What Is Latin American Music History?

Latin American music history is a fascinating subject that has roots in ancient civilizations, colonialism, and the blending of cultures. The music of Latin America is as diverse as its geography, encompassing everything from indigenous rhythms to European classical music to African beats. In this article, we will explore the rich history of Latin American music.

Pre-Columbian Music

Before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, indigenous peoples had their own unique musical traditions. These traditions varied greatly depending on the region and culture, but they often involved percussion instruments made from animal skins or gourds and flutes made from wood or bone. In some cultures, music was used for religious ceremonies or healing rituals.

Colonialism and European Influence

When Europeans arrived in Latin America in the 16th century, they brought with them their own musical traditions. They introduced classical music and instruments such as the guitar and harp. Over time, these European influences blended with indigenous rhythms to create new styles of music.

One example of this blending is mariachi music in Mexico. Mariachi originated in the state of Jalisco in the 19th century and combines Spanish guitars and violins with indigenous rhythms and instruments such as the trumpet-like horn called a “Mexican trumpet” or “charchetas.”

African Influences

African slaves were brought to Latin America by European colonizers, bringing their own musical traditions with them. African rhythms combined with European instruments to create new styles such as samba in Brazil and salsa in Cuba.

In Cuba specifically, African rhythms blended with Spanish guitar playing to create a style known as son. This style eventually evolved into salsa which is now popular all over Latin America.

Modern Times

In modern times, Latin American music has continued to evolve and change. New styles have emerged such as reggaeton which originated in Puerto Rico and combines reggae and hip hop with Latin American rhythms.

Latin American artists have also gained international recognition with singers such as Shakira, Ricky Martin, and Juanes becoming household names all over the world.


In conclusion, the history of Latin American music is a rich tapestry of influences from indigenous cultures, European colonizers, and African slaves. This blending of cultures has resulted in a diverse range of musical styles that continue to evolve to this day. From mariachi to salsa to reggaeton, the music of Latin America continues to captivate audiences all over the world.