Latin America

Deciding into what sub-groups to classify Latin American “traditional popular” music is a little more complex than for most other areas of world music. This is because of the influence of European colonisation.

A classification according to country of origin does not do justice to the music of the indigenous native indians of South and Central America, because their music(s) are stylistically relatively similar and not necessarily distinguished by the colonial borders between countries. On the other hand, the music of the colonial settlers is very much defined and distinguished according to the national borders. For example, the Tango is almost exclusively related to Argentina (with its Italian and Spanish immigrants), while Bossa Nova is totally linked to Brasil and its Portuguese colonial heritage.

Therefore, instead of classifying traditional Latin American music according to the different countries of origin, we will use instead the following two overlapping categories:


Curiously, Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992), the greatest exponent of the modern Argentinian tango and Antonio Jobim (1927 – 1994), the creator of Bossa Nova were absolute contemporaries of each other (they lived and worked in exactly the same epoch). But whereas Jobim was the inventor of an entirely new style (Bossa Nova) in the 1960’s, Piazzolla, at almost exactly the same time, was a revolutionary who reformed and developed an older “traditional” style. Therefore, whereas Piazzolla’s music is found here in the “Traditional Music” (Tango) section, Bossa Nova music – a much more recent invention than the Tango form – is not considered as “traditional” music and can be found in the Jazz section.