Latin American Music. There are two Latin American music genres which stand out in terms of their unique roots: Mexican Rock music and Calypso.
Latin American Music
Latin America is undoubtedly the home of much musical diversity and many regions are known for having their own distinct sound. However, there are two Latin American music genres which stand out in terms of their unique roots, continued evolution throughout the years and influence over their respective nations: Mexican Rock music and Calypso.
Mexican rock music has its origins in the late 20th Century but really began to surge as a genre following the ‘rock en tu idioma’ or ‘rock in your language’ movement which emerged in Mexico during the 1980s, encouraging foreign bands to become involved in this style of music. Other contributors to the growing dissemination of rock music were the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, trilaterally uniting the US, Canada and Mexico, as well as the internet, where music can be shared at the click of a mouse.
One of the prominent Mexican rock bands of the 1980s was Maldita Vecindad, or ‘Damned Neighborhood’; characterized by teenage rebellion against political class structures, they began a revolutionary wave which has continued to inspire their fans. Another major rock influence in Mexico, which emerged in the 1990s, is the four-person band Molotov; like Maldita Vecindad, Molotov’s lyrics focus on political injustices and social discrepancies. Today, perhaps the most influential rock band of the moment is Café Tacvba. Widely considered to be the finest rock band in Latin American history, Café Tacvba has produced a number of popular hits and even contributed to the soundtrack of the highly acclaimed Mexican thriller ‘Amores Perros’.
The Latin American rock scene is very active in terms of concerts and one of the biggest is Vive Latino, an annual rock and alternative music festival which has been held in Mexico City since 1998 and attracts around 70,000 spectators every year. Regarded as the most important event of its kind in Latin America, Vive Latino is a celebration of progressive and less mainstream music. While most bands are from Mexico or Latin America and Café Tacvba is one of the festival’s favorite headline acts, Vive Latino also welcomes foreign bands, aligning themselves with the ‘rock en tu idioma’ ethos of the 1980s. The three-day long festival mainly attracts metal-heads, punks and hipsters who come to watch upcoming bands perform their material.
Another genre of music in Latin America which has come to have a wide scope of influence is Calypso. Originally from the Caribbean, it has its roots in the 1600s when African slaves worked on sugar plantations; forbidden to talk to one another whilst working, the slaves used traditional West African song to communicate. With a signing style based on call-and-response chants, the lyrics were often derisive and criticized the slaveholders.
However, it was in the early 1800s when slavery was finally abolished that Calypso music really began to take hold. Featuring intricate verses which, similarly to Mexican rock, included sarcasm and political references, the genre became so well-respected that it even had an influence over the political and social occurrences at the time. In the 1950s, Calypso began to break into pop culture and it is still at the heart of the Caribbean’s musical history, even characterizing Trinidad’s annual pre-Lenten Carnival.
Despite the very different sound of Mexican rock and Calypso music, they are united in that they both significantly influenced the music scene in Latin America. From their initial brewing to modern day presence, these musical styles continue to be felt in Latin America.