“Latin Music” Isn’t a Genre


Jose Gama, Staff Writer

Latin music is one of the most diverse musical classifications in the world due to all of the different musical styles that emphasize different components of music such as rhythm, instruments, and vocals. The music in this ‘genre’ is so different that it doesn’t even qualify as one. Grouping different music in one genre, just because of geographic and linguistic similarities, disrespects the different subgroups of music by falsely identifying them in the same grouping as drastically different music, which misleads both listeners and non-listeners. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a genre is “a style, especially in the arts, that involves a particular set of characteristics”. Does Bad Bunny’s music belong in the same grouping as Vicente Fernandez’s Mariachi? No, it does not. Latin music shouldn’t be seen as a genre, but rather as a vast group of genres with unique sounds that are mainly found in Latin American countries. 

One of the biggest examples of the wrongful grouping of the Latin music genre is the grouping of Corridos and Reggaeton. Corrido is a genre of music that comes from Northern Mexico and typically has a singer telling a story accompanied by a band made up of string instruments like bass and guitar, a lead accordion, horns, and in many cases a drummer. Reggaeton is currently the most popular genre of music across Latin America, with electronic rhythm and Hip-Hop-inspired delivery by vocalists. These two genres have very little in common besides the fact that they are both mainly sung in Spanish and originated in Latin America. Besides these two similarities, not much more is common. Corridos were formed as a way of storytelling by those involved in the Mexican Revolution to share their experiences in the form of songs. Meanwhile, Reggaeton was started in the 80s in Panama by young people, who borrowed the rhythm of Jamaican Dancehall Reggae and blended it with the delivery of Hip-Hop. Even nowadays, as the two are ever increasingly grouped by organizations like Spotify, the musical genres have virtually nothing to do with one another. The subject matter, emphasis on different sounds, vocal delivery, and even style of dressing aren’t the same. This problem of falsely pushing together two unrelated genres of music from Latin America is seen when comparing other genres that fall under the category of ‘Latin music’.

The next big issue with the ‘Latin music’ classification is that other genres like rock and pop fall under it. When you look on the Latin page on Spotify, you can find Latin Rock and Latin Indie. These genres don’t come from Latin America, so what other reason does Spotify have to put Rock in the same genre as Cumbia or Mariachi? If the language and geographic region determine what genre music is put in, why not just put a Heavy Metal band like Pantera in the same category as Hip-Hop artist Travis Scott? 

The Latin American Music Awards just happened on Apr. 20, and even though the separation of genres and usage of the label ‘Latin music’ are better than Spotify, there are still some problems. The various awards that are given aren’t very specific. Regional Mexican is one of the awards given, but what exactly is Regional Mexican music? This isn’t a genre, but rather a geographic grouping. In the 2020 Latin American Music Awards, the competitors for the top Regional Mexican Song of the Year award didn’t even play the same kind of music. The winner was a Cumbia ensemble, while the competitors were a Corrido band and a solo singer. Why are different kinds of music in competition with other genres rather than artists on their own? It’s impossible to decide what the best song out of a group is if they are all different genres because different genres emphasize different things.

‘Latin music’ is a term that needs to stop being used to define a genre. Mariachi is Mariachi, and Reggaeton is Reggaeton. Corridos and Cumbias shouldn’t be matched up to see which is better at being music, and Peso Pluma shouldn’t be forced into the same playlist as Bad Bunny. It’s time to get rid of blanket terms like ‘Latin Music’ and place them into the correct category they respectively belong to.


Photo courtesy of UNSPLASH.COM