All the types of Latin American music the region is famous for

Latin American music is known to capture the hearts and souls of listeners and have you heading to the dance floor. Famed for its complex rhythms and beats, mesmerizing and colourful instruments and rich and bold history, it’s no surprise this style of genre has been influencing modern day pop, jazz and hip-hop music styles too. 

When travelling through Latin America, you are sure to hear the regions unique sounds and beats. Discover the top 10 genres of music you can look forward to savouring during your travels to Latin America below. 

Professional dangers performing the salsa.

1. Salsa music 

When many people think of Latin American music, salsa is a genre that comes top of mind. But believe it or not, the upbeat tempo and energetic lyrics of salsa music are often associated with the United States of America too. In the 1940s and 1950s, Cuban artists brought their traditions and song music genre to New York City and a new up-beat style of music was created in the 1960s known as the iconic salsa. 

Salsa music is known for its percussion instruments and ‘soneros’ translated to vocals or salsa singers. Other key instruments to the genre include the piano, guitar, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, congas and much more. Today, salsa is constantly evolving and continues to be both a popular style of music and form of dance. The iconic salsa sounds can be recognized and defined for its repeating patterns (often one-two-three, one-two, one-two-three, one-two). 

2. Cumbia music 

Another popular Latin American music genre you are guaranteed to hear during your travels to Colombia, Argentina, Chile and more, is cumbia. Originating from Colombia, cumbia music is known for its folk style and recognized today for its mixture of African and Indigenous rhythm and instruments including the ‘gaita,’ similar to a flute, the ‘guacharacas,’ a percussion instrument, and other European influences. This genre became famous in the 1960s around the world and new forms, rhythms and blends are constantly being adapted. 

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3. Reggaeton music 

Known as the younger music genre of Latin America, reggaeton is another style of Latin American music coming from Puerto Rico during the mid-1990s. With a blend of Latin and reggae rhythms, reggaeton history has evolved tremendously and to-date is rated one of the most popular music genres in Latin America. 

Famous reggaeton artists, Daddy Yankee, known as the ‘King of Reggaeton’ and DJ Playero, first used the term reggaeton to describe the new style of music emerging from Puerto Rico which featured a mix of hip-hop and reggae rhythms, completed with Spanish rapping and singing.

4. Bachata music 

Originally from Dominican Republic, bachata is another popular Latin American music genre which first made headlines in the 20th-century. With Spanish influences and African and Indigenous musical elements, the genre bachata is a diverse representation of the Dominican Republic population. 

There are five instruments needed to perform the soothing bachata style including a ‘requinto’ or a lead guitar, ‘segunda’ a rhythm guitar, bass guitar, bongos and ‘güira,’ another percussion instrument. With a dance focus too, batcha has transformed to be one of the most popular Latin American music styles heard internationally. 

Street musicians in beautiful Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

5. Merengue music 

Merengue music yields from Dominican Republic, gained popularity in the mid-19th century and is known for its slower tempo and sentimental melodies that you’re guaranteed to hear while travelling around Latin America. 

Recognized as both a music and dance style throughout the Dominican Republic, this type of music is rooted in Africa history and based on repeating a five-beat pattern called ‘quintillo.’ Also, the instruments need to make up the merengue sounds include a diatonic accordion, a two-sided drum also known as a ‘tambora’ and a metal scraper known as a ‘güira.’ 

6. Bossa nova music 

Formed in the 1960s by the late famous Latin American musician and ‘Father of Boss Nova,’ João Gilberto in Brazil, Bossa nova is a popular music style influenced by a mixture of the vibrant samba and cool jazz flavours. With very few instruments required, guitar, ‘berimbau,’ similar to a musical bow, drum, piano and a vocalist, bossa nova is known for its sophisticated and harmonic sounds. 

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Professional rumba dancers posing the red costumes.

7. Rumba music 

Rumba music is another popular Latin American style of music usually accompanied with two to three conga drums and sticks. This medium-to-fast paced Afro-Cuban style of music is also an extremely popular ballroom style of dance you’re guaranteed to hear and see throughout your travels in South America and around the world.  

8. Son music

Son music (or son Cubano) is another popular genre of Latin American music formed in eastern Cuba in the 19th-century. With a mix of Spanish and African flavours, this genre of music and dance is an important component of daily life and history in Cuba and has helped shape and influence the Latin American music scene. 

Musician playing the ‘bandonéon’ or bandoneon.

9. Tango music 

Tango music is another popular genre of Latin American music originating from Argentina and Uruguay. A traditional tango sextet consists of a piano, double bass, two violins and two bandoneons and can be recognized for its two-four and two-two count or beat.  

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When travelling with Trafalgar, you’ll experience the sensual and stirring moves of a traditional tango performance accompanied by live music in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Be sure to pack your dancing shoes and put your tango skills to the test!

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10. Latin pop music 

Latin pop music is a subcategory of pop music which became popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Known for its fusion of modern and catchy pop style and Latin music and flare, this new style of music is commonly associated with Spanish-language, rock, and dance music.

Famous Latin American musicians for pop music include Shakira, Ricky Martin, known as the ‘King of Latin Pop,’ Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Gloria Estefan and more. 

Who are some of your favourite Latin American musicians? Share your thoughts and comments below…

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