Latin Genres

Contemporary Pop
Like pop music in every corner of the globe-everything from ballads to up tempo songs to dance/tap/hip-hop tracks-sung in Spanish or, sometimes, a mixture of Spanish and English. One of Contemporary Pop's advantages over every other Latin genre is its universal appeal across the United States, Puerto Rico and Latin America. At present there are 26 BDS (Broadcast Data System) reporting stations which Billboard monitors to chart singles on its weekly countdown, Hot Latin Tracks.

Rock en Español
"Rock in Spanish" is the Spanish counterpart to rock music: alternative to metal to punk to ska. An underground rumbling which began as early as the '60s and '70s in Mexico and South America, rock en español is surfacing as one of the more dynamic Latin genres flexing its muscle today. The genre is propelled by a fervid fan base and is dominated by indie labels, as no BDS radio format has been established yet for rock en español.

Tropical
True to its name, a musical genre whose roots are the tropical climes of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and whose reach extends from the United States to South America. Sales and Merengue are the most prevalent Tropical music styles. Its most popular U.S. base is found on the East Coast and in cities where there are dominant Puerto Rican or Cuban communities such as Miami, New York and Chicago. There are currently 23 Tropical BDS reporters.

Regional Mexican
By far the most diverse of the Latin genres, "Regional Mexican" is an umbrella term used to refer to the many various genres that originate from Mexico or from Mexican American culture in the U.S., including Bands. Conjunto, Grupo, Mariachi, Norteno and Tejano. Popular song styles of these genres are the cumbia, anchers, ballad, bolero, corrido, polka, son and waltz. Regional Mexican music aficionados are primarily concentrated in the West, Southwest and Midwest United States, and there currently are 69 Regional Mexican BDS reporting Stations.

Mariachi
Originating in the 1800s in Jalisco, Mexico, mariachi represents the mestizo or mixed music that developed as Indian and European cultures-in contacts since 1519-and that of the African slaves began to coalesce. Musical groups in Guadalajara became known as "mariachis." Mariachi is now the symbol of Mexican folk music and has grown to enjoy international acclaim.

Mariachi instrumentation consists of violins, trumpets, guitars and two unique stringed instruments, the vihuela and the guitarrón. The vihuela and the guitar establish the rhythm; the guitarrón. the base line; and the violins. trumpets and voices, the melody.

  • Guitarrón (ghee-tah-róhn): large, portable acoustic bass instrument, member of the guitar family, with v-shaped back, short neck and six strings.

  • Vihuela (vee-wéh-lah): a small member of the guitar family having five strings, v-shaped back, short neck and producing a high sound.

Mariachi groups number anywhere from seven to fourteen members. Musicians must commit hundreds of pieces to memory, as they perform without music and in whatever key is best for the vocalist. The most popular styles performed by a mariachi are the son, ranchera and bolero. Also common are polkas, cumbias, danzones, pasadobles, corridos, and huapangos.

  • Bolero (boh-léh-roh): moderate dance/popular song type in 4/4 time
  • Corrido (coh-ree-doh): A ballad that usually includes facts about historical events
  • Polka: a lively dance in 2/4 time, originally from eastern Europe
  • Ranchera (rahn-chéh-rah): a popular song type, with texts dealing with emotions such as love or nostalgia for the land or people.
  • Son (sohn): a lively instrumental/vocal/dance piece, characterized by the alteration of 6/8 and ¾ time throughout.
  • Waltz: a slow or moderate dance in ¾ time, originally from western Europe.


Harpole, Patricia W. and Mark Fogelquist. Los Mariachis! (Danbury, CT: World Music Press, 1991).

Courtesy Arista Latin
Cary Prince
512-329-9910 / fax 512-329-0411