Latin music embraces an encyclopedic array of styles, genres and countries. Latin America includes South and Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Further division again can be made along stylistic and historical lines: such as Latin rap, reggaeton, Latin dance music, salsa, and even indigenous music.
Musically speaking Latin music is a multicultural collection of styles. Common influences include African music, European and rock music styles, as well as Caribbean or Jamaican song styles. Syncopation is almost a given across any of the Latin styles. Characteristic instruments to the salsa and Latin music scene, at large, include the drums, claves, and the cowbell.
Latin music came into its own with the growth in the Hispanic population. On the whole this minority group is now the largest in the U.S. Migrant Mexican workers have come across the border with their distinctly mariachi radio sounds, and crossover rock bands like Los Lobos and more recently Los Lonely Boys have synthesized the two cultures.
Within urban areas, especially Los Angeles and Miami, Latin rap has spread about as virally as mainstream rap and grown out of a similar street culture. Bands like Ozomatli and Chino XL regularly mix-up lyrics of both English and Spanish as well as the signature syncopation indicative of Latin music. The closely associated reggaeton sub-genre, combines Latin music forms with Jamaican and blends in rap lyrics.
Dance music has always been a popular format in Latin music. In fact many Latin cultures feature extravagant and elegant dances as part of their culture. The Tango and the Rumba are just two of the ballroom standards. But salsa has set itself apart as an inherent Hispanic-American creation. By most reports the first salsa dances emerged as early as the 1970s from the barrios of New York City where scores of Puerto Rican immigrants settled.
Often truly misconceived as strictly dance music, salsa is often strikingly jazz-like, enriched by jazz instrumentation and vocalization. The dance contrivance came about as a means to market Latin dance to the dance club circuit. And in this mainstream venue takes on a sensational pop-salsa label.