HISTORY OF LATIN MUSIC
The history of the Moorish empire
prior to Spain extends from the ancient Moabites, and extends across the great
Atlantic into north, south and Central American thus the Moorish domination of
the seas. It is important to point out that as time goes on what is now known as
Latin America is highly influenced by European colonization and the slave trade
with Africa. Currently, Latin
America, the countries of the Western Hemisphere south of the United States,
include the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, Central and South America and contain an
amalgamation of cultural influences, namely European, The Moors, Mexican, and
other African tribes. Europe contributed the religions two main languages,
Spanish and Portuguese. Much of the
native Moorish culture, which was in place before the arrival of the Spaniards
and Christopher Columbus, was suppressed due to forced assimilation; the rest
was combined with the arrival of slaves and other cultures in the 16th century.
Through this rich cultural mix, a distinct Moorish or commonly referred to as
Afro-Caribbean culture has emerged.
The element in Moorish, African
& Caribbean music that many find most distinctive, is its rhythms are
derived from Moorish, and other Africans via the slave trade (1550-1880), which
is believed to have brought an estimated two million people of Moorish descent,
while in fact the Moors had domination and inhabitation for over 2000 years in
what is now know as the west into the Caribbean Islands. Unlike the Moors of
North American and some that were enslaved, who in 1776 were forbidden from
playing drums (except for areas such as New Orleans Congo Square), Caribbean
slaves were liberally allowed to play their drums, which of course were not only
for recreation and entertainment, but used as a means of communicating.
These were considered talking drums, carrying current, as well as
timeless messages; message of history, struggle, and unspeakable joy.
All this was accomplished through the replaying of these traditional
Moorish and African rhythms, sung on a drum.
During the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries these rhythms spread, developed, and canonized throughout
the Caribbean, around the same time that another American art form was beginning
its conception. This North American art form was also going to contain a rich
cultural mix. It would incorporate
blues intonation, African drums and rhythms, Indian cymbals, European
instruments, harmony, and musical forms with a syncopated beat namely jazz.
Every country and every island in the Caribbean developed
its own unique musical culture, be it folk idioms or a national conservatory
styles. Four countries, namely Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico have had the
most significant influences on music in the United States (Cuba having the most
enduring). These influences included Latin rhythms and/or dances that infatuated
the United States, like the habanera, bolero (Cuba),samba, bossa nova (Brazil),
tango (Argentina), and mariachi (Mexico).
As these rhythmic structures and their dances canonized,
they began effecting music making everywhere, from the concert hall, to the New
Orleans Street parade, to Broadway and Tin Pan Alley. As goods including people,
were traded through the convenient and busy port of New Orleans, Louisiana,
musically inclined workers on Caribbean ships were afforded the opportunity to
exchange new rhythms, dances, and songs with the various Creole and African
dancers and musicians at public performance spaces ice Congo Square. It didnít
take long for composers to begin writing Latin-influenced works. For example,
American Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), who hailed from Louisiana, and
studied composition in France with Aaron Coplands teacher Nadia Boulanger,
toured Cuba in 1857 performing his Latin-influenced works. Some of the most
famous compositions of this nature include George Bizets hababera from his opera
Carmen (1875); Scott Joplinís Mexican serenade, Solace (1902); Maurice Ravels
Rapsodie Espagnole (1907), and his Bolero (1928), Jelly Roll Morton, the famed
New Orleans jazz composer and pianist, spoke to Alan Lomax of the Library of
Congress on the importance, even in the earlier days of jazz (the end of the
nineteenth century) of the jazz musician being able to work with the Spanish
tinge. He said, In fact, if you
cant manage to put tinges of Spanish in your tunes, you will never be able to
get the right seasoning, I call it, for jazz.
is Latin Music?
Latin music is a popular art form developed in various
Latin American countries, mainly Cuba, and is unique for the type of rhythmic
structures it builds upon. It is
vocal and instrumental music, originally derived from African religious
ceremonies, however viewed today primarily as dance music.
Its strongest characteristic, however, is its rhythm, which is highly
syncopated (when the various
rhythms being played at one time, create counterpoint against each other in
exciting cross rhythms). It is
traditionally played by native percussion and string instruments, namely the
timbales, congas, bongo, guitar, and the tres (nine-string Cuban guitar).
Over time, the piano replaced the guitar as the choral instrument, while
the bass, woodwinds, trumpets and trombones were added to play melodies and
riffs (repetitions of sound). Most
Latin music is based on a rhythmic pattern known as the clave.
Clave is the basic building block of all Cuban music, and is a 3-2
(occasionally 2-3) rhythmic pattern. Claves
are also the name for the two sticks that play this 3-2 (clave) pattern.
Latin music generally uses a three form with (1) a long
introductory verse, followed (2) by a montuno section where the band plays a
vamp (a two- or three chord progression), building intensity with devices like
the mambo (where members of the front line play contrasting riffs) before (3)
returning back to the verse and closing out the selection, generally with some
type of coda (a short predetermined way of ending a piece; like a postscript at
the end of letters). Some important
characteristics of Latin music are:
Clave: a syncopated rhythmic pattern played
with two sticks, around which everything in the band revolves.
Call And Response Inspiraciones: a musical
exchange between two voices inspiratons, improvised phrase by
lead vocalist or instrumentalist.
repeated rhythmic pattern for the bass or conga based on the clave.
Van Sertima, Ivan, Golden Age of the Moor, New Brunswick,
NJ, Transaction Publishers, 1992
Stanley, The Story of The Moors In Span, Balitimore, MD, Black Classic Press
Music of Spain, New York: Dover,1959
Geijerstam,Claes af., Popular Music in Mexico,
Albuquerque: University New Mexico Press 1977
Emilio, Popular Cuban Music, Havana: Ministry of Education, 1939
Hague, Eleanor, Latin American Music, Santa Ana, Cal.
Fine Arts Press,1934
John Storm, The Latin Tinge, Oxford University Press 1979