The modern-day crossover between different styles of contemporary Latin American music has been a trend for years now. It’s become an essential part of many Latino artists’ work, especially those from Los Angeles, where there are lots of opportunities for them to incorporate folk, rock, blues, jazz, pop, R&B, hip-hop, and more into their latest projects or reinterpretations of well-known songs.
Latin music is no longer confined to its roots. It has been blended with other genres like rock and hip-hop in many countries all over the world. There are dozens of examples of artists who have used Latin music as a basis for their own works, but a few stand out among the crowd. Some of these contemporary Latin artists combine features of both old and new music. However, they try to stay away from sounding very similar with each genre piece they put together.
Here are some of the most popular contemporary Latin American musicians you need to know about if you want to diversify your music library.
“Como Caín y Abel, es un partido cruel
Tienes que pelear por una estrella
Consigue con honor la copa del amor
Para sobrevivir y luchar por ella
¡Luchar por ella!
¡Luchar por ella!”
“Like Cain and Abel, it’s a cruel match
You have to fight for a star
Get with honor the cup of love
To survive and fight for it
Fight for her!– Ricky Martin’s popular song La Copa de la Vida (The Cup of Life) and some of its lyrics in English and its original language
When it comes to the best contemporary Latin American music, the name Ricky Martin has to be mentioned. Whether you like his music or not is another discussion, but there is no denying that the man managed to put contemporary Latin American music on the map, becoming a worldwide icon and superstar in the process.
Born on December 24, 1971, in San Juan, the Puerto Rican singer, songwriter, and actor never ceased to amaze with his back-to-back hits since early in his career. Extravagantly versatile with the art he has mastered multiple genres. If you put on any of his albums and crank it up there is surely going to be a little something for everybody to love. Ranging from reggaeton to pop and dance music, each one of his tracks is a work of art with perfect blends of classic and modern Latin American musical techniques and instruments like the iconic flamenco guitars, cajons, marcas, bongos, and many more types of instruments that vitalize the soul with their uplifting rhythmic and melodic bliss. It is for that reason that he has been given the much-deserved title “King of Latin Pop music.”
He actually started as a young boy with the group Menudo, quickly making a name for himself in the 1980s, which helped kick-start his career in the music business. However, as a young man, he would reach international stardom in the 1990s, even going as far as becoming a sex symbol and making a song for the 1998 World Cup, which is one of the greatest accomplishments a Latin American musician has ever had.
Other than having a career that is relevant even to this very day, we also have to point out that Martin came out as gay a few years ago, serving to break some old ways of thinking when it comes to the Latin American community. His philanthropy has helped with LGBT activism and has fought against several cases of human trafficking. He also started out as a Republican in politics, but switched to a Democrat over the years, supporting the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden during their respective political campaigns.
Some of his most popular songs include Livin’ La Vida Loca (Viviendo La Vida Loca), María, and Vuelve (Come Back).
“Bruta, ciega, sordomuda
Torpe, traste y testaruda
Es todo lo que he sido
Por ti me he convertido
En una cosa que no hace
Otra cosa más que amarte”
“Brute, blind, deaf-mute
Clumsy, fret and headstrong
It’s all I’ve been
For you I have become
in a thing that does not
Another thing more than loving you”– Shakira’s popular song Ciega, Sordomuda (Blind, Deaf-speechless) and some of its lyrics in English and its original language.
Shakira, born in Colombia: on February 2nd, 1977 is not only a global musical icon, but also a very well-known philanthropist across the world, donating to a lot of different causes over the years. She was a very staunch detractor of Colombian president Ivan Duque, often going against his politics on education and how he dealt with the 2021 protests that took place in her homeland.
Now, Shakira is definitely what she once was in terms of her musical qualities, but there is no denying that she is one of the most important and popular Latin American musicians of all time. When it comes to contemporary Latin American music, there is a very good argument to be made that she is the most popular of all time across the world.
Regardless, Shakira’s career has seen her covering a lot of musical genres, developing a dancing style that has become iconic, and also contributing to a lot of social causes across the years. She has managed to put Colombia on the map over the years in the musical landscape and now she is a worldwide icon.
Some of her more iconic songs include Hips Don’t Lie, Loba (She-Wolf), and Antologia (Antology).
“Got a black magic woman
Got a black magic woman
I’ve got a black magic woman
Got me so blind, I can’t see
That she’s a black magic woman
She’s trying to make a devil outta me”– Santana’s hit song Black Magic Woman.
It’s impossible to discuss Latin music without mentioning Carlos Santana, born in Mexico, on July 20, 1947. He was one of the top performers of the 90s and 00s, and before his heyday, he started developing music in his teens. His music is known for having a fusion of funk and electronic elements – something that hasn’t been done before in recent history – and although he is still working as an independent artist, it will likely be quite some time before another artist manages to match him in popularity. That said, Carlos Santana is definitely worth paying attention to today because of his influence on both modern and mainstream music.
Contemporary Latin American music is often associated with the more traditional music styles of that subcontinent, but in the case of the Mexican Carlos Santana in the sense that he managed to combine those elements with something very different: Rock music.
Santana arrived on the scene in the late 60s and early 70s, gaining a lot of prominence with his group of the same name. His combination of Latin American music with Jazz Fusion and Rock and Roll made him one of the most interesting guitarists of the scene at the time, influencing a lot of musicians in the process.
In terms of sociopolitical influences, it is fair to say that Carlos Santana has never been very vocal in that regard throughout his career, focusing mainly on his career as a musician. However, having become a US citizen in 1965 and obviously being Mexican, he is viewed as one of the first musicians to mix Latin American music with Rock music, which has often been focused in the States and the United Kingdom, so that plays a big role in the larger scheme of things.
And, as a bonus, he’s one of the finest contemporary singers in the world today. Go ahead and give his work a listen, but not with your ears! Listen in Spanish because I think it would help us better appreciate his style and what he does in concerts nowadays to really capture the essence of the vibe his music creates.
He had a resurgence in the late 1990s after he was namedropped for a wide variety of musicians who had a lot of successful careers. Some of his most popular songs include Oye Como Va (Hey, how are you doing?), Evil Ways, Into the Night, and No One To Depend On.
The Long Pour
These are just some of the great names from the Latin American Music industry, with many more to choose from depending on our taste, be it Samba, Son, Salsa, Cumbia, Tango, Bossa Nova, or Rumba. Nowadays, there are tons of talented Latino singers across the board in every single industry. That concludes our list of some of the best contemporary Latin American musicians to keep in mind when exploring this lively, upbeat yonder of music whether you are looking to expand your musical knowledge, compile a playlist for a workout or beach part, or planning a romantic dinner with your special someone.