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How Latin Music Has Changed Our Culture!

Updated on June 13, 2022
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Born in Bronx, New York city. Been living in Virginia for more than 30 years. Writing is my passion.


How Latin Music spread to the USA.

Most Americans are fascinated by Latin Music, especially Latin Jazz. Did you know that Latin Music starting making inroads in the '30's? A man named Xavier Cugart introduced the Tango and Rumba. Most of his music were instrumental, but with a taste of Latin flavor. Cugart was born in Spain (Jan 1, 1900). Coming to the USA via Cuba at 15 years old, he started to make inroads in the Music industry. For many years, he played at the Waldorf- Astoria in New York City.

His band was featured in some well known movies such as You were never lovelier and Weekend at the Waldorf. Dinah Shore got to sing with his band and made her first recordings with Victor records. Perhaps you have heard some of Cugat's music. I will enclose some video to refresh your memory. Cugat was married to Charo, the famous "cuchi-cuchi " girl. She was a well-known figure through the '80's.

The Afro-Cuban sound...

In the late 40's and 50's, Cubans and Puerto Ricans were coming to New York. The era of the Big Band with the Mambo and Cha Cha Cha was in full swing. America fell in love with that sound. The mambo was mentioned in a Honeymooners show with Jackie Gleason. I love Lucy featured some Latin music sung by Desi Arnaz.

Many stars such as Tito Puente and Machito came to the scene to impact the culture, also. There was a famous nightclub called the Palladium in New York City, which would feature the Latin big bands. They would played late into the night. Their fans were, not only, Latinos but Italian and African-Americans.

Then the 60's brought in a new sound called the Boogaloo. It was a mixture of Latin music, soul and English lyrics. A new Latin generation of youths born in New York City wanted to change the scenery and for a while, they succeeded. Joe Cuba, came out with a New York City smash hit in the 60's called EL PITO (The Whistle!) A mixture of Spanish and English lyrics that paved the way for the Boogaloo era.

Other hits would follow. Meanwhile, the older genearation, mostly Cuban-Americans, wanted to preserve the old school sound of Afro-Cuban sounds. This caused friction and because of this, it died down and Latin Music preserved its roots. Then, it went through another transformation. In the 70's, it would be known as Salsa! It's sound did not change much, but it had a shorter band. These bands would include the trombone and have a jazzy sound.

Bands like Eddie Palmieri and Willie Colon would incorporate those sounds and it made a hit with the younger generation. Latin Jazz would make its way with the likes of Monguito and Ray Barretto. Some songs would have the electric guitar sounds, which was radical for that time. Such a band that would do this was Frankie Dante and the Flamboyan band. Afro-Cuban sounds was changing in the 70's through 80's and it had a new audience. Soon, it would spread to places like Mexico and South America..

I have enclosed two videos. One is the Boogaloo, which features Joe Cuba with El Pito (The Whistle). The song starts in Spanish---Oye, y ese pito? (Hey, what's that whistle?) Asi se goza. (That's the way to have fun).Add to that, some spanish improvisations and then it switches to English! Wild! Don't ask me what this is all about--but this was, believe it or not, a big hit in New York City in the '60's! This sound was played throughout Puerto RIcan communities!

The other is the Salsa instrumental sound mixed with Jazz. Played by Willie Colon, one of Salsa's top artist, this one speaks for itself. Willie Colon would find fame and acclaim with Hector Lavoe (More details on his life below.) as his singer. Take some time to listen to this sound of Latin Jazz!

El Pito---Joe Cuba! (English and Spanish Lyrics!)

Jazzy by Willie Colon

Salsa comes to the Movies and TV

In the 70's, the Movie---Our Latin Thing came to the forefront. Depicting life in the big city, it shows how the Puerto Rican culture and it's music influenced the Big Apple. Many well-known Salsa names starred in this movie. Even though it was not much of a hit, it brought this music on an international level. If you want to take a peek at this historical movie trailer, click on informative links below under Our Latin thing!

Even TV got its taste of Salsa. Famed bandleader, the late Tito Puente made a guest appearance on that program. Playing his well known songs, he had everyone dancing and singing. I have enclosed a video below for your enjoyment. A few years ago, Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony teamed up together to make a film on the life of Hector Lavoe. I have,enclosed, some links on information about his life.The movie called EL CANTANTE (The Singer) was, not, much of a box office hit. Personally, I think it should have focused more on the positive instead of the negative.

Lavoe did a lot for the Salsa music. He was known as El Cantante de los Cantantes (Singer of Singers). He established himself because of his improvisations and voice.A rare talent, he went on to be the top singer in Salsa! Like most talented singers, his life was cut short but his memory lives on, especially in Ponce, Puerto Rico. (His native town)

Another band that made an impact was Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. This duo was known as the kings of Salsa. Their music was unique and inspiring. Mixing Jazz with Salsa,they made further inroads into that arena.They started in the 60's and are still going strong. Converting to Christianity in the middle 70's , they made history playing Christian Salsa. Now, this field is full of Salsa stars who are Christians and singing Christian Salsa. As you can see Salsa is here to stay. What will the future hold for this type of music? Only time will tell!

Tito Puente and Sesame street

Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz

Afro Cuban sounds make a comeback.

During the 90's and into the 2000 decade, Old school Cuban bands would start to make a comeback. A seasoned musician, Ry Cooder, went to Havana, Cuba in 1996 and fell in love with Afro Cuban sounds. Buena Vista Social Club would feature great talents and would be discovered worldwide. While this seemed to have opened better relations with Cuba and the United States, Cuban exiles, especially in Florida, protested this and wanted to ban these concerts. I have seen some of their concerts and can tell you that it speaks for itself. Enclosed is a video of one of their jam sessions.(Check link below)


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