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Characteristics of Latin American Music

Latin American music is wide and has a number of different characteristics. This genre includes music from all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Spanish and music from Portugal have very strong ties to this music as well. The music that falls under this genre is unified mainly by language, with various different styles originating from the many countries and cultures that make up Latin America and the Caribbean.


This is the one characteristic that is shared among nearly all Latin American musical styles. Spanish and Portuguese are the two main languages found in the majority of this music, though Spanish-based Creole is also used in some music coming out of Haiti.

African Rhythm

African music has a distinct rhythmic sound that is a major influence on many Latin American styles of music. Those included are the Dominican-Merengue, Bomba, Cuban Rumba, Puerto Rican Salsa, and the Columbian Cumbia.

Spanish Decima

The Spanish decima is a song form that consists of 10 lines, each with eight syllables in them. This is a characteristic of more traditional Latin American music, though it is still seen in some of the modern pop music in the genre today.


Syncopation is another major characteristic found in Latin American music. This is a musical style where weak rhythmic beats are accented instead of strong ones.

Call and Response

The call and response characteristic of African music also has transferred over to Latin American music. This is where two or more musical parts go back and forth in response to each other. These can either be rhythmic beats or song lyrics.

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