A brief summary of Latin-American Popular music

by Piero Scaruffi
excerpted from The History of Popular Music

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(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Popular Music")
Latin America has produced a variety of genres born at the crossroads of European folk music, African music and native traditions. While not as popular as the popular music of the USA (also born out of the integration of European music and African music), Latin American genres shares the same characters that made it a universal koine'.


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During the "belle epoque" (1890s), the working class of the "Boca" of Buenos Aires (Argentina) invented a new rhythm, the tango. Tan-go was the name given to the drums of the African slaves, and the music was influenced by both the Cuban habanera and the local milonga. The choreography originally devised in the brothels to mimick the obscene and violent relationship between the prostitute, her pimp and a male rival eventually turned into a dance and a style of music of a pessimistic mood, permeated by a fatalistic sense of an unavoidable destiny, a music of sorrow enhanced by the melancholy sound of the bandoneon. When lyrics were added, they drew from "lunfardo", the lingo of the underworld (the term originally meant "thief"). Tango was embraced enthusiastically in Europe and landed in the USA in the 1910s. The Viennese waltz and the Polka had been the first dances to employ the close contact between a male and a female. The tango pushed the envelope in an even more erotic direction. One of the earliest hits of tango was pianist Enrique Saborido's Yo Soy La Morocha (1906). By that time, tango had already established itself as a major genre among young Argentinians. Roberto Firpo is credited as having set the standard in 1913 for all future tango orchestras: the rhythm set by syncopated piano figures, the melodies carried by bandoneon and violin. Firpo's Alma de Bohemio (1914) and Gerardo Hernan Matos Rodriguez's La Cumparsita (1916) were among the early international hits. Bandoneon player Osvaldo Fresedo and violin player Julio de Caro were among the instrumental stars and composers of the 1920s. From his debut with Mi Noche Triste (1917), the song that introduced lyrics into the tango, to his untimely death in 1935, Carlos Gardel was the most charismatic vocalist, the master of erotic abandon. The tango craze took New York by storm during World War I. Rudolph Valentino created an international sensation in a steamy scene of his film "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921). But tango became a more intellectual affair during the 1930s, when literate songwriters created more poetic lyrics. Representative musicians of the decade are pianist Osvaldo Pugliese (Recuerdo) and violinist Elvino Vardaro. Bandoneon player Anibal Troilo ruled the 1940s. Tango then became a dogma that allowed very little freedom. It was only in the 1960s that someone dared question the dogma.

Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla (1921) mixed tango with classical music to compose works for bandoneon and orchestra, pieces for bandoneon octets and quintets a tango opera, a tango oratorio, etc.


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See The 20th century.

Cuba was the starting point for many of the Latin dances. At the beginning of the 20th century, Cuba's main music was the "son", a fusion of Spanish popular music and the African rhythm rumba (first mentioned in 1928 and probably related to the Santeria religion). Traditionally played with tres (guitar), contrabass, bongos and claves (wooden sticks that set the circular rhythm) the son of Cuba was popularized by the likes of Ignacio Pineiro, who had an hit with Echale Salsita (1929), and Miguel Matamores. The danzon, first documented by Miguel Failde Perez's Las Alturas de Simpson (1879), was a descendant of the French "contredanse" or contradanza, and in Cuba's 1920s the danzon became a version of the son for the upper classes, performed by "charangas" (flute and violin orchestras, in which the violin provided the main riff while the flute improvised). Charangas of the golden age include: Orquesta Neno Gonzalez (1926), Orquesta Belisario Lopez (1928), Orquesta de Cheo Belen Puig (1934), Orquesta Aragon (1939), Orquesta America (1942). In the 1930s, Spanish-Cuban bandleader Xavier Cugat (who formed the Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra in 1935) was for Latin music what the Beatles were for rock music: his orchestra created the commercial version of Latin music (largely devoid of artistic value but hugely popular) for the western masses. Also during the 1930s, the dance academia of Pierre and Doris Lavelle popularized Latin dancing in Britain (it was Pierre Lavelle who codified the moves of the rumba in 1955 and the moves of the samba in 1956). In the 1940s, Arsenio Rodriguez, a virtuoso of the tres (Cuban guitar), set the standard for the Cuban conjunto (adding congas, piano and trumpets to the traditional guitar-based sexteto) and thus spearheaded a kind of son based on the piano and the congas. For example, Rene' Alvarez, Arsenio's former singer, formed Conjunto Los Astros in 1948, with multiple trumpets and piano.

Cuba's mambo, "invented" (or, better, imported from Congo) by bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez and by his brother pianist Orestes of the Antonio Arcano's Orquesta Radiofonica with El Danzon Mambo (1937), fused rumba rhythms with big-band jazz, and was epitomized by Damazo Perez Prado's Mambo Jumbo (1948). Basically, the mambo was a danzon for the working class. The chachacha was a midtempo mambo figure that, after the 1953 recording of Enrique Jorrin's La Enganadora (1948) and especially Perez Prado's Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White (1955), became a genre of its own, still performed by charangas (unlike the mambo, that was performed by smaller combos). The mambo became a USA craze in 1954.

"Salseros" were the conjunto groups (brass-driven dance bands) of the 1940s that played a bit of everything. The most celebrated Cuban vocalist of the era was Beny More, from Yiri Yiri Bom (1946) to Maracaibo Oriental (1954).

A fusion of Cuban music and jazz music (or "cubop") became popular after World War II, influencing some of the most important jazz musicians (e.g., Dizzy Gillespie). Puerto Rico pianist Noro Morales was the main practitioner of the quintet for piano and percussion (Bim Bam Bum, 1942; Oye Negra). Frank "Machito" Grillo's Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite (1950) was typical of the genre.

The foundations of post-war Latin music were laid by this generation. Cuban pianist Jose Curbelo played with Cugat and raised Ernesto "Tito" Puente, Ray Barretto and Pablo "Tito" Rodriguez, who raised Eddie Palmieri. American singer Frank "Machito" Grillo played with Cugat and Norales, and then raised Puente.

Trinidad's calypso, first documented by an instrumental recorded in 1912 by by George "Lovey" Bailey's orchestra, was another Latin dance to reach beyond Latin America. Calypso was originally sung in French, but the first recorded calypso song, Julian Whiterose's Iron Duke in the Land (1914), was already in English. Starting with the "Railway Douglas Tent" of Port-of-Spain in 1921, calypso was originally performed in "tents" (temporary dancehalls) during the period before carnival: the term stuck, and came to denote any club playing calypso. Most calypso records are still released just before or during carnival season. Hubert "Roaring Lion" Charles (who also called himself Rafael de Leon) was perhaps the first star, producing the standards Send Your Children to The Orphan's Home (1927), Marry An Ugly Woman (1934), Three Cheers For The Red, White and Blue (1936), Netty Netty (1937) Mary Anne (1945). Other classics of the early era were Raymond "Attila The Hun" Quevedo's West Indian Federation (1933), Women Will Rule the World (1935) and Calypso Behind The Wall, later covered by Belafonte as Jump In The Line, Frederick "Wilmoth Houdini" Hendricks' War Declaration (1934) and He Had It Coming (1939), covered by Louis Jordan as Stone Cold Dead in the Market (1946), Neville "Growling Tiger" Marcano's Money is King (1935), Norman "King Radio" Span's Matilda (1938), Rupert "Lord Invader" Grant's Don't Stop the Carnival (1939) and Rum and Coca Cola (1944), Aldwyn "Lord Kitchener" Roberts' Tie Tongue Mopsy (1946), Irvin Burgie's Day O and Island in the Sun, both covered by Belafonte. They all had to travel to New York in order to record their songs. During the 1940s, Trinidad's musicians developed the concept of the steel band, which dramatically changed the sound of calypso. A 1946 concert in New York, "Calypso at Midnight", organized by Alan Lomax, and Sam Manning's revue Caribbean Carnival (1947), the first calypso show on Broadway, helped establish the genre. But it was in the 1950s that calypso became a "craze" in the USA, thanks mainly to Harry Belafonte's Calypso (1956), one of the first albums to sell over one million copies, that contained Banana Boat Song (1956). Back in Trinidad, Francisco "Mighty Sparrow" Slinger released the first calypso album, Calypso Carnival (1958). Other Trinidad hits of the 1950s included Carlton "Lord Blakie" Joseph's Steelband Clash (1954), Slinger "Mighty Sparrow" Francisco's Jean and Dinah (1956), Fitzroy "Lord Melody" Alexander's Mama Look A Boo Boo (1956). Mighty Sparrow (Ten To One Is Murder, 1960; Dan Is The Man, 1963; Melda, 1966) and, to some extent, Lord Kitchener (The Road, 1963; Rainorama, 1973) continued to dominate during the 1960s. Songs by new artists included Mervyn "Mighty Sniper" Hodge's Portrait of Trinidad (1965) and McCartha "Calypso Rose" Lewis' Fire In Your Wire (1967), the first major hit by a female calypso artist.

In Cuba in 1955, Los Papines fused the violin-based music of charangas and the trumpet-based music of conjuntos Eduardo Davidson's La Pachanga (1959), recorded by Orquesta Sublime, introduced Cuba to a Colombian dance (which was confusingly called "charanga" in the USA). But, as Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba (1959), the epicenter of Latin music moved to other islands and then south. Charanga and pachanga became brief fads in the USA, while the "son" left Cuba and migrated to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico had its own tradition of "bomba" and "plena", to which percussionist Rafael Cortijo, leader of a conjunto since 1954, had added trumpets and saxophones (El Bombon De Elena). His conjunto and his husky vocalist Ismael Rivera (El Nazareno, Quitate de la Via Perico), notorious for the improvised call-and-response vocals of the "sonero" tradition, harked back to the African roots of Caribbean music without any distinction between styles. Both vocally and rhythmically they created a "sauce" of Caribbean music. El Gran Combo, formed by pianist Rafael Ithier, continued Cortijo's mission in a lighter vein, with La Muerte (1962) and Ojos Chinos (1964).

In the 1960s, the bomba-son hybrid reached the Puertorican colony in New York. Here, the son adopted the format of the big band, as in Jimmy Sabater's Salsa y Bembe (1962) and vibraphonist Cal Tjader's Salsa del Alma (1964).

The Cuban expatriates that relocated in New York contributed greatly to the assimilation of the genre in the American culture: vocalist Celia Cruz (Burundanaga, 1956; Yerbero Moderno, 1956), flutist Jose-Antonio Fajardo (La Charanga), jazzy congueros Candido Camero and Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria (Mazacote, 1958; Afro Blue, 1959; Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man, 1963), violinist Felix "Pupi" Legarreta, who fused charanga and jazz on Salsa Nova (1962). Santamaria, who arrived in New York in 1950, paid tribute to his Cuban roots on Yambu (1958) and Mongo (1959), that were performed with other Latin percussionists.

The evolution of son continued in New York via Dominican flutist Johnny Pacheco, leader of the quintessential charanga (featuring singer Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez) but also the leader of the "Africanization" of the charanga (arrangements limited to trumpets, piano and percussion), New York's pianist Charlie Palmieri, who formed in 1959 the influential charanga Duboney (four violins and Pacheco on flute), New York's pianist Eddie Palmieri, who in 1962 pioneered "trombanga", a sound based on two trombones and a flute (in alternative to the charanga sound), New York's percussionist Ernesto "Tito" Puente (Oye Como Va, 1962), New York's drummer Ray Barretto, who experimented with rhythm'n'blues and jazz, Puertorican bongo player Roberto Roena (Mi Desengano, 1976). They all crossed over into jazz and rhythm'n'blues. Notable albums include Puente's Dance Mania (1958), Pablo "Tito" Rodriguez's West Side Beat (1961), Bobby Valentin's Ritmo Pa Goza (1966), Eddie Palmieri's Lo Que Traigo Es Sabroso (1964) and Superimposition (1969), Barretto's Acid (1967) and The Message (1972), Cortijo's Maquina de Tiempo (1974). Latin New York also secreted the boogaloo, a fusion of black soul music and the Cuban mambo, as in Eddie Palmieri's Ay Qye Rico (1968). New York-born Willie Colon, originally a trombonist, was the first major Puertorican star, his orchestra and his singer Hector Lavoe capable of albums such as El Malo (1967) and El Bueno, El Malo y El Feo (1975), besides the classics Che Che Cole (1969) and Gitana (1984).

A key event in 1967 was the meeting between Puertorican vocalist Ismael Miranda (then still a teenager) and the orchestra of New York's pianist Larry Harlow, best documented on Abran Paso (1970). They revitalized the CUban sound for the audience of rock music.


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See Re-Alignment.

In 1973 the North-American son was renamed "salsa" for a tv special (by Izzy Sanabria of Fania Records, the equivalent of Motown for Latin music). In Puerto Rico salsa is also known as "guaguanco", a term that originally referred to a kind of rumba dance. Larry Harlow's orchestra rediscovered the fusion of charanga violins and conjunto trumpets (with the addition of electric instruments) on his milestone recording Salsa (1974) with vocalist Junior Gonzalez. The 1976 concert "Salsa" organized in New York by the label Fania launched the fad nation-wide. In the 1970s, the main centers for salsa were New York, Miami, and Colombia.

Ruben Blades, who had become Willie Colon's main composer after El Cazangero (1975), contaminated salsa with rock'n'roll and political issues on Siembra (1978), that contains Pedro Navaja and became the best-selling salsa album of all times.

In Venezuela, Angel Canales coined a jazzy trombone-driven kind of salsa on Angel Canales And Sabor (1976), while Cuban-born Roberto Torres was the defender of the tradition, and in New York veterans of Eddie Palmieri's orchestra formed Libre to play a more aggressive and jazzy kind of salsa, documented on Con Salsa Con Ritmo (1976).

The "voice" of salsa was Hector Lavoe', Colon's vocalist, whose best album was Comedia (1978), featuring the anthemic El Cantante, written by Blades and arranged by Colon.

The new sound of salsa owed to people like ubiquitous Puertorican trumpeter Luis "Perico" Ortiz and producer Louie Ramirez, whose album A Different Shade Of Black (1976) is credited with crossing over to pop music.

Other notable salsa hits of the 1970s were: Jose "Cheo" Feliciano's El Raton (1964), the first big hit of salsa when revived in 1974, Celia Cruz's Quimbara (1974), Enrique "Papo" Lucas' Acere Ko (1975), Eddie Palmieri's Vamonos Pal Monte (1976), Lloraras (1975), by Venezuelan combo Dimension Latina, featuring vocalist Oscar D'Leon, who later formed Salsa Mayor. But salsa was becoming a very vague term, as New York's group Tipica 73 proved on albums such as La Candela (1975), which is really a mixture of Latin dance rhythms.

New York's singer Henry Fiol used a traditional Cuban conjunto, Saoco, to sing the urban songs of Siempre Sere Guajiro (1976).

In the 1970s, a new dance was added to the Latin recipe: the Dominican Republic's merengue, yet another by-product of the Cuban habanera. The origins of the meringue actually go back centuries (it was already mentioned in writings of 1875), and the style can be said to have existed since at least the 1930s, and popularized by Angel Viloria in the 1950s. Wilfrido Vargas, whose El Barbarazo (1978) was considered a watershed event, Johnny Ventura, Cuco Valoy, Jossie Esteban, July Mateo, Francisco Ulloa were among the trend-setters of the 1980s.

During the 1960s, Trinidad coined a mixture of calypso and soul ("soul-calypso") that during the 1970s targeted the discos. Its was pioneered by Garfield "Lord Shorty" Blackman's Soul Calypso Music (1973), Winston "Mighty Shadow" Bailey' Bass Man (1974), Cecil "Maestro" Hume's Savage (1976), and Aldwyn "Lord Kitchener" Roberts ' Sugar Bum Bum (1978), the first world-wide hit of soca. Winston "Mighty Shadow" Bailey's If I Coulda I Woulda I Shoulda (1979) and Austin "Blue Boy" Lyons's Soca In The Shaolin Temple (1981) solidified the genre's appeal to disco-goers.

Calypso itself was torn between the revolutionary pressure coming from David Rudder, whose The Hammer (1986) was influenced by pop and soul, and the conservative attitude of Leroy "Black Stalin" Calliste, whose Caribbean Man (1979) harked back to the classics.

Colombia's Grupo Niche, led by guiro player Jairo Varela, played big-band multi-vocal salsa on Querer Es Poder (1981).


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Brazil's colonial history is unique in that the dominant white class showed some tolerance for the black slave class and the native pagans. The latter's traditions range from the African-derived voodoo (or, better, Candomble religion) of Bahia to Rio's Macumba religion. Unlike Mexico and Peru, where the original cultures were erased by the Spanish colonizers, Brazil retained them and simply recycled them into the general "saudade" (melancholy existentialism) of the Portuguese conquerors. The fundamental dichotomy of Brazilian music is between Bahia and Rio. Bahia is the Brazilian equivalent of New Orleans: a melting pop where African traditions mixed with local and European concepts. Rio is both the capital of the aristocracy, where European culture was imported, and the underworld of the slums, where poor (black and white) immigrants from the rest of Brazil (including Bahia) lived in miserable conditions.

In the last decades of the 19th century, the orchestras of Rio de Janeiro (basically, woodwinds and horns, with the clarinet as the soloist) that performed European dance music (such as waltzes and polkas) were called "choro". Joaquim Antonio da Silva Calado, the band-leader of Choro Carioca, revolutionized the style by emphasizing virtuoso playing and improvisation, and by introducing the cavaquinho and the violao (a seven-string guitar). After him, the choro orchestras preferred the flute as the soloist, the violao as the bass, and cavaquinho as the rhythm. The great composers of choro were Chiquinha Gonzaga (a female and a pianist) and Ernesto Nazareth. But the choro ensembles abhored the African percussion instruments.

The first appearance of the word "samba" dates from 1838. The "samba" was originally a dance of African origins, the mesemba, which came from Bahia and was probably related to the Candomble rituals. It wed a Brazilian dance, the "maxixe", which was an evolution of the habanera (a European dance craze created by Maurice Mouvet in 1912 on the basis of the Cuban habanera) and of the polka, and soon became a musical genre in its own. The samba was probably invented by African-Brazilians in the working-class slums of Rio de Janeiro. The rhythm of the samba was designed as as to fulfill three roles: to sing, to dance and to parade (at the carnival). The first record to be advertised as "samba" was a song by a black musician, Ernesto "Donga" dos Santos: Pelo Telefone (1916). Manuel "Duque" Diniz, a white Brazilian who had opened a maxixe academy in Paris, spread the samba dance craze to Europe in 1921, when he invited Os Oito Batutas, a black choro ensemble led by flutist and composer Pixinguinha ("the Bach of choro") which included Donga on guitar, on a tour to Paris. The combo brought the samba to Paris, but also brought something back to Brazil: trumpet, trombone, saxophone and banjo were added to the line-up, and the sound became more "Americanized", adapting to the sound of big-band jazz. Pixinguinha's Carinhoso (1928) was emblematic of the new style. A young white musician from the Rio middle class, Noel Rosa, became famous with the samba song Com que Roupa? (1930) and started a less "African" and more song-oriented form of samba. Vincent Youmans' film Flying Down to Rio (1933) popularized the samba dance in the USA. The first samba school was founded in 1928 in Rio, and samba schools proliferated in the 1930s. Samba was the generic name of the music employing a kind of rhythm, but there were different kinds of samba. Perhaps the most adventurous and extreme was the batucada. "Batucada" is both the name for a large samba percussion group, for a samba jam session, and for an intensely polyrhythmic style of drumming. A batucada can be played by ensembles with hundreds of percussionists. In Bahia, bloco afro and afoxe (two mainly percussive styles) combined to form samba-reggae. The choro was not dead: in fact, composers of the 1940s such as Benedito "Canhoto" Lacerda created most of the choro repertory.


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The next major stylistic revolution took place in the 1950s: when white young middle-class intellectuals merged a gentler, slower form of the samba with jazz music, and shifted the lead to the guitar, bossanova was born. Thus, it was a music of the bourgeoisie, not of the working class. Indeed, bossanova songs left behind the underworld of samba, where people struggled to make a living, and shifted to the world of beaches, romance and lazy bohemian life. And, in fact, bossanova soon became a favorite style of easy-listening and lounge music.

Antonio Carlos ("Tom") Jobim began a collaboration with Vinˇcius de Moraes when he scored the soundtrack for the other's play, Orfeu da Conceicao (1956), which included his first standard, Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Voce. After Jobim composed the classic Desafinado (1957), the two released Cancao do Amor Demais (1958), featuring Eliseth Cardoso on vocals and Joao Gilberto on guitar, which contained Jobim's Chega de Saudade, the song that established bossanova in Brazil. Jobim and Morais also wrote Garota de Ipanema (1962), which turned bossanova into a world-wide phenomenon.

The jazz world of the USA welcomed the Brazilian style on Jazz Samba (1962), a collaboration between guitarist Charlie Byrd and saxophonist Stan Getz.

Both Jobim hits got their definitive shape on Joao Gilberto's singles, notably Girl from Ipanema (1963), a collaboration with Stan Getz. Gilberto's guitar style emulated samba percussion with syncopated guitar-picking.

Other notable protagonists of bossanova were Luiz Bonfa` (Manha de Carnaval, 1958), Jorge Ben (Mais Que Nada, 1963), Sergio Mendes (the most shameless perpetrator of Brazilian easy-listening).

Far more original was the synthesis offered by black guitarist Djalma "Bola Sete" DeAndrade (3), who blended samba, jazz, American folk music and European classical music in the effortless improvisations of The Solo Guitar (1965), Ocean (1972), Shambhala Moon (1982).


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If bossanova was the reactionary sound of the decade, "tropicalismo" was the idealistic movement of the 1960s in Brazil. It introduced foreign elements into Brazilian music (both jazz and rock) and it replaced the traditional instruments with modern instruments such as the electric guitar. The birth date of tropicalismo was the 1967 festival of the Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB): Caetano Veloso's Alegria Alegria and Gilberto Gil's Domingo no Parque defied the conventions of Brazilian music and were interpreted as a challenge to the dictatorship of Tropicalismo soon spread to poetry, the visual arts, theater and cinema, and, in turn, musical tropicalismo absorbed elements from the other arts. Veloso's and Gil's album Tropicalia ou Panis et Circensis (1968) became a dividing line in Brazilian culture. The three queens of Brazilian pop music were also influential in publicizing the new generation of songwriters: Gal Costa (a sort of Brazilian hippy), Maria Bethania (a sort of Brazilian androgynous husky Edith Piaf) and Elis Regina (perhaps the most gifted).

On his own, Gilberto Gil concocted a pop-samba-jazz-rock fusion on Expresso 2222 (1972).

Caetano Veloso (3), the most literate and daring of the tropicalista, expanded the horizons of Brazilian music by turning it into a highly personal experience. Caetano Veloso (1969) and Transa (1972) introduced an austere, vulnerable and introverted voice who was not afraid to experiment with the sound of the anglosaxon music of the (psychedelic) era. Muito (1978), the lush, eclectic albums Estrangeiro (1989) and Livro (1998) were experimental works that continued to upgrade Veloso's stylistic hybrid.

The other great poet of the movement, Milton Nascimento (2), coined a hybrid style that combined elements of pop, samba and jazz with progressive-rock arrangements and erudite lyrics. His fluid and energetic vocal style peaked with the double-album Clube Da Esquina (1972) and its cycle of sophisticated ballads, and lent itself naturally to jazz, as proven by Milagre Dos Peixes (1973), the ultimate manifestation of his soundpainting (percussion, piano, strings, guitar, falsetto vocals, jungle sounds), Minas (1975), Geraes (1976) and collaborations with Airto Moreira, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

Classically trained, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti (guitar, flute, piano), who had already composed the song O Sonho (1968) for a 100-piece orchestra, fused European classical music, jazz-rock, bossanova and Brazilian choro folk music on albums such as Sonho 70 (1970), inspired by the movie soundtracks of the 1960s, Academia De Dancas (1974), with strings, and especially the suite Dance Das Cabecas (november 1976) for guitar, piano, flute (all played by Gismonti) and percussion (Nana Vasconcelos). basically bossanova's version of free-jazz improvisation, Sol Do Meio Dia (november 1977), another venture with Vasconcelos into the Brazilian jungle, and Solo (november 1978), a set of melancholy solos on different instruments, notably the 21-minute Selva Amazonica for guitar. Despite turning towards new-age music in the 1980s, Gismonti continued to produce profound pieces of music, increasingly classical sounding, such as Danca Dos Escravos (november 1988), another concept album, this time for guitar only, Natura Festa Do Interior, off Musica de Sobrevivencia (april 1993), Mestiso and Caboclo for a Brazilian trio, off Zig Zag (april 1995). Classical compositions included: Musica de Sobrevivencia (composed in 1990) for orchestra, the five-movement cantica Cabinda (composed in 1992) for orchestra, Strawa no sertao (composed in 1991) for chamber orchestra.

Brazilian psychedelic-rock was gloriously represented by Os Mutantes (1).

The 1990s

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The carnival music lambada, best represented by Luiz Caldas, became famous world-wide thanks to Kaoma's Lambada (1989).

Boukman Eksperyans popularized both carnival and voodoo music of Haiti on albums such as Vodou Adjae (1991), Kalfou Danjare (1992) and Liberte' (1995).

The most famous Brazilian vocalist, Marisa Monte, was hardly worthy of her predecessors. Her albums Mais (1991) and Memorias Cronicas e Declaracoes de Amor (2000) were simply collections of Brazilian classics watered down for the international audience.

Vinicius Cantuaria, influenced by the American new wave, offered a personal synthesis of "Tropicalia", mellow jazz and soul music on Sol Na Cara (1997) and Tucuma (1999).

Notable albums of salsa include Marc Anthony's Todo A Su Tiempo (1995). In the USA, Cuban-born Gloria Estefan sang salsa for the discos in the Miami Sound Machine, culminating with Primitive Love (1985) and Let It Loose (1988). The sensation of the decade was Tejano vocalist Selena (Quintanilla), whose album Ven Conmigo (1990) adapted Latin rhythms to the format of the pop ballad. She began to cross over to pop with Amor Prohibido (1994), that contains Techno cumbia.

Rock'n'roll was never popular in South America. Mexico's Iconoclasta was the main prog-rock band of the continent, starting with Iconoclasta (1983), progressing to the suite Reminiscencias De Un Mundo Sin Futuro, off Reminiscencias (1985), and to the EP Suite Mexicana (1987).

Sepultura (12) and its offshoot Soulfly turned Brazil's heavy-metal scene into one of the most influential.

A young singer from Colombia, Shakira Mebarak, became the best-sold Latin artist of all times first with Donde Estan los Ladrones? (1998) and then with Laundry Service (2001), that sold more than ten million copies worldwide, both characterized by a sprightly fusion of Latin, Arab and rock music, as well as by her guttural singing. The stylistic melange progressed from the relatively earthly Whenever Wherever (2001) to La Tortura (2005) to the sophisticated rhythmic collage of Hips Don't Lie (2006).

A brief history of Mexican rock music

By Alejandro Fernandez

80% of Mexico's population is poor. From that 80%, 30% is in extreme poverty (less than a dollar to spend daily). It is pretty much centralized between 3 cities (Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara), so, as any Latin American country, it has to deal with social, cultural and economical polarization, this factors often slowed cultural evolution and are the main reasons why Mexico is years behind contemporary movements. Before Spanish conquest, music had a theological and indigenous manner. Mayan, Aztec, Olmec and mesoamerican cultures used music for sacrifices or rituals. Post hispanic Mexico started to blend indigenous music with european music creating regional folk movements. The most famous of this regional genres is Mariachi, originated in Jalisco. Corridos (narrative, folk music) became widely popular in Revolutionary times (around 1910) depicting the country's current affairs in war, politics and society. While white people stole rock n' roll from black people in the 50's, we stole rock n' roll from white Americans in the late 50's. Since English was not yet important in Mexico, covers were sung in Spanish. Some notable bands are Los Rebeldes del Rock and Los Locos del Ritmo. Mexico's centralization made Mexico City the only place where rock music was being produced. As Carlos Santana became more and more popular, rock flourished in Mexico in the form of Rock Urbano (urban rock). It took the bases of rock n' roll and blues and blended it with social problems, humor, pop culture and cultural issues. Some notable bands were Botellita de J‚rez, Three Souls in My Mind (later known as El TRI), and Los Dug Dug's. In 1968, a student massacre occurred in Mexico City, consequence of a rising middle class that opposed to the authoritarian regime of PRI (Mexican party that ruled the country for more than 70 years), so we had to have our Woodstock. Festival Av ndaro in 1971 was a definitive period in Mexican Rock because it proved music could be a mean of expression and cultural impact. Rodrigo "Rockdrigo" Gonz lez gave birth to the Movimiento Rupestre, Mexico's folk music movement (Bob Dylan style) and became a legend after his death in the 1985 earthquake. Internet and NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) were two forces that started to bring world music to Mexico in mass quantities, catalyzing the evolution of Mexican Rock. The 90's saw rock explode in Monterrey and Guadalajara with bands like Zurdok, Plastilina Mosh, Control Machete (first mainstream hip-hop/rap band), Molotov (first lyrics censorship scandal), Santa Sabina (goth/jazz(rock band) and Jumbo. One of the most interesting bands in 90's was Caf‚ Tacuba who mixed regional folk and rock music in many ways. RE their second album touched pretty much every popular style of music in the country from Trios to Son Jarocho. Amores Perros (Love's a Bitch) created in the year 2000 the new mexican cinema boom involving Rock artists into soundtracks and movie scores. Radio stations like Radioactivo 98.5 and Reactor 105 (more recently), as well as the Vive Latino Festival have kept alive mexican rock and growing into new depths. Artists are just starting to experiment with new rhythms like Los Esquizitos (psychedelic, post-punk band), Austin TV, IMS (electronic music mixed with banda, mariachi and popular rhythms), Porter and Zo‚.

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