Latin music styles

Description of the main Latin music styles

Salsa music explanation

The most popular modern Latin styles for dancing include Salsa and Merengue, but some bands also play examples of other styles for variety. All styles use at least one singer, plus backing vocals.

Salsa: originally developed out of Cuban "Son" via "Mambo" in the 1950's. Now it is most played in Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico and New York. It has a big brassy sound, and can be romantic or fiery. In Latin America, this is the music you generally hear the most on the Radio.

Merengue: up-tempo, energetic, easily accessible music, originally from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, where it is actually their "Pop" music, although it evolved out of country folk-dance music in the 1880's. In the past, bands consisted of accordion, percussion and sax, but accordion is now replaced by piano and bass guitar, and there are often up to 4 or more brass instruments. Merengue is very big in all Latin countries today, and many British people new to Latin music find the beat much more accessible and much easier to dance to.

Cumbia: is rootsy music native to Colombia, with a laid back feel, similar to reggae. It usually features lots of percussion, and the sound of sax and trumpet.

Bugaloo: a throw back to the 60's when it was very popular, it has come around again. A funky, jazzy, slower sound, often with much brass.

Bomba: similar to merengue music, also from the Caribbean area, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. A very Caribbean feel, but sung in Spanish.

Lambada: Lambada actually comes from Brazil, where the music is very different to other Latin styles, but as it is also a sexy couples dance, it fits in very well with salsa.

Charanga: Becoming suddenly popular again, this music dates back to the 50's in Cuba, and features a more gentle line-up with flute and often violin replacing brass in the salsa line-up.

Cha Cha Cha: A more classical style of dance very much associated with Ballroom dance, which is also a popular style mainly found in Cuba, and now danced to in Latin clubs worldwide.

Bachata: Another recent style to emerge in Europe, this lighter style of music is actually the folk dance of Dominican Republic, that till recently was often frowned upon! Its subject lyrics almost always lament hard times, originating from the lives of the peasant people that enjoyed it in the past.

Moving with the times, we have also included gangnam style dance here as it is so popular currently. This style originated from Korean pop star Psy with his No 1 hit in 2012 "Gangnam Style" and its fun appeal crosses over quite well with our style of teaching Latin salsa and meregue dance classes.

To witness any number of these styles of music played live is a truly remarkable experience and one you won't soon forget. To travel to the original country of each style also brings a wonderful understanding of their culture and history.


Click here to see the bands that play these styles