Henrik Klemetz and Jay Novello present:

Latin American Music Styles

with samples in MP3 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.

Daniela Romo is Mexican


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, this theme exists in many local versions, for instance in Ecuador by Benitez y Valencia.

Read more about the bolero: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolero

For bolero lyrics, see: http://www.morellajimenez.com.do/letras.htm


Of Spanish heritage, the pasodoble is heard as in intro or as a change of mood in dance parties in countries which have one thing in common, they allow bullfights (in Southern South America bullfights are now allowed).


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

A great web source for Latin music of all kinds is Descarga, at: http://www.descarga.com

This Colombian version of "La Colegiala" is from the mid-80's. The original version was composed in Perù and first launched in 1975.

Arguably created by Argentinian Ricky Maravilla, a representative of the "Movida tropical" movement, this theme is also wellknown in Chile.

See also under cumbia

rock / rap

Locally produced in certain metropolitan areas.

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


Christmas carols, villancicos, with a particularly vigorous music tradition in Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In these two countries, aguinaldo is, apart from a monetary gift at Christmas, also a musical gift. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aguinaldo#Puerto_Rican_aguinaldo

Various MIDI-themes and explanations at: http://www.musicadepuertorico.com/english/aguinaldos.htm

Various versions of a Puertorican aguinaldo on the cuatro.
More on aguinaldos, including lyrics and videos, at:
http://www.prfrogui.com/home/parrandas.html  (See parranda 2)

The website http://www.sensemaya.net/LaParranda.pdf contains a thesis on Puerto Rico's Christmas serenading tradition.


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.

Celia Cruz (1925-2003) was called "la Reina de la Salsa", but the nickname she preferred was "la Guarachera de Cuba".

Read about salsa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salsa_(dance)

Oscar de León is one of the foremost Venezuelan soneros.

See article "Soneros: A Dying Breed": http://www.descarga.com/cgi-bin/db/archives/Article14

Vocabulary heard in salsa tunes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salsa_dance_(Cuban_style)

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.

Also known as bandas, groups of 10-20 musicians, playing bass-based traditional music, including waltzes, cumbias, marches

son huasteco

son huapango

son jarocho

Traditional styles in Mexico, often played by mariachi orchestras, jarocho indicates Vera Cruz as the origin.

Performance of huapango huasteco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gr-o7umv5TQ&feature=related

Many examples of huapango tamulipeco, huapango huasteco and huapango veracruzano in YouTube.

son guatemalteco

Featuring the marimba, the national instrument of Guatemala.

In Costa Rica, as well as in Guatemala and Chiapas, México, the marimba is cherished instrument.


punto guanacasteco

Costa Rican audio samples : http://www.guiascostarica.com/musica/musica.htm

See punto guanacasteco performance at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXp4UKWWe-o


Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and 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).


The 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.


Cuban Country music. The single most popular example is "Guajira Guantanamera". Many guajiras were "rediscovered" by Buena Vista Social Club.


Afro-Cuban percussion and vocal style.

See Décima and Rumba: "Iberian formalism in the heart of Afro Cuban Song" at


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


Created at the outset of the 1950's in Cuba, coinciding with the political overturn of Cuba, the pachanga in the USA was confusingly named charanga. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachanga

In this song "La pachanga se baila así", Joe Quijano explains that the pachanga is the dance, and charanga is the band.

bugalú, boogaloo

Fusion of many Cuban styles with American R&B and soul, arguably first Latin rhythm created in New York.


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

Vocabulary heard in salsa tunes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salsa_dance_%28Cuban_style%29


Cuban big-band style.

cha cha chá

A Cuban "classic".

bomba y plena

A Puerto Rican musical style.

http://www.puertoritmo.com/ explains in detail rhythms sprung from Puertorican soil like the "bomba" and the "plena".


From the Dominican Republic.

"Compadre Pedro Juan" is often referred to as the second national anthem of the Dominican Republic, a beautiful rendering of a "classic".

Tambora y Güira is a page devoted to music gennes of the Dominican Republic: http://www.mindspring.com/%7Eadiascar/musica/index-e.htm


Sensual midtempo acoustic/electric style from the Dominican Republic.


Originating in Colombia and Panamá, this dance is kind of lingua franca to Spanish speaking people in the Western hemisphere.

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 the 20th Century.

"Dancing through Colombia" was aired on BBC World Service in May 1993.

See about cumbia sonidera at: http://cumbiavancouver.blogspot.com/2011/05/what-is-cumbia-sonidera-and.html

The Peruvian group Los Walkers is from Huánuco.



Mainstream dance music in Colombia, also known as tropical and sometimes raspa. The two selections belong to the "oldies"genre and will be heard  mainly for  Christmas.

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


Colombian "Country & Western". Sabanero refers to the area west of the Magdalena river, i.e. not originating from Valledupar, which is the cradle of the vallenato.
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".

For history of the vallenato, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vallenato


Traditional from Panamá

reggae, reggatón

Originally from Jamaica and Panamá, now popular throughout the Caribbean Islands.

Marcos Malory is from Puerto Rico..


Evolved from Trinidadian calypso, now popular in many parts of the Caribbean.
For a sample watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SALgXnL61gY&feature=related


Popular in Frenchspeaking areas of the Antilles. The title of the song translates to "Zouk is the only medicine we have".

hip hop / dance

Heard in Venezuela, Panama, Caribbean basin and Peruvian jungle area


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 glimpses of what broadcasting was like in the 1950's in Ecuador and Colombia.

danzante, pasacalle

Ecuadorian. Held as kind of a second national anthem of Ecuador.

"El chula quiteño" exists in countless vocal and instrumental versions.
The Benítez y Valencia sample is a duo, and the Don Medardo clip is an uptempo rendition of the same tune.
Read about and listen to more Ecuadorian music: http://musicademipatria.blogspot.com/ and  http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Música_del_Ecuador

albazo, tonada


Here is a recording from Radio Runacunápac Yachana, in Ecuador, on 2967.7 kHz, dated Jan 17 1993.
There is an identification announcement 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 two samples are Ecuadorian; this style is also found in northern Peru.


This is a music style typical of the Peruvian sierra.                                                                                           


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.

Ernesto Sánchez Fajardo a.k.a. "El Jilguero del Huascarán" has recorded several tunes which are heard regularty on the air for certain festivities, for instance Mother's Day.

Scores of Peruvian music: http://www.musicaperuana.com (The Peruvian Musical Corner)


From Bolivia.


Peruvian festive dance.
La Nortenita is a singer from Trujillo, Perú.
Los Shapis are the forerunners of Peruvian chicha (see this word) and this tune has been adopted as an identification cue by the Bolivian broadcaster
Radio Pío XII, Siglo XX.


Popular in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
Originally heard for mourning also known as triste in northern Perú and muliza in the central area.

Ecuatorian yaraví...
"Puñales" - Dúo Benítez y Valencia at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m0_OmLyFSAA

Bolivian yaraví...
"El Cisne" - Los Jaíras at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXaLOepBVS4A
Los Jaíras has recorded almost all varities of Bolivian folklore.

"Rítmos sudamericanos" lists in alphabetical order almost all varieties of music to be heard in the Andean countries: http://www.pacoweb.net/index2.html


Modern urban Peruvian blend of huayno and cumbia.
Read about chicha:




This is the original version, a Bolivian saya, rearranged in the early 80´s by the Peruvian group Cuarteto Continental and later presented internationally as "lambada" by the Brazilian group Kaoma, in an international lawsuit. Gonzalo and Ulises Hermoza a.k.a. 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 on Bolivian folklore: http://www.bolivia.at
See also: http://boliviandances.blogspot.com

Andean Valleys & Regions East of the Cordillera

guabina, torbellino

An old Colombian music style, seldom heard nowadays.


Colombian brand of pasillo, rarely heard in these days.
See also pasillo under Andean Regions of Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia.



Colombia and Western Venezuela. The sample is the signature tune for Ecos del Torbes (4980 kHz) in San Cristóbal, which was the Venezuelan flagship on the 60 meter band until the end of the 1990's.


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


The standard instrumental line-up arpa, cuatro y maracas. Search these words on Google images for pictures.
This was also the name of a longstanding music show on Venezuelan Radio Táchira, 4830 kHz in the 90's.


Venezuela and Colombia. (There is an unrelated style called pasaje in Colombian vallenato).

carrilera, guasca

From Colombia, a local type of corrido (see under Mexico), 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.)


Watch live improvisation of Recuerdos, a tune made popular by Los Jairas, in a La Paz market at


Bolivian, here featuring the charango instrument.

Pacific Coastline of Peru

marinera - resbalosa

There are examples of the marinera limeña (from Lima) and marinera norteña (from Trujillo and Chiclayo), the huaylash, and many other styles at the home page of the musical groups Expresion Latina y Raices Peruanas.at: http://www.raicesperuanas.net/

vals criollo

See: http://www.sonicomusica.com/vallenatos/los-inquietos/cancion/despues-que-te-perdi/

Bolivia, Northern Chile,   NW Argentina


Bolivian music


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


The zamba is at the core of Argentinian folklore.


Argentinian. See also La Pagina del Folklore Argentino.


Heard in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Argentina

Los Huasos Quincheros is a Chilean group.

Paraguay & Argentine "Litoral" (Chaco, Corrientes, Entre Rios, Formosa, Misiones and Santa Fé)


A Paraguayan style.

polka paraguaya
You may enjoy visiting the web site http://www.musicaparaguaya.org.py where there are many samples of Paraguayan music


Another style from Paraguay.


From the province of Corrientes, Argentina. Also known as música correntina.

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 at: http://www.candombe.com/english.html.

 cumbia villera

Contemporary blend of urban canción de protesta, punk and rock, from suburbs of Buenos Aires.


Argentina and Uruguay.


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


Lyrics, artists, history of the tango here: http://www.todotango.com/Spanish/Home.aspx



Sertaneja music in Brazil is what the vallenato is to Colombia and the ranchera is to Mexico, a Brazilian kind of Country & Western.


The music of the Brazilian Carnaval, also known as pagode.
is an escola de samba from Rio de Janeiro: http://www.mangueira.com.br/
Database on Brazilian music:


Especially popular in the Nordeste (north eastern Brazil).


Luiz Gonzaga is known as "O Rei do baião", the King of Baião .


Popular music of Salvador da Bahia.
See the Axé music site at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axé_music

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 . Please do not e-mail large sound sample attachments without prior notice.

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

Date of last revision: June 2011.