What is it?
What is it?
Sometimes I think that it is two things. A cauldron and an enigma
We’ll see why it is a cauldron later but now we’ll say that we feel it is an enigma because it is not as poor as Africa, not as rich as Europe or the US. Latin America seems to wander aimlessly in an ideological, political and economical Limbo. Latins are Sons of Spain and Portugal. Influenced by the Big North. Accosed by the IMF. Sinking in debts. With 50% of the population living in poverty. With a horrible recent history of Military governments and corruption. Torture, Missing Persons, Political Assassinations. Homeland of great poets. Homeland of powerful druglords. Guerrillas, Last hideout of crypto communism. Last hideout of extreme facism.
It is like if all the contrasts of this planet are to be found in Latin America.
You’ll find In Latin America incredibly rich people…. But go for a walk and you’ll find people living in sub human conditions. And hey, you don’t need that walk to be long. Sometime the extremes touch themselves in cities like Caracas, Rio or Mexico City. Poor and Rich people are separated by thin walls, just hundreds of yards away from each other. Of course, after the major financial crisis of the 80’s and 90’s and the explosive growth of external debt, the latin economies fell down, while the demographic growth went on and on. As a results crime rates have rocketed in the last decades in urban centers.
But latins keep having high hopes. Latins seem have got used to live in chaos. What would you expect of a culture that might give you Garcia Marquez one day and Pinochet the next?
Anyway.. art happens... as Jorge Luis Borges used to say. Yes. It happens. Everywhere around us it suddenly appears, like a blossoming and unexpected rose that we discover hanging from an almost withered branch.
And as art happens, music happens everywhere in Latin America.
Latins are considered joyful people, noisy people, musical people. Latin America has been a crossroads, a melting pot or cauldron in which many things blend, mix a brew. In the last 40 decades Latin-American’s music have mingled with all the genres that have swept the European and North American stages and radios.
From Big Bands, to Free Jazz, From Rap to Minimalism. From Psychedelia to Punk.
All those influences have fallen into the Latin-American cauldron where one can find indigenous music from the Andes high plains, Argentinean tango, Venezuelan and Dominican Meringue, Brazilian Samba, Bossa and Choro, Colombian Cumbia, Panamanian Murga, Mexican Rancheras, Puerto Rican Salsa, Uruguayan Candombe, Chilean Cueca…and the list of etceteras would fill many pages.
And of course recently those things have blended with jazz, experimental music and rock
In the beginning, Latin-American rock bands were a timid bunch with none or very little chance to penetrate the international market. But pop music and experimentation have gone huge since the late 70’s. (The Hippy era happened in Latin-American about 5 years later than in the US or Europe)
Nowadays the Latin-American musical offer is incredibly varied and interesting.
Lo-fi garage electronica like Malas Amistades from Colombia
World famous exponents of Brazilian Tropicalia like Caetano Veloso.
Urban bad boys like Bacalaomen and their Venezuelan mix of hardcore salsa and rock.
Living legends like the Argentinean Charly Garcia.
Second generation stars like Fito Paez, also from Argentina.
Decades old and incredibly consistent bands like Congreso from Chile.
Introspective manufacturers of music miniatures like Stella Magnone from Uruguay.
And the list goes on and on….
Maybe it is not a sub-continent.
Maybe it is a whole universe.
Welcome to the latin side of existence and…
Frog Mrs. Darter & The Wahoos (Southamerican Dart-Poison Frogs) Acrylic on Linen Canvas Painting by Lawrence Raymond (Lary) Mckee
Latin American Map taken from the website of CHILDHOPE, an organization that helps childreen in economical disadvantage, all around the world.