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    The Beginnings of Latin Music

    The beginnings of Latin Music in America can be traced back to the 1940’s with Xavier Cugat, a Spaniard from Cuba trained as a classical violinist. Cugat, at an early age, had emigrated to the U.S. He ultimately became a band leader and in the ensuing years, helped popularize Latin music in America through his recordings and movie appearances introducing musical genres such as the "conga," the "mambo" and the "cha-cha-cha."

    In the 1950’s, Tito Puente, an American-born musician, helped to bring Afro-Cuban and Caribbean sounds to the attention of the American public. Puente is the composer of the popular mambo style “Oye com ova,” one of latin rock guitarist Carlos Santana’s signature songs. Puente’s works ran the gamut from the "mambo" to "latin jazz."

    In the 1960’s, the Brazillian "Bossa Nova" represented by the works of Antonio Carlos Jobim and others, swept through the U.S. In the 1970’s, "Salsa Music" came to the fore. It was a fusion of various musical genres including the Cuban “son montuno,” “guaracha,” and “cha cha chá,” among others.

    In the 1980’s, the Latin ballad became the prime form of Latin pop music. Ballad singers from Spain had burst upon the Latin music scene in America in the late 1970’s. One of these balladeers was Julio Iglesias who, today, is considered to be the best-selling Latin artist of all time. It was during this same period that "Salsa Music" morphed into "Salsa Romantica," a slower musical style with emphasis on romantic lyrics.

    The 1990’s were witness to the revival of "Bolero Music" (or Latin music with a slow tempo) spearheaded by Luis Miguel. By the mid 1990’s, "Latin Pop" music became the dominant genre with Ricky Martin, Shakira and Enrique Iglesias among others, leading the way. "Tejano Music," a regional Mexican genre, became popular with the works of Selena but declined after her untimely demise.

    In 1995, "Merenge," which is a form of "Tropical Music" from the Domincan Republic in the Caribbean, gained momentum and gave "Salsa Music" a run for the money.

    Latin Music continues its dynamic ways, morphing as time goes on. From the turn of the 21st Century, Latin Music has seen musical styles such as "Raggaeton," "Bachata," "Banda" and "Latin Trap."

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