Written by Josue Santiago Friday, 06 August 2010 00:00Music. How can one quickly and easily definite it? A textbook definition would be the art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous and unified composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. Yet, even those words fail to capture music in its entirety. In fact, scholars, philosophers and even musicians have long debated what constitutes music and a true definition for it.
Regardless of how it's technically defined, one thing is for sure, music is like magic. In fact, the word “music” derives from the Greek word “mousike” or “art of the Muses”, the mythological spirits that inspired the creation of literature and the arts. With just the strum a few strings, the sweet notes of a singer or the beat of the drums, music can reach deep into our minds and instantly take us somewhere emotionally. It makes moments memorable. I still remember the song that was playing in the background during my first sexual experience, “Sweet Surrender” by Sarah McLachlan.
Music has an extensive history and is possibly as old as early modern humans. There is far too much history to attempt to cover in this publication, so since we are all about Latinos, let's take a quick tour of modern Latin music.
Latin music has deep Moorish, African and Caribbean influences. During the slave trade, between 1550 and 1880, these cultures mixed providing the music its distinctive rhythms. While the North American moors and some that were enslaved were generally forbidden from playing their drums, Caribbean slaves were allowed to play their drums. They did this not only as a form of recreation, but also as a means of communication. They were called “talking drums,” carrying timely messages of struggle and joy.
During the 18th and 19th centuries these rhythms started to spread further. The musicians that adopted them developed them further and they became canon throughout the Caribbean around the same time that another American art form was beginning its conception, jazz. As it continued to spread every country styled it into its own unique musical culture. Here in the United States, four countries have had the most significant influences on music: Cuba, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. The Latin rhythms and dances from these countries have captivated Americans like the habanera, bolero, samba, bossa nova, tango and mariachi.
As time went on, Latin music continued to evolve to what it is today and even though there are different names for the beats–salsa, reggaetón, guaracha, rumba, etc. – the music remains true to its roots. And it has enabled the careers and artistry of our favorite Latin musicians from Benny More, Tito Puente, Vicente Fernandez, Ana Gabriel, Juan Gabriel and my favorite, Celia Cruz. The impact of Latin music has been substantial and no matter where you're from, I bet you'll find a hard time not tapping your foot to the beat of its rhythms. Thanks to it, we have a rich and colorful palate to paint every emotion of the human psyche and make us get up and dance! AZUCAR!