California State University, Northridge, Fall 2007
Abstract: Many cultures outside America value arts, theater and music. Americans place education, material possessions, status and obsession with political power above musical and other artistic influences. Other cultures, such as Mexican, Caribbean and Africa create their own music and entertainment. Today, they most likely have modern technology, such as television or Internet. They are very proud, and should be, of their God given talents to make musical rhythmic patterns from natural resources such as percussion (claves) from tree branches. Should foreign people decide to come into America, their musical traditions come with them. For this research, I relied on many of my favorite movies. Latin dancers and singers, in America played the main characters. One show, Dance With Me, shows a short clip of a man in Cuba before coming into America after his mother passed away. In Cuba, the background scene showed unpaved roads, houses that resemble tents. Life styles are very simple, nothing elaborate according to the movie scene. The Cubans are dancing in the clips. Everyone is dancing very enthusiastically and energetically; women, children, men, old and young. The Cuban man comes to America, meets a professional Latin Ballroom dancer. She never begins a step until she has the music counts down, and all the beats choreographed. He convinces her to try his way of dancing from Cuba. Americans do not place as much emphasis on music as Latino cultures. Latino music integration are influencing American culture. Americans are incorporating more music into their lives. All technology today is capable of playing some type of music. Political, education, economic and artistic changes are now taking place in America. American politics is known for its high integrity issues for human rights. However, American company’s had foreign people working for slave wages. The Hispanic singer, Selena probably has the biggest influence on the changes in American cultures. Although her death was passed off as an obsessed “fan,” Selena actually died of a government conspiracy. It may be American or it may be the Mexican government. Her Latin American music talents are still influencing American politics, economics, education, and of course, music. The combination of American and Latin music is doing much more than just providing music. The biggest affect Latin music has on America is changing the assumptions Americans always had no one was worthy of material possessions of luxury, or could have outstanding musical talents without a Ph D. Dance and music instructors do not need a four year college degree. The books and journals I used for this research talked about the history and arrangements of Latino music. I had limited access on the Google book search engine, and I used the Ebsco databases. I primarily relied on Latino dance and music movies and common knowledge.
Latin Music and its Impact on American Culture
Music defines and shapes culture. Symbolisms that are sacred, significant, and emotional in the mainstream determine a nation’ culture. Cultural developments primarily refers to artistic influences. Music, dancing, fashions, paintings, theater, movie trends shows what beliefs are important to that culture. Latino music is currently changing America’s economic, artistic and political culture. Two influential people responsible for the American society’s acceptance of Latin music is Charo and more recently, Selena Quintanilla Perez. Latino music integrated into America in the 1950’s. Charo brought flamenco music to the U.S. The 1950’s Latino music influenced the sixties musicians, such as the Beatles. Recently, another wave trend popularizing Latino music occurred in the 1980’s. The 1980’s Latino craze influenced the mainstream popular culture. In the 90’s, Selena’s movie, dreams of a Latin American crossover tour, and even her death is resulting in America’s education, political and artistic expansion. Selena’s potential of becoming famous in America would expose the employment system corruption.
Introduction; What is Latino music?
Latino American music is Afro-Caribbean music derived from several cultures, Caribbean sea, Dominican republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain, Mexico. “Afro Cuban Music is the most highly developed music of a genre that the music industry now calls tropical. It is also known as the most recognizable form of Latin Music because of the various well known dance forms it spawned, its influence on North American Jazz, its transformation into now what is called Salsa, and most of all, its pronounced, five beat clave rhythms, which is the closest to generic understanding of Latin music as there is” (Morales, 2003). Instruments, time signatures, song arrangements are a mixture of music written from Cuban and African composures. The music is often played in a 3/2,2/3, or 6/8 time, a techno funk beat. Latino music is syncopated. The weak beats are accented with exaggerated percussion, using call and response technique. African rhythms are emphasized throughout most Latino songs. African drum rhythms are always polyrhythmic. At least two beats play simultaneously in a very fast three beat pattern. Latin music originated with the Waltz, today written in multiple time signatures. It has its own categories, such as merengue, salsa, samba, rumba and cha cha. Professional International Ballroom or dance sport, dances are taken directly from the names of Latin dances. The Latin divisions are highly theatrical and very popular.
History of Latin Music;
Latino music began in Cuba, forming social connection exclusively for African slaves. It was invented to accompany social dancing. The music was formed as early as 1775. In the 19th century, Latino music was introduced to Cuba. In 1950’s, Latin music was introduced into America when a drum rock beat was added to the Afro-Caribbean mix. When Latino music integrated with American rock, the popular culture was heavily influenced in the United States. In the 1980’s, the Latino craze rocked the nation. Charo, the cuchie cuchie girl, Selena, Ricky Martin, Gloria Esteffan and Shakira are only a few of the Latinos influencing American culture with Latino music. “A good deal of the Mexican music that was popular in the US was not folk material, but written by well known composers. Like their cuban counterparts, many of these moved between salon and popular music” (Storm, 1998). Charo, of course, were one of the original Latinos bringing flamenco music into America. Charo won multiple awards, including the highly honorable Hall of Fame for her extraordinary classical and flamenco guitar playing. Charo is very theatrical. She hosted many variety shows as a stand up comedian, Spanish dancer, actress, and musician, portraying stage presence as a perky blonde with a big chest, big hair, and brightly colored costumes. She often said she feared her image would reflect people not perceiving her as a serious guitar player. Her flamenco music skills were perceived strong enough for Latin or Spanish music to cross over into America.
Latino Movies Changing American Culture;
The popular movies of the mid 80’s-90’s resulted in political changes in American culture. Dance to Latin music was the background for many Latino movies were music based. Not to long ago, music in America was insignificant. Not every house hold listened to music. Latinos are very proud of their music traditions. To them, their music talents are the an appreciated contribution to America. Consequently, Latino dancers and singers starred in Latino shows. Latinos were coming to live the American dream. The movies revealed how socially welcoming many Americans really are to other cultures. Latin music inspired movies portrayed the same underlying theme. Hispanics came to America on the belief they had opportunities to be appreciated for their music. Latino movies revealed the reality of this really occurring. Latino music stars are very talented, attract and please crowds. They were not always someone else’s back up. “Since the early twentieth century, Mexicana, Tejana, and Chicana musicians have made recordings as vocal soloists and in vocal duets and trios and as instrumentalists. They have performed in theatrical and popular songs current in Mexico, as well as local and regional Mexican American music forms, and various types of mainstream American popular music”(Clark, 2002). Lambada; The Forbidden Dance, Salsa, Dirty Dancing/Havana Nights, Dance With Me and Selena are a few incredibly inspiring movies. In Latin movies, clear messages repeatedly came through. Latino’s can never achieve status. They do outstanding work, but never are socially accepted. In Lambada, The Forbidden dance, Nesa is a Princess, who comes to America because her homeland is threatened by an American company. She finds temporary employment as a maid. Overhearing a conversation, the woman and man scolding their son for going to a club with her, finds out they are unaccepting of her culture. They inform him it is not acceptable to date the help. They are different. Even though the woman says she does an outstanding job at housecleaning, she will never reach high economic levels. She was speaking of her Christian Dior dress costing more than “that maid” makes in a year. Constant references were made to her social or economic status throughout the movie, including Hispanic music. At the night club, a Hispanic song came on, everyone left the dance floor. Nesa begged her friend to dance with her, he said it was more East LA than Beverly Hills. These lines written into the scripts raised the questions, is Hispanic or Latin music really influencing United States Culture?
Some of these Latino movies affected new dance crazes, both socially in nightclubs and formally, such as international ballroom competitions. In the movie Salsa, the star of the movie, Rico, dances with a Caucasian woman, “The Queen of Salsa.” This movie did underline Hispanics were considered of a lower society, unable to achieve any type of status, regardless of their talents. Salsa combined two cultures, Puerto Rico and the older American White woman for the elaborate dance competition. In professional ballroom dance, salsa dancers were a division of ballroom. Even though Americans usually do not win professional ballroom competitions, the standard ballroom dancing were Americanized. Salsa dance competitions are more authentic. Salsa dance uses fast techno, African beats, a true characteristics of Latin. Another show integrating cultures was Dance With Me, starring Vanessa Williams. Vanessa was a Black American, trained dancer who ended up with a dancer from Cuba. These two Latino movies influenced nightclubs, and Salsa nightclubs started opening around the nation. Both movies broke down racial barriers. It combined Latin and American arts. American and Latin music developed its own type of music. The movies were to encourage popularity among Latino. The one Hispanic movie that really inspired Latino Americans is Selena.
Anyone who kept track of Selena’s and her family’s life instantly recognizes powerful political figures have strong objections against Hispanic music coming into the United States. At least, they did at one time. Many people in the United States had no idea who Selena was until she died. Strange enough, she was killed right before she went on a cross over tour, integrating Latin and American music. The cross over tour would never happen. Everything about Selena’s death is suspicious. There are numerous unanswered questions that were never mentioned. It is unquestionable fact, her so called friend, Yalonda, killed her with a gun she recently purchased. Of all the billions of fans Selena had, the one fan with a troubled background befriended her. Other than a Hispanic heritage, Yolanda had nothing in common with Selena. Yolanda was not a singer, dancer or musician, nor had ambitions to be. The friendship occurred by unmentioned powerful political influences.
Her music loving family had financially rough times. Their family restaurant closed down when Selena was a child. Many people blamed Ronald Reagan, the Republican president of the early 80’s. The closure of the restaurant forced them to leave their home. Generous relatives prevented them from being totally homeless. Her father, Abraham had a rough time finding a job. Everyone could see this family was targeted politically. Selena was seriously underpaid for performances. People went to these shows to see Selena. She was the first singer ever to sing bilingual songs in the mainstream. In several interviews, Selena’s brothers talked about their financial situation, They are consistently on public assistance to survive. In another interview, Selena speaks of depending on her singing gigs as a young child to put food on the table for her family. The cross over tour would provided financial stability for her family. All music fans wonder what type of music developments would have came out of Selena’s music career.
America’s Economy Changing:
Political objections prevented Selena’s cross over tour. It was probably not the music integration causing the objections. American culture is changing. In some ways, it is not to America’s economic advantage. The purpose of the legal process of coming into America is so the nation ensures they have adequate funding to support the number of people seeking permanent citizenship. A few people coming to America illegally do not make a big difference. When large groups of people enter the United States illegally, or the government is unaware of the people in here they could not make arrangements for, an unexpected financial strain is put on the country. The result is foreclosures and unexplained gas prices, and stock market crashes. Selena’s influence on the music industry was strong enough to encourage Mexicans to be viewed in a different social standing. Someone feared, and set out to stop Selena’s nationwide popularity and acceptance. However, illegal Hispanics were already in the United States. No one knew about it. The Hispanics were brought to the United States illegally by these powerful political people who believed Selena’s success as famous artist would expose secrets regarding employment conditions. These powerful political people advertising they support human and civil rights at election time paid Hispanics less than legal minimum wage to work all day. Yalonda had political support allowing her to purchase a handgun. In Texas, a background check and five day waiting period is required to purchase handguns. The young Tejano music star was killed to prevent changes in the American Culture. Employers now have to pay everyone civil salaries. Eventually, the economy will work out, with or without the sudden arrival of illegal foreigners. Latino music is contributing unique talent, ideas and creativity to the American arts and popular culture. Financially they are limited. Of course, this is with all races in America, not just Blacks or Latinos. Every one of these Latino music based movies were low budget, non union films, including the movie Dance With Me which used two famous, established actors. It was very obvious in the acting, lighting, sound designs and wardrobes.
Of course, the music industry directly affecting popular culture, is influenced the most by the Latin music. African drumming is a trademark of Latino music. Latin music’s syncopated beats, accents and African drumming created Hip-hop music. Overall, the music industry is becoming more widespread. “We’re the fastest-growing genre of music, and you’re seeing more and more non-Latinos purchasing Latin music,” says Joe Trevino, vice president of Hollywood Records’ new Latin division” (Fred, 1999) .The ever increasing popularity of music created bigger demands for technology in America. Education is affected, in a positive way. Bilingual languages are offered in more schools. Music teachers are going to be in more demand.
Latino music began setting a trend in the 1950’s and again in middle 80’s. The trend of the 80’s strongly influenced American culture. “Observers attribute the current “trendiness” of Latin music to several factors, including Ricky Martin’s breakthrough success, which enhanced the possibilities for other Latin pop acts” (Leila, 2006). Latino stars contributed creativity and variety to the music culture. Even with the political objections, the combining of Latin and American music is growing stronger every day. In the 50’s, the Spanish Flamenco and Classical guitar player brought Spanish music to the U.S. Other cultures, aspiring musicians get out their instruments and start playing until they get a tonality sounding right to them. American musicians take the time to learn music theory and technical counting of music. Put the two learning theories together, and there is an entirely new form of music. Reading music notes is no guarantee the ability to play music. Latinos brought spontaneous creativity to America’s music. America taught Latino’s more structure to music. All aspects of American culture are influenced by Latino American Music. In 1980’s, a Latino trend came through America. The movies shed light on America’s unethical employment system. Without giving much consideration to the acting aspects of the movies, these movies were low budget films. On a more positive note, the popular culture is thriving because of Spanish music influences.
Interview with Latino Star; Maria
Music Beat had an interview with Maria. Maria is an upcoming Latin music singer, dancer, comedian and accomplished percussionists. She performs all over America in nightclub acts, birthday parties, weddings, telegram services and theatres.
MB; What is it about music that interested you?
Maria; When I was growing up, we did not have Television. I did not know what television was. The radio stayed on all day. When our relatives came over, they played live music, usually with percussion instruments they invented. So music was natural to me.
MB; Did your parents support your musical career?
Maria; Absolutely. My mother made all of my costumes. My daddy made all of my first musical instruments I went to auditions with. They traveled with me every where I went. My bothers and sisters worked with me, coaching me in voice technique. They were my audience when I tried my acts. My mother thought I was getting to sexy with my stage acts. But all mothers think that.
MB; Tell me about one of them;
Maria; I came out in black leather hot pants, and a brazier with rhinestones. My mother did not want to see my act. She thought it was a bad influence on my younger sister. She said I would attract the wrong crowd. We argued for months later.
MB; How did that affect you feelings about performing?
Maria; When I knew I had the ability to shock people and stir up controversy. I started identifying myself with Madonna.
MB; Were there anytime you shocked the audience?
Maria; Not intentionally. I never set out to surprise the audience. I found as my inhibitions were decreasing, the audiences were reacting more and more. I did not realize my acts had any more of shock value than my very first show.
MB; What was the worst experience you ever had while performing?
Maria; I totally forgot my entire act the moment I went onstage. My act was an hour and half long. Three minutes can be a long time on stage if you are not prepared for it. I had to improvise the entire time. That was always my biggest fear.
MB; How long were you performing professionally before the incident?
Maria; About a year and half.
MB; What did you learn from it?
Maria; I started practicing improvising. I always heard anything can happen onstage.
MB; What is your favorite instrument to play?
Maria; Claves. That is what I am best at. I remember my mother and daddy making these musical rhythms with nothing but two homemade wooden sticks.
MB; What advice would you give to young performers?
Maria; Do not copy anybody else. Be an original. Never lie about anything. If you feel you have to lie, do not say it at all. Trust me, time always reveals the truth. Do not do anything you would feel ashamed to become public news, because it will.
MB; What impact do you think Latin music is having on America?
Maria; It is bringing a new type of culture to America. Americans are so uptight, and Latin music is bringing more enjoyment and fun to Americans life. They are so caught up in stressful situations, all they think about is what other people think of them according to how much money they have in the bank. I am not criticizing millionaires and billionaires, but they need to relax.
MB; What affect do you think American Latin music has on Hispanic cultures?
Maria; The acceptance of our ancestors music in America is allowing our culture to be accepted. Everyone fears the unkown. America had misconceptions about Latin nations. All nationalities have bad and good people. Latinos were always judged by the very few bad ones.
MB; Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Maria; I see myself forming a girls Latino band, with the African drumming and flamenco dancers. I would also like to do shows on the beaches, like luaus.
MB; Ten Years?
Maria; To have every school in America with a high quality music program. Every school teacher would be certified to teach music, teaching general subjects in a musical setting. I remember sitting in class, I was so bored. The teachers were talking about things I did not even care about. At ten years old, you do not care about the first American president or that an earthquake occurred in some part of the world you never heard about. But it is a requirement of the education system. So teach it in a way that gets the kids attention. Sing to them. Make rhythm games.
MB; What do you like to do in your spare time?
Maria; I like to ride at amusement parks, rollerblade, run, walk, I love the sun. I love to work with children. I like to know I introduced them to new experiences that may not be automatically available to them. I get my friends together and we do shows for nursing homes, bring them gifts-like flowers, hula skirts and leahs.
MB; So you are part Hawaiian?
Maria; On my paternal grandfathers side. You do not have to be Hawaiian to enjoy the beach.
MB; Where do you see Latin Music going:
Maria; There are so many talented artists of all cultures coming up with new ideas. Rihanna combines theatre and art work in her music videos. Like everyone else, I cannot wait to see what Madonna is going to come out with next. It is impossible to predict. There are so many opportunities and talented people.
MB; Is there anything you want add?
Maria; I would like to see everyone get their kids involved in music. Even if they do not wish to sing professionally, it would help them tremendously in their school work.
Clark, W., From Tejano to Tango: Latin American Popular Music
Retrieved December 2, 2007 Published 2002
Cobo, Leila. “Transatlantic Heights.” Billboard 118.42 (20 Oct. 2006): 88-88. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 2 December 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=22839180&site=ehost-live
Goodman, Fred. “La explosion pop Latino.” Rolling Stone (13 May 1999): 21. Vocational and Career Collection. EBSCO. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation].
2 December 2007.
Morales, E The Latin Beat Published 2003 Da Capo Press Retrieved December 2, 2007
Storm, J.The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States; Oxford University Press Retrieved December 2, 2007 Published, 1998