Henrik Klemetz and Jay Novello present:

Latin American Music Styles

with samples in Real Audio format

"Spanish music", "Latin rhythms", are standard labels used by DXers to describe the kind of music they hear from Latin American broadcasting stations.

By replacing "Spanish" and "Latin" with, say, "American" and "Anglo", the vagueness of such terms come into the open.

It is not an easy task to determine the home of a musical variety if you have to choose from more than 20 countries. Even a native Latin American senses the difficulty, except of course when he has to identify the kind of music which is unique to his home country.

A Venezuelan showbiz manager catering for Latin Americans in the Boston area said that he could count on a full Mexican crowd if "Los Tigres del Norte" were to perform. Similarly, "Los Inquietos del Vallenato" would attract all Colombians in the area, and should a punta band ever go to Massachussetts, he would easily fill the concert hall with Hondurans.

This explains why local Hispanic broadcasters in the US rarely cater for immigrant minorities. Where there is a majority of Mexicans, there is little reason to play Argentinian chacareras or Ecuadorian danzantes which the majority of their listeners would not like anyway.

In Latin America, there is usually some local musical flavor to be noticed on most stations. Sometimes the inherent cultural and ethnic factors of a region or a group are felt as more important than political frameworks and boundaries.

That is why broadcasters in Northern Peru, during the war against Ecuador a couple of years ago, did not curtail their usual programs of Ecuadorian pasillos. The war was president Fujimori´s idea but this could not instantly erase common cultural heritage. A large chunk of present-day Peru had in fact been under Ecuadorian rule for more than one hundred years until the area was declared Peruvian soil in 1941.

Similarly, people in Northern Argentina tend to like the same kind of music as many Bolivians. Too, they share a common ethnic and cultural heritage, a blend of Quechua and Hispanic traditions.

And so, while Mexican rancheras are felt as part and parcel of the local mestizo culture in Central America, people of African descent, wherever they may be, feel that Cuban son and other polyrhythmic dance music is theirs.

For these reasons, and many others, trying to distinguish between the musical styles of the region and learning their whereabouts will give an added bonus to Latin American DXing. The following samples are meant to serve as an appetizer for DXers wishing to taste the richly assorted and good-tasting Latin American musical "smörgåsbord".

Henrik Klemetz, Dec 30/99

Common to many areas


Latin Adult Contemporary.

Angela Carrasco is from the Dominican Republic.


Popular in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and criollo areas of the Andean countries.

Los Embajadores is an Ecuadorian trio.

"Sombras" is originally a tango.

See also Boleros: Everblooming Flowers for Everlasting Love


Of Spanish heritage, the pasodoble is heard as an intro or as a change of mood in dance parties in Spain, Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and Colombia which have one thing in common: they allow bullfights, which are banned, for example, in Argentina.


In Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia also called tropical andina; in Venezuela, tropical tecnopop.

A great web source for Latin music of all kinds is Descarga.


in Spanish, locally produced in some metropolitan areas.

Qué pasa is a Venezuelan group. This theme was later recorded by Panamanian rap specialist El General.


Christmas carols, villancicos, particularly vigorous tradition in Puerto Rico and Venezuela.


modernized way of playing Afro-Cuban music featuring reinforced brass and percussion sections.

The Grupo Niche selections are examples of the "Cali Sound". "La negra no quiere" is from 1982 or so.

Oscar d'León is one of the foremost Venezuelan soneros. See Salsamania for a recording of his tune "Mentiras".

See also Picadillo (The Starting Point for Salsa Surfers), and Timba

Mexico and Central America

corrido (ranchera)

corrido is also known as ranchera.

The second example is a ranchera used in serenatas for birthday greetings alongside with the well-known theme "Las mañanitas".


tejano is also known as tex-mex.

The late Selena is perhaps the most well known of all tejano artists.

son huasteco
son huapango
son jarocho
Mexican styles, often played by mariachi orchestras.
son guatemalteco Featuring the marimba, the national instrument of Guatemala.
punto guanacasteco Costa Rican audio samples:


Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
pasillo Popular in El Salvador.
Caribbean Basin and Surrounding Areas


Old-time formal Cuban dance music. Played on the Sunday evening birthday greetings show on Radio Rebelde (5025 kHz and many MW frequencies).


son originated in Cuba, and is now widely heard all over Latin America. The Trío Matamoros sample is a "classic"; there are dozens of salsa arrangements of this tune.

See also What the Soneros are Saying by Frank Figueroa.

guajira Cuban


Afro-Cuban percussion and vocal style.

See Décima and Rumba: Iberian formalism in the heart of Afro­Cuban song.


Cuban style with violins and flute. This sample is a "classic".
pachanga Cuban


Cuban. The title translates to "The station jumble" (referring to the overcrowding of the broadcasting dial).

Interesting salsa vocabulary: SalsaLoca - "El diccionario y lexico"


Cuban big-band style.

cha cha chá

A Cuban "classic".


A Puerto Rican musical style.


From the Dominican Republic. The Ramón García sample is sort of a second national anthem of the Dominican Republic, a beautiful rendering of a "classic".

Tambora y Güira is a page dedicated to all genres of the music from the Dominican Republic.


A popular midtempo acoustic/electric style from the Dominican Republic.


cumbia is popular in Colombia and Panama, with regional variants in Peru, Bolivia, Central America and Mexico. The Mexican and Central American cumbia is faster than its Colombian counterpart.

In a special Millennium Poll conducted by Colombia´s RCN Radio y TV, "La pollera colorá" was selected as the 5th most popular Colombian tune of this century.

The Peruvian group Los Walkers is from Huánuco.


Mainstream Colombian dance music, also known as tropical and sometimes raspa. The two selections are "classics" to be heard once a year on most Colombian stations, i.e. for Christmas and New Year's.

The Colombian gaita sounds rather like a clarinet, which Lucho Bermúdez used to play himself.

Discos Fuentes is a Colombian record label.


A Colombian style. sabanero refers to the area west of the Magdalena river, as the vallenato usually referred to is the one which orginated in the area east of the river, in the region of Valledupar.

La Ye, meaning the letter Y, is a place name; the town where the main road splits in two can be found not far from the provincial capital, Montería.

"Guayabo" in Colombian Spanish means "hangover", so the title of Lisandro Meza´s hit, popular from Colombia all the way down to Peru, is "The Hangover of La Ye".

See also Vallenato, Vallenateando en el Web, and In Memory of a renowned Vallenato artist.

tamborito Panamá
reggae Originally from Jamaica, now popular throughout the Caribbean.
soca Evolved from Trinidadian calpyso, now popular throughout the Caribbean.


The most popular musical style in Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and popular anywhere French is spoken.

Kassav' is a popular group from the French Antilles. The title of the sample translates to "zouk is the only medicine we have".

hip hop/dance

Venezuela, Panama, Caribbean basin, Peruvian jungle area


  • Fiesta - Banda Blanca

    This rhythm is popular along the Caribbean coastline of Central America, especially Honduras

    Andean Regions of Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia


    The Ecuadorian pasillo is very popular in northern Peru.

    "Latidos" is an extremely typical example of this style.

    Visit David Gleason's page for more about Ecuador and Colombia.

    danzante, pasacalle

    Ecuadorian. Two examples of a "classic", kind of a second national anthem of Ecuador, and the tune exists in countless vocal and instrumental versions.

    The Benítez y Valencia sample is a duo, and the Don Medardo is an uptempo rendition.

    More Benítez y Valencia samples are available at Ecuador Nostalgia Rockola.

    albazo, tonada


    Here is a recording from Radio Runacunápac Yachana, in Ecuador, on 2967.7 kHz, dated Jan 17 1993. To start it off there is an ID in Quichua followed by a music cut, at the end of which the signal faded down. Then comes a music promo containing short samples, 10 to 25 seconds long of each of the styles mentioned:

    "La música es la expresión de sentimiento y valentía: el danzante... el aire típico... el pasacalle... la tonada... el pasillo... el sanjuanito... el capishca... el yaraví... el cachullapi... el albazo... Estos son los ritmos que vibran en el fondo de cada ser humano. Usted sintoniza Radio El Saber del Hombre".

    sanjuanito, sanjuanero

    The samples are Ecuadorian; this style is also found in Northern Peru.

    Find an Andean music catalog at Tumi Music.


    A style familiar to any listener of Peruvian radio.

    The two Los Reales samples are from Northern Peru. The audio quality for these is as received from Radio Gotas de Oro (now Radio Uno), in Chiclayo. Not very ideal, but still better than on some of the Peruvians that play the music. The stations on 4420, 4460, and 4485 kHz would be typical examples.

    Grupo Norte Potosí is a Bolivian charango group. The selection is the "anthem" of the town of Huancayo, Peru.

    El Jilguero del Huascarán, whose real name is Ernesto Sánchez Fajardo, is one of the biggest shots in Peruvian music. You hear his tunes everywhere, anytime. He passed away several years ago.

    Discos Virrey is a Peruvian record label.


    From Bolivia.


    A Peruvian style.

    La Nortenita is a singer from Trujillo; "Pío Pío" has recently been adopted by the Bolivian Radio Pío XII, Siglo XX, as an ID cue.

    yaravi Popular in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.


    Modern urban Peruvian blend of huayno and cumbia.

    Many samples at Chichaweb.


    This is the original version, a Bolivian saya, which was readapated in the early 80´s by the Peruvian group Cuarteto Continental and a couple of years later presented internationally as "Lambada" by the Brazilian group Kaoma. In a subsequent lawsuit, Gonzalo and Ulises Hermoza, Los K´jarkas, claimed and gained the authorship of the tune.

    Eveline Rocha claims that Llorando se fue is actually a caporales, not a saya. Visit her site for more information on Bolivian music and dance.

    Andean Valleys & Regions East of the Cordillera

    guabina, torbellino

    An old Colombian style, seldom heard nowadays.


    This is the Colombian brand of pasillo, rarely heard nowadays. See also Andean Regions of Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia.


    Venezuela and Columbia. The sample is the signature tune for Ecos del Torbes (4980 kHz) in San Cristóbal, Venezuela.


    From the plains (llanos) of Venezuela and Eastern Colombia, joropo and pasaje are referred to as música llanera.

    The standard instrumental line-up for música llanera is arpa, cuatro y maracas. This is also the name of a longstanding music show on Venezuelan Radio Táchira, 4830 kHz.


    Venezuela and Colombia. (There is a non-related style called pasaje in Colombian vallenato.


    From Colombia, a local type of corrido, also known as guasca.

    In the sample, a woman is desperately looking for her lover. She runs from one saloon to another to see if she can find him. If she does, she will see to it that he'll get a razor-blade scar on both cheeks. That will help him remember who he belongs to, the lyrics say... (The initial part of this story is readily to be heard on the sample.)

    taquirari A Bolivian style.


    A Bolivian style, featuring the Bolivian charango instrument.
    Pacific Coastline of Peru marinera-resbalosa

    From Lima.

    There are examples of the marinera limeña and marinera norteña, the huylash, and many other styles at the home page of the musical groups Expresion Latina y Raices Peruanas.

    marinera norteña From Chiclayo and Trujillo.

    vals criollo

    Bolivia, Northern Chile, NW Argentina


    Bolivian music
    vidala From Argentina. vidala, zamba, and chacarera are called música de tierra adentro.


    The zamba is at the core of Argentinian folklore.
    chacarera Argentinian. See also La Pagina del Folklore Argentino.
    cueca Heard in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.
    Paraguay "Litoral" (Corrientes, Misiones) guarania

    A Paraguayan style.

    You may enjoy visiting the Musica Paraguaya web site, Fa-Re-Mi.

    galopera Another style from Paraguay.


    From the province of Corrientes, Argentina.
    River Plate Area


    Candombe is a typical Afro-Uruguayan style from the "Rio de la Plata" (River Plate), and a living tradition. It also co-existed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but in the XIX century and due to war and other factors the Afro-Argentinian community disappeared.

    The basic sound is the drum beating, without any other instrument, using three bass drums: bombo, the rhythmic repique, piano with a tenor sound, and chico for a high-pitched sound.

    This sample adds melody, choir and other instruments. Candombe is now one of the basic sounds for Uruguayan contemporary music, along with the murga.

    Visit the Candombe web site.



    Uruguay, also Brazil. Distinct style from candombe.

    Not heard much except at carnival time.

     cumbia villera Contemporary blend of urban canción de protesta, punk and rock.


    Argentina and Uruguay.


    Argentina and Uruguay. "El entrerriano" was the first tango.

    See the Top 100 Tango recordings.



    Sertaneja music in Brazil is what the vallenato is to Colombia and the ranchera is to Mexico.


    The music of the Brazilian Carnaval, also known as pagode.

    Mangueira is an escola de samba from Rio de Janeiro.

    A place to buy rare Brazilian records at auction is Mara Records.


    Especially popular in the Nordeste.


    Luiz Gonzaga is known as "O Rei do baião".


    Popular music of Salvador da Bahia. See the Axé Music Site.

    This table is based upon one originally published in "Latin America By Radio", by Henrik Klemetz (Espoo, Finland: Tietoteos Publishing Company, 1989; ISBN 951-9035-95-1).

    We welcome corrections and additions to this listing. Please send your observations and relevant Web links to webmaster Ake Klemetz. Please do not e-mail large sound sample attachments without prior notice.

    Thanks to contributors Wian Stienstra, Bo Nensén, and Horacio Nigro.

    Date of last revision: November 13, 2005.