15 Songs to Celebrate Latin America

I haven’t done a Friday Canción feature in a while but I really wanted to share some music with you today.  Music always makes my day brighter and I hope it does the same for you.

Music is also a great way to experience culture, so last year, I shared 6 songs that I love for Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations. The observance ended on October 15, but as you know, we celebrate HHM all year through on Over The Andes! This year I’m re-introducing you to a couple of those songs and adding a few more to the mix. Many of the songs I’ve shared via my Friday Canción feature, and some even include simple exercises to practice your Spanish! But there are some brand new ones included here as well, and I’m feeling some Friday Canción inspiration clawing to get out and dance away with them!

Check out these 15 foot-tapping songs celebrating Latin America!

15 songs to celebrate latin america

1. Vivir Mi Vida by Marc Anthony is an awesome song to celebrate the vitality of Latino culture. The song is set to a salsa beat and features the colloquial Pa’ qué expression which is a contraction of Para qué. Click here (Vivir Mi Vida) for the song, lyrics and an infinitive-verb-identification exercise

2. Eme Alfonso is a very talented artist I discovered last year. In El Bote, Afrocuban percussions combine with jazz to create a hauntingly beautiful melody. El Bote was released in 2018 and is definitely worth a listen for its fabulous mezcla of genres and tempos.

3. How about a band that unites Spanish Caribbean salsa and Latin jazz with rock and African American soul and funk? You’ve gotta hear Hip Spanic All Stars performing Conga Radio or Funky Cha Cha Cha to understand!

4. Let’s head over to the Dominican Republic and hear from their musical legend, Juan Luis Guerra. In his famous song, Ojalá que llueva cafe, the cantante expresses sincerest wishes for relief from hunger for his people. On a language note, this song is often used in intermediate classes to showcase the subjunctive, as influenced by the the use of the wishful ojalá.

 

5. Check out my blog post on A Dios le Pido by Juanes for a Spanish lesson and a lesson on Colombian History too! This song expresses wishes and hopes for a better Colombia. So, like Ojalá que lleueva café, it also makes use of the subjunctive. Get the verb identification exercise. Also, you’ll get a short history on the use on landmines in Colombia’s civil wars.

6. No list of Hispanic Heritage Month songs could be complete without a mention of the “Queen of Salsa” A.K.A. “The Queen of Latin Music”, Celia Cruz. Listen to her enchanting rendition of Quimbara.

7. On the topic of musical queens, Selena was known as the Queen of TejanoTejano refers to the original Spanish-speaking settlers of Texas and Northern Mexico. Tejano music is the name given to various forms of folk and popular music originating among the Mexican-American populations of Central and Southern Texas. Listen to Selena’s Como La Flor.

8. What about some music for the littlest ones? Check out this post featuring 4 Canciones Infantiles. The kiddies can learn how to count and identify different parts of the body, amongst other concepts, from these songs.

9. You may know this one already. La Gozadera provides a pretty great Latin American geography lesson! La Gozadera is a Spanish term (identified as informal Venezuelan) which means good time or party. The song was released by Cuban reggaeton duo Gente de Zona in 2015 and features Puerto Rican singer Marc Anthony. Check out this post for the song, lyrics and a special listening/ geography lesson.

10. Carlos Vives (Carlos Alberto Vives Restrepo) is a Colombian singer, songwriter and actor. He began his career in the mid 1980s when he focussed on traditional vallenato and cumbia sounds. Listen to his song, Carito, to hear these rhythms. Check out the blog post to get a listening exercise which uses the song to look at the imperfect tense.

11. Ricky Martin, my other favourite Latin singing sensation (after Enrique, por supuesto). In Adiós, Ricky shows of some tri-lingual skills incorporating some French and English in his lyrics. Using multiple languages allowed for four versions of the song to be released: Spanish, English, English-French and even English-Turkish.

12. Another Eme Alfonso song I have been enjoying recently is Voy.  This song is from the 2018 album of the same name. The album is intended to celebrate world music but yet honour Eme’s Afrocuban roots. The entire compilation is meant to reflect the artist’s own personal and cultural journey and contains a rich variety of rhythms and percussions.  Voy is a beautiful representation of this and the video is quite powerful.

13. Let’s head over to Chile to hear from Gepe (Daniel Alejandro Riveros Sepúlveda), who’s known as a Chilean folk-fusion master. In Hambre, a 2015 hit, Gepe incorporates his Chilean-folk inspirations, minimalist electropop sounds, reggaetón and hip-hop. Peruvian singer, Wendy Sulca, joins in, in the second half of the song with her soaring voice and catchy lyrics.

14. While hoping around on Youtube the other day, I stumbled across this gem by another Chilean artist, Ana Thijoux called Somos Sur.  While the quick, heady beats immediately bring Latin rhythms to mind, there is no denying the truly diverse infusion represented in this hypnotic song, which carries a very important message.  Somos Sur is about countries coming together and feeling proud of their heritage, especially in the wake of political or military strife that occurs in their countries.  Featured singer, Shadia Mansour, dominates verse two with her Arabic hip-hop styling.

15. Continuing in the trend of Arabic-Latin fusion, here’s a song by Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, who celebrates both her Latin American and Middle Eastern heritage, in her music and daily life.  Ojos Así incorporates elements of Middle Eastern and world music and Shakira sings the original in Spanish (with some Arabic). The fully English version is called Eyes Like Yours.

I hope you find a chance to check out a few, if not all of these songs! Let me know some of your favourites too!

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15 Latin Music songs

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I’m a Latin American Studies teacher, teaching Latin American History and Politics and Basic Spanish. I love reading, writing, teaching and travelling. 

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