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Types of Latin American Music

There are a number of types of Latin American music
Salsa Dancer image by Infs from Fotolia.com

Latin American music is music that comes from countries in Central and South America, as well as Spanish-speaking nations in the Caribbean. Latin American music takes many forms and incorporates a wide range of styles, from rap and rock to jazz and classical. Because of its worldwide influence, the definition of Latin American music is hazy and constantly changing. However, there are a number of genres that are indisputably Latin American.


Salsa is a Cuban genre of music that combines African and Spanish influences. The music is extremely fast, generally running at over 150 beats per minute, and will often accompany dancing. Traditional instruments found in salsa music include congos, timbales, claves, and the trombone.

Funk Carioca

Also known as Rio funk, favela funk or baille funk, funk carioca is a style of Brazilian rap that originated in the shantytowns outside of Rio de Janeiro. A direct descendant of the rap genre Miami Bass, carioca funk features heavy bass and electronic drum loops as well as a smorgasbord of samples.


Reggaeton is a blend of a number of genres, primarily dancehall reggae and Spanish-language hip-hop, but also featuring elements of a number of Latin American styles, including Latin pop, salsa, and merengue. Created in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1990s, the genre rose in popularity in the United States in the 2000s.


Tejano music, also known as Tex-Mex music, is a style of music created on the border of Mexico and the state of Texas. Texan in origin, but popular througout Mexico and much of Central America, Tejano combines rock, Mariachi, blues and country, with many bands featuring both a guitarist and an accordion player.


Samba is a Brazilian dance style and musical genre. Most Samba songs are done in 2/4 time and make use of a variety of traditional Brazilian instruments. Couples dancing Samba are known for a signature rocking motion.

Bossa Nova

A sub-genre of Samba, bossa nova is less percussive and generally "cooler" than traditional Samba. While Samba is known for its heavily orchestrated arrangements, many bossa nova songs are played on a single finger-picked guitar.

Latin Pop

Latin pop encompasses a wide range of music, but can be generally defined as American-style pop with Latin elements. Artists as diverse as Ritchie Valens and Shakira can be described as belonging to this genre. While some Latin pop is simply American pop sung in Spanish or Portugese, other Latin pop includes sounds drawn from traditional Latin American musical genres.

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