South America Living

Sampling the Sounds of South America

Peruvian boy playing his Bird-Shaped Ocarina

Peruvian boy playing his Bird-Shaped Ocarina

South American music encompasses the styles and rhythms that are at the heart of the continent’s culture. Originating primarily in the region in and around the Andes Mountains, the music has a number of influences, including not only the natives of the area, but also the Roman Catholic Church, Spanish settlers and African slaves. Traveling to countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru will expose visitors to a wide range of musical diversity.

Though there are many musical traditions in the countries surrounding the Andes, music is a significant part of daily life throughout South America; there is music for everything – from building houses and agricultural labor, to marketing cattle and sheep, to celebrations and funerals. Depending on the style, the music can sound very different. For example, the Tango features guitar and stringed instruments, while Huayno is rich in the sounds of pan flutes. Folk music, on the other hand, may rely on the multi-chamber Ocarina, which can produce a range of sounds depending on the number of chambers.

Here’s a look at some of the music of South America:

Argentina

The Tango, which originated in Buenos Aires, is perhaps the most well-known type of Argentinian music; however, the country’s inhabitants also enjoy folk, pop and classical, among many other styles. Artists such as Atahualpa Yupanqui and Mercedes Sosa helped popularize the development of ‘Nueva Cancion’ in the 1970s, a form of folk music focused on social issues. Argentinian rock, or ‘Rock Nacional’, developed in the 1980s and remains one of the country’s most popular styles.

Atahualpa Yupanqui in concert

Atahualpa Yupanqui in concert

The world loves a good tango, and has Argentina to thank. Arising from brothels and bars, the tango is a fusion of disparate influences, including habanera (Cuban), polka (Slavic), flamenco (Andalusian) and Italian folk music. The combination of European rhythms and detailed guitar sounds has remained popular since the end of the 19th century.

Bolivia

The history of Bolivian music is long and rich. Of all the countries in the region, its musical heritage remains the most closely linked to the indigenous people of the area. For years the country was dominated by Spain, which had a strong musical influence. In the 1950s, however, Bolivia went through nationalistic reforms and put more of a focus on the Aymara and Quechua natives, which has dominated the country’s music ever since.

Los Kjarkas on stage

Los Kjarkas on stage

Musical groups, such as Los K’Jarkas and Los Jairas, played a pivotal role in the musical revolution of Bolivia. Much of it is played using the charango, ronroco, quena, pinquillo, Andean saxophone and sheep hooves. Aside from Bolivian folk music, other popular genres worth mentioning include Bailecito, Tonada, Carnavalito and Taki Taki.

Chile

The musical styles of Chile are expansive, ranging from popular to classical to folk, though Central folk music may be the most well-known. The music of this country draws particular influence from the ancient Incan Empire, the Spanish and the Quechua and Aymara cultures, with accompanying traditional dances, which are quite exciting for visitors to see.

Los Cuatro Huasos

Los Cuatro Huasos

Since the late 19th century the national music and dance has been the Cueca, which predominates in the countryside; Chilean folk music is extremely popular. As in Bolivia, in relatively recent times Chile has experienced a reintroduction to its heritage, with folk music at the forefront. Musicians such as Violeta Parra, Raul de Ramon and Los Cuatro Huasos have helped increase the popularity of traditional folk music with younger Chileans. Today, pop, hip-hop and rock also fill the country’s airwaves. It is good to see that across South America traditional music is not just surviving, but it is really thriving.




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