Welcome to Latin America rewind, a brief overview of Latin American music.
Before Columbus arrived over 500 years ago, there were already a number of flourishing civilizations in South America, including the Mayas, the Aztecs, and the Incas.
These early people had impressive achievements in religion, medicine, the development of a calendar, dance, art, poetry, math, architecture, and music.
Little is known about the sound of Pre-Columbian music in South America, because it was not written down. Through art and artifacts, we do know about the instruments they played.
Pre-Columbian instruments were made from natural materials. Log drums are carved from wood, with cutouts of different sizes to produce different pitches. Panpipes are reeds cut to different sizes, played by blowing across the tops. Two or more panpipes can be played together for harmony. The wooden quena is much like a flute, but it is held up and down instead of sideways. Some flutes were played with the nose, because air from the nose cannot carry an untruth. The conch shell trumpet is played like a modern trumpet, and the pitch is changed by changing the shape of the lips. The huehuetl is an ornate drum of wood and animal skin. It was often used in religious ceremonies.
Important things to know about Pre-Columbian music: music, dance, and poetry were interconnected. Music was very important in religious ceremonies, and in preserving history and culture. Because of that, musicians enjoyed many privileges and received specialized training. But there was no system of musical notation, and there were no string instruments until they were introduced by Spaniards at the turn of the 16th century.
Things began to change in 1492, when Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the New World.
By 1521, the Spanish explorerHernan Cortez had conquered the powerful and warlike Aztecs. Life and music in South America would never be the same.
The result was mestizo music, the blended music of South American natives, Spanish colonists, and African slaves.
Modern Latin American aerophones include the trumpet, panpipes, the clay ocarina,andean flute, and the bandoneon, which is related to the accordion.
Modern Latin American chordophones include the violin; the guitar, the vihuela which is a small rhythm guitar; the guitarron which is like a bass guitar with a large body and short neck, and the harp.
Latin American idiophones include the cowbell; the cuica, cabasa, guiro, agogo, castanets, maracas, and claves. The cuica looks like a drum but is not played like one. There is a stick on the inside that is rubbed with a damp cloth to make the sound, which is then amplified by the drumlike shell. It sounds like a straw being pushed and pulled through a fast-food drink lid.
Latin American membranophones include the bongos, congas, the caixa and timbales. Timbales are played on the shell as well as the drumhead, and usually have one or more cowbells attached to the stand.
Musical styles are widely varied. The corrido is a dance that tells a story, the ballad is a song that tells a story. Tango comes from Argentina, Mambo from Cuba, Mariachi from Mexico, and Samba from Brazil. There are also bolero, rumba, and cha-cha-cha. Salsa is “norteamericana,” North American, music that began in the jazz clubs of New York City.
Some styles have typical rhythm patterns, such as the boom-de-boom-boom of the tango, the one-two-cha-cha-cha, and the one-two-THREE-four of the mambo.
Mexico has produced a unique kind of ensemble called the Mariachi band. They typically travel on foot, so they use portable instruments and memorize all of their music. A good mariachi may have 1000 or more songs in their memorized repertoire.
A typical mariachi band has two or three trumpets and violins that play the melody harmonized in thirds and sixths; a guitarron playing the bass line, a vihuela playing syncopated chords, and a versatile guitar that plays melodies, countermelodies, and companion rhythms to the vihuela. There may or may not be a singer. Mariachi is celebration music!
To sum up the music of Latin America: For every story there is a song.For every song there is a dance.For every dance there is a story…
Pre-Columbian Music<br />Music, dance, and poetry were interconnected.<br />Music was used for religious ceremonies.<br />History and culture were preserved through song.<br />Musicians were highly privileged and receive specialized training.<br />No written system of musical notation.<br />No string instruments.<br />
1492<br />Columbus makes his first voyage to the New World.<br />
q qqqqCha-cha-cha</li></ul> ><br /><ul><li>q qqqMambo</li></li></ul><li>Mariachi<br />Traveling bands from Mexico.<br />They wear a special suit called a charro.<br />May have 1000+ songs memorized.<br />