Music in Latin America is widely influenced by colourful and exotic carnivals and a range of dance styles. Carnivals may include fanfarras, featuring brass instruments associated with fanfare, and almost always a samba band.
The samba band features bass drums known as surdo, tenor drums known as repiniques, smaller drums known as tamborim and timbales and the distinctive sound of the agogô bells.
Among the distinctive dance styles arising from Latin America are salsa and tango. You can find out more about these styles in the Paired Dance guide.
Other distinctive dance and musical styles are:
In addition to these famous dances and their musical accompaniments, there are a range of musical traditions, ensembles and styles across Latin America
These include the Chacarera from Argentina, which includes clapping and is in waltz time. Cuba’s habanera is a variation on the tango and is based around a dotted rhythm, which also appears in some other tango influenced dances.
Vallenato is a popular style of folk music in Bolivia. It makes extensive use of the accordion and originates from village and rural life. Among the music of Mexico is the Huapango in which the metre often shifts. The time signature may continually shift from 3/4 to 6/8, for example.
Well known Latin American percussion instruments include the conga and claves . Conga are large hand drums which the musician has to stand to play. Claves are short wooden sticks which have a surprisingly clear sound, even in a large ensemble and play many of the central rhythms used in Latin American music. Cow bells and timbales also feature alongside other instruments in the salsa band.
Different types of guitar also feature extensively in Latin American ensembles. These include the Cuban guitar (usually with six or nine strings), the guitarrone (an acoustic bass guitar used in the music of Mexico), the Bajo Sexto with its sharply curved neck and the Vihuela, a five string instrument constructed in a variety of sizes from small to very thick bodied.