. Listen to their version of the classic “El Cuarto de Tula”. Can you spot the clave?

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