Currently, Latin America, the countries of the Western Hemisphere south of the United States, include the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, Central and South America and contain an amalgamation of cultural influences, namely European, The Moors, Mexican, and other African tribes. Europe contributed the religions two main languages, Spanish and Portuguese.
The element in Moorish, African & Caribbean music that many find most distinctive, is its rhythms are derived from Moorish, and other Africans via the slave trade (1550-1880). Unlike the Moors of North American and some that were enslaved, who in 1776 were forbidden from playing drums (except for areas such as New Orleans Congo Square), Caribbean slaves were liberally allowed to play their drums, which of course were not only for recreation and entertainment, but used as a means of communicating. These were considered talking drums, carrying current, as well as timeless messages; message of history, struggle, and unspeakable joy. All this was accomplished through the replaying of these traditional Moorish and African rhythms, sung on a drum.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries these rhythms spread, developed, and canonized throughout the Caribbean, around the same time that another American art form was beginning its conception. It would incorporate blues intonation, African drums and rhythms, Indian cymbals, European instruments, harmony, and musical forms with a syncopated beat namely jazz.
Every country and every island in the Caribbean developed its own unique musical culture, be it folk idioms or a national conservatory styles. Four countries, namely Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico have had the most significant influences on music in the United States (Cuba having the most enduring). These influences included Latin rhythms and/or dances that infatuated the United States, like the habanera, bolero (Cuba),samba, bossa nova (Brazil), tango (Argentina), and mariachi (Mexico).
As these rhythmic structures and their dances canonized, they began effecting music making everywhere, from the concert hall, to the New Orleans Street parade, to Broadway and Tin Pan Alley. As goods including people, were traded through the convenient and busy port of New Orleans, Louisiana, musically inclined workers on Caribbean ships were afforded the opportunity to exchange new rhythms, dances, and songs with the various Creole and African dancers and musicians at public performance spaces ice Congo Square. It didn’t take long for composers to begin writing Latin-influenced works. For example, American Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), who hailed from Louisiana, and studied composition in France with Aaron Coplands teacher Nadia Boulanger, toured Cuba in 1857 performing his Latin-influenced works. Some of the most famous compositions of this nature include George Bizets hababera from his opera Carmen (1875); Scott Joplin’s Mexican serenade, Solace (1902); Maurice Ravels Rapsodie Espagnole (1907), and his Bolero (1928), Jelly Roll Morton, the famed New Orleans jazz composer and pianist, spoke to Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress on the importance, even in the earlier days of jazz (the end of the nineteenth century) of the jazz musician being able to work with the Spanish tinge. He said, In fact, if you cant manage to put tinges of Spanish in your tunes, you will never be able to get the right seasoning, I call it, for jazz.