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Latin rock

Without the use of Spanish or Latin rhythms or South American instruments, this genre is rock overflowing with culture played by the Chicanos. Nothing gives it away if not that Latin flair that sounds so familiar.

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Latin rock

Latin rock is a subgenre of rock music, consisting in the fusion between the latter with typical rhythms, themes and sounds of Latin-American and Caribbean music. In some cases, the expression Latin rock has been used to describe rock songs composed and played by musicians of Hispanic or Portuguese origins. Latin rock should not be mistaken for either Latin-American rock or rock with Spanish lyrics; Latin rock is strictly related with the alterlatin movement, or Latin alternative music, a genre that mixes 21st century rock, pop, indie and hip-hop elements.

Rock and Latin music have always influenced each other: some examples are the calypso rhythms in surf music songs, or rock’n’roll songs with a mambo or cha-cha-cha flavor. Even if it wasn’t originally known as Latin rock, this music genre was born in the US towards the end of the 1950s. In 1958, the planetary success of the Chicano singer Richie Valens, La Bamba climbed the world’s charts, paving the way to other bands like The Champs with the instrumental rock of their famous song Tequila (composed by the chicano Danny Flores), heavily influenced by Latin music.

In the 1960s, Latin-American music considerably inspired and contributed to rock music. Bands like Thee Midniters, Cannibal & the Headhunters Question Mark & the Mysterians, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs23 or Sir Douglas Quintet incorporated Latin rhythms in rock, R&B or even garage rock songs; at the same time, the Chicano rock movement was booming in Southern California.

Meanwhile, in some America-Latin countries rock music was gradually spreading. This happened in Peru, Colombia, Argentina and, starting from the second half of 1960s, in Brasil especially, where the subgenre of tropicalism fused rock, bossa nova, psychedelic music, local sounds and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Artist such as Os Mutantes, Gal Costa y Caetano Veloso represent some of the main influences this genre received.

In 1969, the publication of Santana’s first LP definitively marked the birth of the Latin rock scene in the US and in the world. The new style was a fusion of Latin-American rhythms, blues guitars and electric organs, Afro-Caribbean sounds, Latin percussions and jazz, soul, funk, blues, psychedelic and R&B sounds on rock themes. From this moment on, the Hispanic, Brazilian and African sounds the jazz music was elaborating were transposed to rock music. All this was topped by Santana’s 1969 Woodstock performance and by their publication of both original songs and rock flavored Latin dance covers, like the famous cover of 1962 Tito Puente Oye Como Va.

Many bands immediately followed Santana’s path: new artists like Malo (with their 1972 bolero and cha-cha-cha flavored bluesy ballad Suavecito), Tierra, Ocho, Mandrill, El Chicano, Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem River Drive, War, Sapo and Azteca (founded by Pete and Coke Escovado at the beginning of the 1970s) made Latin rock popular both in the US and in the rest of the world. Their trademark was playing a kind of music that was the result of the collaboration between jazz, rock and Latin musicians.

Similarly, in Latin-America, local bands that mixed Latin and rock sounds were born: Telegraph Avenue, Traffic Sound, The Mad's, El Polen and in particular Black Sugar, which mixed rock, jazz, Peruvian traditional percussions, progressive rock and Latin rhythms; or the Colombian Siglo Cero, Génesis y La Columna de Fuego, the Argentinian Arco Iris and the Chilean Los Jaivas. In Europe, the new genre was represented by the Spanish Barrabás, the Neerlandese Massada and the British Osibisa.

After the success of punk music at the end of 1970s, Latin rock rapidly adapted to the new music scene. This was particularly due to the Latin rock revival by punk and new wave artists, like The Clash, with their 1980 album, Sandinista, or bands like Bow Wow Wow, Gang Of Four, The Slits e Special AKA.

In Spain, during the mid-1980s, the bands who had started playing punk or new wave began to be influenced by Latin rock; a similar situation was repeated in the 1990s with artist like Macaco, Amparanoia and Jarabe de Palo. In France, bands like Les Negresses Vertes fused rock and world music with Latin-American flavors; Manu Chao, both with his band Mano Negra and as a solo artist, broke into the charts with a new genre that mixed rock, Latin rhythms, Arabic music, punk, rap and reggae.

In the US, the natural birthplace of Latin rock, many artists went on to develop this new sound: Talking Heads’ David Byrne, Peter Gabriel Paul Simon, Willy Deville, Los Lobos, El Vez, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Rage Against The Machine.

In the 1990s, the genre developed in its cultural cradle, Latin-America: in Mexico, Maná, Maldita Vecindad, Julieta Venegas, Caifanes, Café Tacuba; in Colombia, Aterciopelados; in Brasil, Paralamas do Sucesso and Karnak; in Argentina, Carmina Burana, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Bersuit Vergarabat and Karamelo Santo; in Chile, Los Tres and Chancho en Piedra; in Bolivia, Octavia; in Panama, Los Rabanes. Thanks to all these artists, and in particular to Caifanes and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, a further development of the genre took place, fusing rock with a number of styles and rhythms that came to include, among the other, salsa, merengue, cumbia, Brazilian music, the ranchera music of Mexican mariachis and Andean music.

As of today, the success of the genre is due to artists like Los Lonely Boys with their 2004 self-titled album, to the great Carlos Santana and his 1999 album Supernatural and many other.

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