This paper discusses some of the colonial music composers in Spanish Caribbean. The author examines Tango, Baroque and Latin Jazz as some of the old classical music in the region.

Further, the writer highlights the Latin American music during the 1970s mainstream and explains changes that emerged during this period. Consequently, the paper describes how Latin music influenced the US and the world. The final segment of the pager discusses the achievements of Shakira as a modern popular Latin American musician and describes her contributions towards growth of Latin American music Industry. Colonial Latin composers provided a benchmark for modern Latin American music. The colonial composers’ influence has led to sprouting of various musical styles, which, in a big way, revolutionized the music world.

The prosperity and growth of modern musicians has its roots in the efforts of early Latin musicians; especially the composers. Modern Latin Musicians such as Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and others, on their part, have helped to popularize Latin music styles across the world.

Colonial Composers

The colonial composers in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, were predominantly Roman Catholics. Their music compositions were tailored towards liturgical celebration. The colonial government in most Latin American countries influenced adoption of Roman rites and music. Because of religion, popular spiritual music began emerging and impacting strongly on succeeding conventional music (King, 2004, p.

275). Besides spiritual music, Portuguese and Spanish colonialists from the homeland also carried conventional music and style along to the colonies. The conventional music and style introduced complemented social, work and leisure aspects of the society. Gaspar Fernandes is one of the most renowned composers of colonial Latin American music.

He was a Portuguese and owing to his enthusiastic approach to music, the Spanish colonial masters appointed him as chapel master in Puebla, Mexico. His music propagated Christian ethics and was purposed towards the spiritual nourishment of the faithful. Gaspar formed a choir comprising of African musicians that were former slaves. His composition and style focused on and stressed social issues such; ethnicity, race and slavery; the ills that bedeviled the colonial society.

Besides, his compositions highlighted the cruelty of enslavement and how the same defined the relations that existed between African and whites in Mexico (King, 2004, p.132). One of Gaspar amiable song was “Eso rigor e repente”. Joan Cererols is another colonial composer in Latin America. He was a Benedictine monk and he was very enthusiastic about composing Christian music (Buelow, 2004, p.414). Born at Martorell in 1618, he joined Escolania de Montserrat choir school in 1626.

Father Joan, who was fascinated by his talent and skills in understanding vocal entries and polytonal discourse, inspired his interest in music (Buelow, 2004, p.414). These skills made him a unique composer when compared to his compatriots. His ability in composition contributed to popularity of his music. Joan’s notable production included; “Missa pro defunctis” and “Missamartyrum” composed in the 17th century (Buelow, 2004, p.


Classical Music of Latin America

Latin America was musically influenced by the arrival of Spanish, Portuguese and Roman Catholic missionaries (Moore, 2010, p.74). Some of the genres introduced included; Baroque, Latin jazz and Tango (Moore, 2010, p.74). Baroque was a simple music unlike European Baroque, this was because Latin Americans did not have quality and efficient instruments for training (Moore, 2010, p.74). Latin Jazz is a classical genre of music that started in Latin America.

The composition embraced the old Cuban style, exploited Latin and African rhythms (Moore, 2010, p.88). Consequently, it incorporated harmonies of US, Caribbean, Latin and European origins. Moreover, the composition encompassed a straight rhythm, which differed from mainstream backbeat common with US jazz. The composition enshrined clave, guiro for percussion, timbale and conga (Moore, 2010, p.88). Latin jazz was embraced by small groups or in orchestras.

Lastly, Tango is also closely associated with classical music to have emerged in the region. Tango classical embraced specific instruments which included; violins, Bandon eons, piano and double bass (Moore, 2010, p.96). In addition, clarinet and guitars were common in Tango performances.

The 1970s, the Return to the Mainstream

During 1970s, Latin American music reflected the music of 1920s (Roberts, 1999, p.188). In the1930s, Latin music was unified in mainstream US popular genres as a musical sub style. However, in 1970s, it emerged stronger in the US society and across the world (Roberts, 1999, p.188).

Increase in Salsa album production was also a common phenomenon in 1970s. This period recorded the highest production of Salsa albums ever created in Latin American Salsa history. For example, albums such as, “Maquino de Tiempo Time” done by Rafael Cotijo’s had a blend of Plena’s and Afro-Rican flavors (Roberts, 1999, p.188). “Maquino de Tiempo Time” was the first Latin jazz fusion incorporated in Salsa tradition.

The fusion strengthened commercial appealing across the region leading to increased production (Roberts, 1999, p.188). Development in the1970s led to strengthening originality and creativity in Latin American music. Willie Colon for instance was a Bugalu cohort; he instilled and brought new changes in New York salsa, which was lively and innovative.

This innovativeness included creative use of sound elements and artistic use of new constituents. He combined Jibaro Music of Puerto Rico, and infused Panamian, Brazilian and Colombian features (Roberts, 1999, p.192). Creating of new bands was also a key characteristic of 1970s Latin mainstream music. Toro was one of the successful Latin American groups formed in 1972(Roberts, 1999, p.192). It emerged as a popular and influential group, although their music failed to capture Salsa roots. Sequida was also another group formed in 1970s.

Sequida branched from New York Salsa. It was a successful and ambitious group, which helped in strengthening salsa during this decade (Roberts, 1999, p.192).

Major Changes That Occurred In the Latin Music World between 1970 and Today

Dramatic changes occurred in Latin Music in 1970s. Salsa musicians became very creative. For example, Yomo incorporated Puerto Rican guitar, Larry Harlow introduced electric piano whereas Cecilia Cruz embraced Brazilian tunes (Roberts, 1999, p.193). Besides, this period increased diversification of Salsa making it transform into smooth and sweet romantic.

Thus, salsa ingrained lyrics directed towards romance and love (Roberts, 1999, p.194). Jazz fusion also underwent various changes; the style was bubbling, renewed and exiting. In addition, integration of new ingredients to Jazz music such as, “free-form improvisation” was common to style up Jazz music (Roberts, 1999, p.191).

Various incorporations therefore encouraged fusion of jazz music intensifying the improvisatory aspects to 1990s. Moreover, fusions albums were popular; although created by similar groups, style differed exponentially. Instead of embracing a codified style, some musical compositions assumed formerly outdates styles. Rock music in Latin America was throbbing especially in Argentina in 1970s. Its composition varied i.e. the national rocks and homegrown rock such as Almendra (Roberts, 1999, p.198).

At the end of 1970s, popularity of rock music was entrenched in the society. The popularity further surged when the government of the time banned English music from being aired in radios (Roberts, 1999, p.198).

Popularity and Influence Latin Music Internationally

The impact of Latin music in the global scene is intense and widespread. Its perplexing sounds and rhythms have gone beyond Caribbean to global. Latin music artistes use Spanish and English, which are diverse modern languages. This has transpired into its preference across cultures and thus entry into wider markets around the world. Latin American music is has slowly but sure transformed to fuse with other different popular genres across the world.

US artistes have heavily borrowed from Latin genres to establish their own compositions (Roberts, 1999, p.195). Further, the influences of Latin American music find expression around the world through rumba, calypso and tango among other popular Latin genres (Roberts, 1999, p.197). This is because of diversity of culture and colonization. Embracing diversity and originality of style in music merged with unique cultures has contributed to its impact across the world (Roberts, 1999, p.


Influence of Latin Music in US Society

US is endowed with diverse Latin and other Spanish speaking cultures. In recognizing their culture, a lot can be learned through Latin American Music. Away from Latin and Spanish cultures, Latin musical practice and style has influenced US in more than one way. The popularity of the Latin styles is noticeable in classical music.

Although it was heard earlier during ragtime, its influence inspired US and as such, US composers such as Philip Sousa and Victor Herbert. With a distinctive US musical language, the impact of Latin American music has stood resilient. Various elements of Latin music have been incorporated in popular US music and in other types of genres across the US (Roberts, 1999, p.246). The Cuban musical style was a major influence on US music and society. Cuban music embraces a blend and varying extent of European, African, and units of homogenization origins. The blended style of “Habanera” is popular in US.

This style had its origin from Argentinean Tango. Tango also positively affected US music and altered jazz music as well (Roberts, 1999, p.245). The universality of Salsa is the major explanation for the popularity of Latin American music in US.

The influence of Salsa is evident around major cities in US; it has influenced wearing style of most US musicians and public. Latinos presence in the US and their music has evolved in forming a diverse culture. The Latin American Music has led to the establishment of “National Academy of Arts and Sciences”; an agency that recognizes and gives awards to prominent artist “the Grammys” every year (Waxer, 2002, p.263).

The agency has added Latin American Music category assortment process. The category has further been broken down into various classes in appreciation of multiplicity existing in Latin music (Waxer, 2002, p.263).

The Latin American music has also influenced emergence of female singers in the US. Gloria Estafan, a Cuban female singer collaborated with Miami Sound machine in early 1980s (Waxer, 2002, p.263).

Since then, women with Spanish heritage such as Selena and Shakira have emerged and shaped the American music industry (Roberts, 1999, p.194). Emergence of Reggaeton in the music scene is credited to Latin music. Reggaeton hip-hop is one of the leading popular styles in the US music. Reggaeton combines rap like vocals and Latin rhythms. Artistes such as pit Bull and Daddy Yankee have been synonymous with embracing this style across the US (Waxer, 2002, p.263).

Popular Latin Artist

Shakira is one of the most popular Latin artistes of our modern times. She was born as Isabel Mebarak Ripoll in 1972 (Krohn, 2007, p.35). Shakira is her professional or stage name.

She is a songwriter, dancer and a musician. She emerged in music limelight in 1990s. Her music life was influenced by her father, whom she used to watch writing stories using his typewriter. At the age of seven, Shakira was writing moving poems, which puzzled some of her friends. Some of her poems culminated to powerful music.

Her first song was “Your dark glasses”; his father who had a taste of wearing dark glasses motivated it. Her early exposure in public life helped her encounter Monica Ariza, a theater producer who later helped her to sharpen her music career. Monica convinced Ciro Vargas, a Sony executive to give Shakira an audition (Krohn, 2007, p.99). The audition was granted and the talented Shakira mesmerized him and other directors. Impressive performance in the audition made the chief executive to sign Shakira to record her three albums i.e. Shakira’s Magia and Peligro album (Krohn, 2007, p.

99). The albums were produced by Sony music in 1990 (Krohn, 2007, p.99). The latter albums were officially released in 1991.The albums exemplified Shakira’s talent and influenced her exposure in Colombia. However, the album did not fetch enough money commercially.

Shakira released her second album “Peligro” in 1992 and it was received with great enthusiasm than the previous “Magia” though it failed commercially because of failed popularization (Krohn, 2007, p.101). In 1995, Shakira rose to the limelight and strengthened her attractiveness in Latin America through her album “Pies Descalzos” (Krohn, 2007, p. 103). She further recorded three tracks in Portuguese.

The influence of this album and her popularity in many states encouraged her to return to Sony thus recording “Pies Descalzo” in 1995(Krohn, 2007, p.103). Later, she successful performed “Esta Corazon?” and Pies Descalzos” which was available in Latin American markets in 1995 and globally in 1996. It was debuted as number one in more than eight countries around the world. Shakira’s second self-produced album (produced by herself and Emilio Estan, Jr., as a co-producer) was known as “DondeEstan Los Ladrones?” This album was inspired by loss of her lyrics at the airport (Krohn, 2007, p.35). The album was a hit than “Pies Descalzos”.

The success of “DondeEstan Los Ladrones” excited Shakira and she embarked on an English crossover album. This was important for her to promote herself in a greater market while preserving the popularity of mainstream music and career diversification.”Whenever, Wherever” was the first English lead single in 2001 and 2002. The song is credited for having heavily borrowed from Andean music including Panpipes and Charango in its instrumentation. “Whenever, wherever” was internationally successful as it achieved number one slot in many countries (Krohn, 2007, p.88). Shakira has encompassed several genres in her music productions. The most notably genres include folk, rock and mainstream pop hence her music is a synthesis of diverse features.

Moreover, Shakira is one of the best and highest Latin America selling artists. She has sold over 60 million albums globally (Krohn, 2007). “Hips don’t lie” was one of the most aired single in US radio history. Consequently, she was one of the first artists in history of commercial charts to claim a pre-eminent spot in top 40 mainstreams and Latin American Charts (Krohn, 2007).


Colonialists helped to develop the Latin American music in a big way.

Latin music styles are now appreciated all over the world. By embracing elements from Africans, Europeans and Indians among other cultures, Latin musical styles such as; Salsa, Tango, Baroque, Bassa and Nova have received a lot of attention internationally. Consequently, a good music foundation traced back to the colonial period has contributed to current level of performance by modern Latin American Musicians such as Shakira and Enrique Iglesias.

Reference List

Buelow, G., J.

(2004). A History of Baroque Music. Indiana: Indiana University Press King, J. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Modern Latin American Culture.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Krohn, K. (2007). Shakira, Minnesota: Twenty-First Century Books. Moore, R.

(2010). Music in the Hispanic Caribbean. Oxford: Oxford University Press Roberts, J. (1999). The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Waxer, L. (2002). Situating Salsa: Global Markets and Local Meanings in Latin Popular Music. New York: Routledge


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