I’ve recently begun to consider the possibility that my DNA contains ethnic and racial inputs beyond the Eastern European and Nordic ancestry that my appearance suggests. One such possibility that has always manifested itself in my musical preferences is the possibility that some fraction of Latin blood courses through my veins.
My love of Latin music arose from another love of mine - Music documentaries. About 3 years ago, a friend turned me on to Buena Vista Social Club, the Academy Award nominated documentary which follows iconic American guitarist Ry Cooder to Havana, Cuba to record an album with a procession of Cuban artists including legends like Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo. I was enchanted by the wonder of the traditional Latin music, how it was played on every street corner and in every household, the Cubans unafraid to lay their raw emotions at the feet of any chance passer-by.
It doesn't matter if you like rock and roll, soul and Motown, country, hip hop, R&B, or any other kind of American music, I guarantee all of your favorite artists have Latin peers, and I also guarantee that you can find something those peers actually do better than your favorite American artists. I am not yet blessed with Spanish fluency, some of the beauty of this romance language is lost on me. But, all the things that make friendships with Latins wonderful and exciting also infuse their music with an unparallelled energy. The stereotypical Latin is emotional, fiery, even crazy. And their music follows suit. It uses instrumentation to convey more feeling that even the most perfectly written verse could ever hope to. My favorite example of this is the Spanish guitar style, the hasty strumming interspersed with beautifully lilting finger-picking is most emotive. Similarly they expertly use horns, drums, and other strings to supplement the direct conveyances of the lyrics.
I urge you to give Latin music a chance, whether or not you speak the language. I promise you will find something to love in these beautiful compositions, even if it is the simple pleasure of giving your own meaning to the unintelligible stanzas such that they mimic your own personal thoughts. A friend of mine uses this technique when listening to Shakira, imagining her lyrics are expressions of a most base and primal desire which she holds for him!
Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan (Mp3)
Buena Vista Social Club - Candela (Mp3)
Enanitos Verdes - Amores Lejanos (Mp3)
Gipsy Kings - Escucha Me (Mp3)
Shakira - Inevitable (Mp3)