By Nayeli Esquilin
Although it is widely known that rock music had made its way to almost every corner of the world in the 1950s and 1960s, no one could have predicted the lasting impact it would have on the world; especially in Latin America. Latin Rock has seen many different faces in the broad category, but some things remain the same: bring on the piercing guitar riffs, banging drum sets, passionate lyrics, and the music lives on.
Each Latin American country has its own history with rock and what sounds it birthed from its origins. Blending their country’s traditional sound, whether it’s customary instruments or folklore, with rock, which is an eclectic cocktail of its own. This genre made its mark in the 1980s through the early 2000s, with many groups taking inspiration from new wave and, relatively new at the time, punk. Many overseas musicians tried to take advantage of Latine sounds, but they couldn’t keep up with those who were ingrained in it from the start. Transforming from Spanish covers of English songs to punk, ska, reggae, salsa, flamenco, and even rap fusions unlike anything you’ve heard.
It appears that there is a resurgence in Latin rock in Generations Z and Alpha, who have been introduced to this style of music by millennials and Generation X. Through this resurrection, many popular bands have begun touring and releasing new material for past and future listeners.
There’s a bit of everything for everyone, here is a cumulative list of artists who placed Latin rock on the map and those who are expanding the bounds of the genre.
From the northern part of Mexico to the edge of Argentina, these artists are often regarded as the best of Latin America’s rock scene. To dip your toes into the genre it’s safe to start with Soda Stereo, Los Prisioneros, Maná, Alux Nahual, Los Enanitos Verdes, Arena Hash, and Caifanes. Guatemala’s Alux Nahual pioneered the sound of Latin rock with heavy guitar riffs and synths, while Argentina’s Soda Stereo and Chile’s Los Prisioneros brought synth-pop and new wave. Peru’s Arena Hash, Mexico’s Maná, and Argentina’s Los Enanitos Verdes mixed the perfect combination of pop and rock. All the while Mexico’s Caifanes produced progressive rock tracks that had hints of dream pop blended with new wave, sounding reminiscent of The Cure.
As rock musicians made their way through the 90s, the shift in genres was prevalent. Although many musicians were shifting their sound to slower, sensual ballads, some decided to move in the opposite direction. Groups like Tijuana No!, Jumbo, Los Estómagos, Bersuit Vergarabat, Todos Tus Muertos, and Aterciopelados created more headbangers. Some of these artists took inspiration from American and European hard-core bands from the ‘70s through the ’80s, while others applied their own spin to Jamaican-born Ska. With this step in another genre, the Latin punk rock/ska scene made sure their lyrics stuck out like a sore thumb to mainstream rock artists.
It seems as if Latin rock couldn’t take on any more transformations, but artists within the Latin metal scene practically stomp that thought to the group. An underrepresented branch from its origins, Latin metal has an underground scene due to being heavily censored by local governments. This subgenre has become a symbol for combating cultural norms in Latin America, where music like this is considered “demonic” and viewed negatively. Groups such as Resorte, Maskhera, Dorso, Parabellum, A.N.I.M.A.L., and Puya have been experimenting with sounds since the late 80s and 90s. Some groups blend music from their culture or thrash out with all their own. For example, Puerto Rico’s Puya blended a few Caribbean genres with heavy metal, like salsa, rumba, and Bomba.
Whatever suits your mood, there’s most likely to be a Latin rock song or genre that could perfectly match it. So, take a chance and expand the possibilities that international music can offer you.
Written by: Danielle De Lucia