Music in Latin America

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Music in Latin America

Nicolas Slonimsky, the author of Music of Latin America (1945), the first comprehensive account of Latin American music published in the United States, divides the developments of the music in this region (Latin America) into four periods: (1) Pre-Columbian, (2) Early Centuries of the Conquest, (3) Formation of National Cultures, and (4) Modern. The Pre-Columbian Cultures period includes all of the musical cultures that existed prior to Columbus's forays into the "New World." This period features "primitive musical instincts expressed in singing and rhythmic stamping" (Slonimsky, p. 71) and a variety of sui generis musical instrumentssuch as drums made from hollow tree trunks and animal skins, and gourds fashioned into shakers by placing dried seeds inside. The Early Centuries of the Conquest period covers the years from 1492 to 1750. It is marked by the influx of nonaboriginal cultures and music to the region, including the church music of Jesuits and the "infusion of African rhythms consequent upon the importation of Negro slaves" (Slonimsky, p. 71). The Formation of National Cultures period (17501900) is marked by the region's sense of nationalism, especially as it is manifest in the creation of national anthems following the wars of independence. Finally, what Slonimsky calls the Modern Era of Latin American Music (19001950) includes two signal paradigmatic shifts in the musical cultures of Latin America. The first of these was the "[e]mergence of native creative composers who combine[d] in their music a deep racial and national consciousness with modern technique" (Slonimsky, p. 72). The second shift reflected European and North American acceptance of Latin America "into the commonwealth of universal musical culture on equal terms with the great schools of composition" (Slonimsky, p. 72).

Slonimksy's work clearly reflects certain racial and cultural biases inherent in music scholarship. The purpose of this essay, however, is not to produce a critical analysis of the historiography of Latin American musical scholarship; nor is it to rehearse the comprehensive work of scholars such as Nicolas Slonimsky (1945), Gerard Behague (1979) and John Schechter (1999). Instead, the models established by these scholars will be used to focus on the historical contributions and influences of African peoples on the music of Latin America. The most significant contributions relate to African continuity and influences on the music, and the postmodern contribution to the development of hip-hop culture in particular Latin American countries. This hip-hop era in Latin American music began in the 1980s.

Latin America consists of more than twenty republics, not all of which contain significant African populations. These twenty republics are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, El Salvador, Uruguay, and Venezuela. However, only the following countries warrant consideration for the African influences on their respective music and cultures: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Because of their cultural and geographic relation to the Atlantic Ocean and the African slave trade, these nations have engendered more pronounced musical influences from various African cultures. For an important theoretical reference, consider the impressive cultural studies work of sociologist Paul Gilroy in his seminal text The Black Atlantic (1993), in which he employs the symbols of slave ships crossing the Atlantic as key cultural indicators of the reciprocal influences of African cultures on the new world, and vice-versa.

For example, Argentina does not boast a large population of African descendants. However "African rhythms have profoundly affected Argentine popular music" (Slonimsky, p. 77). This influence is most evident in the milonga tango, which features a swing-oriented rhythm that derives from African percussive expressions. In fact, the most popular folk music, driven by the figure of the gaucho, a minstrel figure who traveled and performed songs of the poor folk, was crystallized through its thematic connection to the plight of African slaves. These subtle influences derive from the eastern seaboard of the country, and even now they cannot be pinpointed beyond the very general assessment made here. The foremost scholar on these matters, John Charles Chasteen, has conducted extensive research into the African origins of the tango. Through various articles and books, Chasteen has explored the origins of tango in Afro-Argentinean communities, concluding that most of the tango's aboriginal developments are lost in its more current identification with upper-class ballroom dancing in Argentina and abroad. In terms of musical prominence, Argentina is most widely known for the tango, which is only occasionally connected to the African rhythms referenced by Slonimsky.

There are, however, demonstrable themes that manifest themselves in most, if not all Latin American music. These thematic consistencies include and incorporate the African cultural presence in Latin American music. According to John Schechter, a music scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz, there are four of these themes: nostalgia, descriptive balladry, commentary on current events, and communication with the supernatural. Nostalgic themes focus on migration, notions of the Latin American homeland, pastoral reflections on nature and Latin American landscapes, and various other regional contemplationsincluding the attributes and characteristics of women in particular locales, as well as the specific musical instruments that derive form regional developments in the musical cultures. Themes centered on descriptive balladry tend toward narratives that detail the experiences of local figures, historical events, and cultural myths, including the oral transmission of indigenous Native American histories. Romantic and Christian themes find their expressions in this thematic musical form as well. Commentary on current events is as pervasive a theme in Latin American music as any of the other three. These "musical-political expressions" address the myriad instances of colonialism, cultural hegemony, and post-colonial residue, especially in those Latin American regions plagued most by sociopolitical oppression. It should come as little surprise that many of these oppressed regions (ghettos, barrios, etc.) are also populated by Latin Americans of African descent. Finally, themes of supernatural communication are present in Latin American music as well. These communicative themes should not be readily considered religious, however, since they encompass all manner of engagement with the dead, spirits, ancestors, and divine entities. In these thematic musical expressions reside the artistic outlets of shaman, ancestral conduits, and those who are periodically possessed by spirits.

The simplest way, then, to proceed is through brief explications of African-influenced musical traditions in each of the Latin American countries. Nearly all Latin American countries bear some cultural connection to the content of Africa. Those highlighted here reflect the most significant connections through traditions, religions, populations, and common experiences.


Brazil is the largest country in Latin America. It borders all South American countries except for Chile and Ecuador, has the largest population, and also has the largest population of African-descended peoples: Brazilians of African descent make up approximately half of the country's population. These factors make Brazil an important indicator

for the developments and influences of African culture in Latin American music. Since Brazil was the forced destination of the largest percentage of African slaves, African influences are prevalent in religion, food, and, of course, music.

For all of the African cultural influences in Brazil, notions of race and identifications with blackness are complex and rare. Census data from 1991 suggests that only about 5 percent of the Brazilian population identify themselves as being black (Neate, p. 207). This suggests that the majority population of Brazil is white, with mulattos being a close second. However, the concept of blackness represents an extremely negative ethnic identification in Brazil, and the racial culture there is based upon class, nuanced color consciousness, and the inevitability of a racially intermixed population.

That being said, there are many manifestations of Afro-Brazilian attributes in Brazilian music. In the state of Bahia, the city of Salvador is the center of the rich religious traditions of Candomblé. Directly descended from the West African Yoruba religion, the various groups of people who practice Candomblé engage in various African beliefs and rituals, particularly through music and spirit possession. These rituals are driven and enacted through Candomblé drum ensembles. The ensembles have a musico-spiritual leader, the álabe, whose knowledge of musical rifts and percussive patterns is extensive. Additional drummers follow his lead on various-sized atabaque drums. "The music of candomblé, especially the drumming, serves not only as a crucial element of the candomble rituals themselves, but is also important symbolically as a cultural focus of African values" (Crook, p. 223).

As socioeconomic conditions for black Brazilians deteriorated in urban enclaves such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo during the twentieth century, ideological battles developed over music, especially forms like samba that represented Eurocentric colonization of Afro-Brazilian forms. This is ironic, since samba "can be considered as the first decisive step toward musical nationalism in Brazil" in the nineteenth century (Behague, p. 32). But in its developments over time, samba came to be associated with Eurocentric cultural appropriation (as did tango and even American jazz). In attempts to reclaim or re-establish the music, "Afro-Bloc" organizations became prominent in the 1970s during Carnival celebrations. These Afro Blocs celebrated the African roots of Brazilian culture and, in response to white domination, eventually turned to African-American musical forms (first funk and soul, and more recently, hip-hop) for cultural redemption.


The music of Colombia exemplifies a mixture of African, native, and European (especially Spanish) influences. Cumbia, Colombia's national musical form, originally arose on the Atlantic coast and is a mixture of African music (brought by slaves) and Spanish influences. After slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century, Africans, Indians, and other ethnic groups mixed more frequently, helping cumbia to evolve into more intricate styles like bambuco, vallenato, and porro. While early cumbia bands used only percussion and vocals, more modern forms include trumpets, saxophones, keyboards, and trombones.

African influences are also significantly apparent in cumbia dancing. Some believe it is a direct export from Guinea, which has a popular "cumbe" dance. Others claim the dance tells the story of an African man courting a native woman, even acknowledging that the shuffling footwork may be a depiction of African slaves trying to dance while bound by iron chains around their ankles.

It is important to note that some Colombian citiessuch as Cartagena, which has a large seaport on the north coast, and Providencia Islandhave large African communities descended from slaves, and cultural mixing is not frequent in these areas. As a result, the music of these areas has changed little since being imported from various cultures of Africa, particularly West Africa. Cartagena, for example, is well known for its champeta music, which has very strong soukous influences. Soukous came from Zaire and the Congo in the early twentieth century, and like cumbia it was originally performed with strings and a percussive instrument (i.e., a guitar and bottle).

Today, champeta is an Afro-Colombian musical style also known as champeta criolla (or creole); it is a hybrid of Colombian rhythms like soukous, juju, and rumba and Caribbean rhythms such as soca, calypso, reggae and compás. Modern influences on the evolvement of champeta can be traced back to Caribbean music festivals of the past and to the manual distribution of soukous albums from sailors coming in to Cartagena from Africa in the 1960s. Recordings by Nigeria's Prince Nico Mbarga and the Oriental Brothers infiltrated the Colombian coast, and local Colombian DJs played original African hits and combined them with champetas at parties. Radio stations also picked up the trend.

During the Colombian hippie movement of the 1970s, champeta artists were becoming well known for their unique style. Examples include Wganda Kenya and La Verdad Orchestra. Despite the spread of champeta as a musical phenomenon, it was not accepted by the social elite of Cartagena until much later. In fact, the origins of the word champeta can be traced to critics of the movement connecting it to its lower-class origins and reasoning that the name derived from brawls that were started in parties with knives known as "champetas." A more accurate, interpretation is that it derives from a creole language in which champeteaux means something characteristic of the people, making champeta "a music of the people."


Throughout history, the music of Cuba has had such an impact on various countries and cultures that the task of trying to summarize even its African-influenced elements in this tiny space is difficult. Cuban music contributed to the developments of salsa, tango (of Argentina), West African Afrobeat, and jazz in the United States. Like the Brazilian developments detailed above, the Yoruba religion Santería, and all of its attendant musical traditions, infiltrated Cuban culture, including its music. Considering the fact that mambo, rumba, and the conga all developed out of Afro-Cuban musical traditions, Cuba is a veritable mecca of African-influenced musical culture in Latin America. Cuban musical innovations originated in the sociological interplay between African slaves and Spanish people who worked on sugar plantations and smaller tobacco farms. Like most African-influenced aspects of Latin American music, percussive elements formulate the foundation of the musical innovations. Thus, the clave, bongos, congas, and the bata drums are each central components to particular forms of Afro-Cuban music. In Cuba, slaves preserved various elements of their African heritage in cabildos (venues where Africans fellowshipped and socialized). Through these insulated social experiences, various forms of Afro-Cuban music developed.

One of the oldest and maybe the most important of these developments was that of son music. Son music is defined by its anticipated bass lines and its canny synthesis of African rhythms and Spanish guitar rifts. Son developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century and influenced most forms of Cuban music that developed after it. Although son music's content originally centered on romance and nationalism, it eventually began to take more sociopolitical issues as its theme.

Two of the more popular cabildos, Lucumi and Kongo, were responsible for music developments that led directly to the advent of rumba. The Lucumi cabildo became widely known for its use of bata drums, while the Kongo engendered similar notoriety for its use of yuka drums. Yuka drum music developed into rumba. Rumba bands traditionally used claves, palitos and one of the most ubiquitous elements of African influences on world culture: the call and response vocals. Despite mainstream perceptions of rumba as static ballroom music, its origins are improvisational and generally less formal. Still, it is internationally popular.

Through the 1920s and 1930s, rumba and son music enjoyed international popularity. Unfortunately, commercial success tended to dilute the cultural traditions of the music. In the 1940s one of the most revered and well-known soneros in Cuba, Arsenio Rodriquez, helped to recalibrate son music with its African rhythmic roots. Cuban music of the 1960s and 1970s, much like its United States musical counterparts, tended toward the intermingling of genres. This musical sense of the intermezzo facilitated the further popularization of Cuban music and contributed to the cultural space where modern salsa was born out of Arsenio Rodriguez's revitalized son style and various other Latin musical forms (the mambo and rumba). At the end of the twentieth century, timbaa lively, postmodern, dance-oriented musicand reggaetona mixture of hip-hop and reggaecaptured the attention of Cuban youth along with other Latin musical strains.


Mexican music is a hybrid of influences from African, European, Spanish, indigenous, and other Latin American musical forms. Considering three centuries of Spanish ruleand about 300,000 African slaves inhabiting various Mexican statesthese influences were inevitable. Despite being separated geographically from Mexico by Central America, Colombia has also had a great influence on Mexican music. Colombian cumbia, with its complex rhythms and African influence became immensely popular in Mexico during the 1980s, becoming the dominant genre of that decade until the emergence of banda in the 1990s.

Mexico is mostly known, however, for its mariachi music which originated in the state of Jalisco as early as 1852. The musical form continued to evolve into the end of the nineteenth century, becoming a mixture of Spanish, European, and indigenous influence. African influences can be seen in the rhythmic pattern and syncopated styling known as son. Variations of the son (related to but not to be confused with Afro-Cuban son music) developed in other areas of Mexico, such as Veracruz (on the Gulf of Mexico), and is called son jarocho or son veracruzano. The music is characterized by the use of a harp instead of guitars as the primary instrument.


Though Venezuela is largely known for its salsa and merengue, African influences exist in Venezuelan folk music, which includes African-derived percussion with multiple rhythms like sangeo, fulia, and parranda. The Spanish contribution can be seen in the gaita rhythm. Gaita is the Spanish and Portuguese name for a bagpipe used in Galicia, Asturias, and northern Portugal.


As with all countries in Latin America, Uruguayan music has various influences. While there are Spanish influences in Uruguay's milonga, a Spanish guitar and song form, African influence can be seen in the Afro-Uruguayan percussion-based form of candombe, which is based on Bantu African drumming with some European and tango influences. It is also related to other musical forms of African origin, such as the Cuban son and tumba and the maracatu of Brazil. While candombe was used during ceremonial processions for the kings of Congo, it was also used during the time of African slavery in South America, when it was seen as a threat to the elites, who sought to ban the music and its dance in the beginning of the nineteenth century. This proved slightly difficult due to its mass appeal and the nature of how it is performed and danced. Typically, candombe is performed by a cuerda, or a group of fifty to one hundred drummers who use a variety of barrel-shaped drums called tambores, which vary according to their size and function. Tambores are made of wood and animal skin and are played with one stick and one hand, with the aide of a shoulder strap called a tali.

Today, candombe is still very much present in Uruguay, with about ninety cuerdas (candombe performance groups) in existence. Some groups perform regularly on Sunday nights in the streets of Montevideo, while a number of groups perform en masse during holidays, including January 6, December 25, and January 1. All cuerdas perform and compete annually during Uruguay's Carnival parade, called "llamadas" (calls), which takes place during the Carnival season.


Panama's national identity has evolved immensely since gaining its independence from Colombia in 1903. Though it is mostly inhabited by mestizos, or people of mixed African, European, and indigenous descent, a small minority of Africans remain in the Azuero region, located in the west of Panama.

Afro-Latin songs accompanied by dance and storytelling continue to exist in Panama. A dance called the tamborito, derived from the tambora drum, is danced by groups of men and women who sing, clap their hands, and stomp their feet. The women play "hard to get" and playfully whirl away when the men attempt to face them directly. The congo, a similar dance performed by the black communities of the eastern coast of Panama, uses upright drums. The instruments used in Panamanian music include drums of various sizes, a heavy brass bowl that gives a sharp metallic ring when struck, a five-stringed guitar, and a three-stringed violin. Typically, guitar derivatives are examples of Spanish influence, while drums are examples of African influence.

Due to major Colombian historical influence, the musical forms of salsa and cumbia top the charts more frequently than Panama's own popular music. Known for its distinctive vocal style, Panama's pop music is believed to have derived from Sevillians (people from the southern Spanish city of Sevilla) of African descent that arrived in the sixteenth century.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is mostly known for its merengue music, though bachata is also popular. Both forms were initially associated with lower social classes, but they are now enjoyed by people from all classes and backgrounds. Bachata, meaning "a rowdy or lower-class party," is derived from bolero, a Cuban genre, and is largely recognized by its guitar-based ensembles. Some experts have theorized that the dance form of bachata also resembles slaves attempting to dance while shackled to one another.

Although the word merengue literally means "whipped egg whites and sugar," it also is used to describe the music and dance form that has become an integral part of Dominican culture. Typically, it is a combination of guiro or maracas percussion sections, the guyano or tambora drum (also used in Panama), wild accordions or saxophones, as well as a box bass. The guiro and the tambora drum were brought to the island by West African slaves.

The exact origins of merengue are still disputed today, though influences are apparent and obvious. Geographically,

many have pointed to its neighbor Haiti as influencing the creation of merengue. As the only two countries on the island of Hispaniola, perpetually intertwined cultures and various influences are only natural. Some say merengue may be related to the Hatian mereng, which is similar in sound but dominated by guitars rather than accordions. Others claim it is a mixture of the Spanish decimal and African plena music, whose beats and rhythms are derived from the African conga drum. Historically, plena also evolved into a traditional form of Puerto Rican music with African, indigenous (Taino), and Spanish influences. "Dominican social dance as a whole, past and present, integrates European-derived fashion, introduced through the social clubs of the urban elite, with African-influenced music and dance, of rural origin" (Davis, 1996).

Some Dominican dances have strong Haitian and Caribbean influences, while some evolved from foreign military occupation forces. The "pambiche" form of merengue, for example, is supposedly an imitation of American soldiers attempting to dance the merengue during the U.S. occupation in the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1922. Afro-Caribbean urban dances of the nineteenth century also popular in the Dominican Republic included the Cuba's danzon son and bolero, as well as the Puerto Rican danza. Lastly, strong African influences can be seen in other traditions, such as salve, a type of singing used in ceremonies, parties, and pilgrimages dedicated to saints. Salve singing is a call-and-response form and is accompanied by African instruments such as panderos and atabales. Call and response (between musical instruments) is a West African tradition that involves the succession of two distinct phrases played by two different musicians. The pattern has evolved over the centuries into various forms of cultural expression, including public gatherings, religious ceremonies, children's rhymes, and African-American music such as gospel, the blues, rhythm-and-blues, jazz, and, more recently, hip-hop.

Hip-Hop Culture in Latin America

As in the United States, hip-hop in Latin America originated as a form of expression for youth who wished to speak out against historical oppressions that took place in their native country and communities.


While showing a Colombian influence musicallywith smooth blends of Latin melodies and salsa cadences mixed into hip-hop breakslyrically, the songs deal with issues of social injustices and reflect on Colombia's five hundred years of imperialism, in which its people have been massacred, enslaved, forced to migrate, and during which the country itself was robbed of its natural resources. Resistance to these injustices began centuries ago, with African natives creating "palenques," or free and independent towns, in order to defend their territories. Insurgent movements, social uprisings, and coup d'etats continued to plague Colombia, resulting in today's war between Colombia's government and armed antigovernment groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Colombian rap groups such as Cescru Enlace, Zona Marginal, and La Etnia frequently cover political issues such as Colombia's drug-fueled guerilla war, which continues to claim the lives of innocent victims, and the fleeing of Colombian refugees who fear for their lives in the midst of their country's civil conflicts.

Though rap is not considered part of the mainstream music scene in Colombia, it has grown immensely among Colombian youth in major cities like Bogotá and Cali, as well as in areas like Aguablanca (located on the outskirts of Cali). Typically, Colombian hip-hop artists make their own CD's and sell them in local record stores or in the streets. This "underground movement" has spread quickly and acquired enough popularity to gain the interest of larger record labels, who are becoming more interested in making hip-hop a part of the larger music establishment. There are, however, concerns regarding the political and controversial issues covered in a large portion of these records, making it more difficult to push Colombian hip-hop above its underground status.

Others who see the need to spread consciousness about these issues however, find ways to give Colombian hip-hop the exposure they feel it deserves. In Colombia's capital, Bogotá, a rap festival was organized by local groups, while a hip-hop cultural center was created by a group of rappers in Bogotá's colonial center, offering classes in graffiti art, break dancing, and music mixing.


Hip-hop in Argentina has existed since the 1980s in certain areas of Buenos Aires, where artists like Frost, Mike Dee, and Jazzy Mel were popular. Much like historical trading and influential migrations of the past, hip-hop songs infiltrated into Argentine culture through cassettes brought into the country by tourists, while hip-hop videos ultimately gained copious rotations on television and radio. By the mid-1990s a group called the "Argentine Union of Hip-Hop" (known today as "The Union.") was created, and artists and groups like Tombs, $$uper-a, AMC, and Race became popular.


Mexican rap can be traced to the early 1990s and a dance-pop act named Calo, which was made up of one MC (master of ceremonies) and four dancers. Their music was composed of singing over popular synthesized dance music and initiated an underground movement that spread throughout Mexico. Some of the influences on Mexican rap include Kid Frost from East Los Angeles, California; The Mexakinz from Long Beach, California; Cypress Hill from South Central, Los Angeles; and Delinquent Habits from Los Angeles. Groups like Control Machete and Molotov emerged in the mid 1990s as a result of these American-based groups. Though they achieved commercial success by blending their rap style with Mexican country music and traditional Latin riffs, hip-hop in Mexico remains undiscovered by the mainstream. Radio exposure is limited, and it is an underground movement in working-class neighborhoods, or "barrios," where artists burn their own CDs and have small labels reproduce them for sale to a loyal audience. As in the early years of hip-hop in the United States and Colombia, Mexican rappers focus on the inequalities that plague their country, including seventy years with the same political party in power (until the 2000 elections) and the Spanish conquests that historically enhanced racial conflicts. More modern problems include drug-trafficking gangs, poverty, and police corruption. Unknown artists have even renamed their Mexican rap "rapza," which is a combination of the words rap and raza, meaning "race" in Spanish.


The history of hip-hop in Cuba is similar to the history of hip-hop in other countries. Its evolution, however, has been vastly different. Cuban audiences first heard and saw hip-hop in the 1980s through radio and television broadcasts from Miami, Florida. Though originally audiences focused on break dancing, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been a huge supporter of the Cuban economy, brought about a period of frustration in which Cuban youth were looking for ways to express themselves. Due to the sensitive relations between the United States and Cuba, hip-hop was initially seen as a vulgar, explicit, violent, and improper cultural invasion from the United States. With the help of a progressive hip-hop movement begun by Nehanda Abiodun, a U.S. Black Liberation Army activist in political exile in Cuba, Cuban hip-hop began to evolve into a personal art about Cuba and its unique culture, government, and way of life.

Since then, hip-hop has been embraced in Cuba, and there is an annual hip-hop festival in the Havana district of Alamar. According to Ariel Fernández of Asociacion Hermanos Saíz (AHS), one of the cosponsoring organizations for the festival, Cuban hip-hop is a revolution within a revolution. Musically, Cuban rap incorporates instruments like batas (tall drums), the guitar bass, live drums and congas. With an estimated two hundred hip-hop groups in Havana, and about three hundred throughout the island (as of 2002), Cuban hip-hop shows no signs of slowing down. Groups like "Amenaza" (the Threat) and "Primera Base" (First Base) formed in the mid-1990s, followed by "Instinto" (Instinct), Cuba's first female rap group, and more modern groups like "Anonimo Consejo" (Anonymous Advice), "Bajo Mundo" (Under World), and "Freehole Negro" (Freehole Black).

Cuban rap is a complicated phenomenon, however, as it is accepted under Fidel Castro's maxim "within the revolution, everything," and it is not seen as a threat as long as it is not viewed to be counter-revolutionary. Inevitably, this is difficult to guarantee, considering the opinionated nature of hip-hop in general and the tendency for rappers to speak out against the norm, whatever it may be. Though Fidel Castro himself is reportedly impressed by hip-hop, the boundaries of acceptable hip-hop in Cuba are still sensitive and subject to various opinions and definitions.


Hip-hop was introduced in Brazil in the 1980's, and it has developed into what is now called "Hippy Hoppy." Brazil has managed to embrace and develop all elements of hip-hop in its own way, having representation in international DJ and break-dancing competitions, as well as hosting the first world show of graffiti in the city of Santo Andre during the Summer of 2003. In fact, rap in Brazil has developed to the point of having seven different styles, including gospel, gangster, futuristic, underground, and rock fusion. Some even claim American rap is hardly listened to anymore.

The origins of hip-hop in Brazil, however, are similar to those in the United States, Colombia, and Mexico. Marginalized youth with limited access to employment and education used, and continue to use, hip-hop as an outlet and a way to criticize the social and economic injustices around them, such as the drug-infested Brazilian shanty-towns, or favelas, which are poverty-stricken ghettos with high levels of crime and violence.

Hip-hop has also been used in Brazil to educate its population regarding the ideas of revolution, democracy and the country's history, including various Afro-Brazilian leaders and Brazil's struggle to end its military dictatorship. Today, many have continued the sociopolitical progression of Brazilian hip-hop and the construction of a new Brazil, with hip-hopfocused community projects and centers that are dedicated to educating and helping local Brazilian youth.

Musically, Brazilian hip-hop is as diverse as its culture, combining hip-hop beats and samba rhythms with instruments like the bossa nova guitar. Older rap groups and artists like MVBill (Mensagerio de Verdad) and Racionais (the Rationals) publicly and aggressively address social injustices using Brazilian percussion and hip-hop beats, while more modern groups like Somos Nós A Justica use funky piano riffs and a care-free style of experimentation.

See also Candomblé; Dance, Diasporic; Folk Music; Hip-Hop; Music; Rap; Slavery


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james peterson (2005)

marcela poveda (2005)