History Of Latin & World Guitar
Latin & World
Introduced in the 16th century, the guitar flourished in Latin America and has been used to produce a wide range of musical styles. It has also spread all over the world, adapting with ease to highly diverse cultures, drawing on indigenous and popular crosscurrents to produce great music in Africa, the Caribbean, India, and other regions.
Spanish America Guitar
The vihuela, a type of large renaissance Spanish guitar, often with six strings, was taken to the Caribbean and Mexico during the early 16th century. A reference from 1509 indicates that the instrument was being used on the island of Hispaniola at that time, and a vihuela player named Ortiz accompanied the conquistador Hernan Cortes on one of his expeditions in 1519. With contributions from the indigenous population and imported slaves from Africa, Latin America developed unique cultural crosscurrents. A traveler in Mexico in the first half of the 17th century described South American Indians dancing in a Spanish style accompanied by the guitar, and in the Mexican book Tablature de Vihuela (1740), songs and dances of African slaves are written out to be played on a relative of the guitar.
ARGENTINA & URUGUAY
Gauchos helped to establish the guitar in 19th-century Argentina and Uruguay, accompanying Spanish-influenced songs with their rasgueado strumming. Precursors of tango groups used lineups such as a trio of flute, violin, and guitar for dances. The tango evolved in Buenos Aires in the 1920s and 1930s, where one of the first singing stars, Carlos Gardel, used backing guitarists who played with a strummed style. Julio Sagreras (b. 1879) took tangos and adapted them for guitar. Another major figure who developed Argentinian music for the guitar was Abel Fleury (1903-58), who produced pieces such as “Ausencia,” a milonga (an Argentinian dance predating the tango) in 2 /4 time that has a somber melody. In the 1980s, Fleury’s music was arranged by classical guitarist Roberto Lara.
Spanish, African, and French cultural influences have shaped Cuban music, which has developed many styles, including rhumba rhythms and son, a statement-and-answer form conveyed with powerful intensity.
The singer and guitarist Maria Teresa Vera (b. 1 895) plays infectious rhumba rhythms to provide a full backing on “Buchin El Carpintero” (1916). On the emotional “Cintura De Alambre” (1920), a son with a strong Spanish flavor, she sings phrases and answers them with strummed melodic figures.
The tres, a guitar with three courses with octave strings, is widely used in Cuba. In the 1920s and 1930s, tres player Miguel Matamoros produced music with finely woven parts of catchy melodies and offbeat rhythms.
One of the great tres players, Arsenio Rodriguez (1911 72), started playing with son groups in the 1920s. He was a tremendous player, composer, and bandleader, and his recordings from New York in 1953 are fiery and full of energy: he plays lines with the brass instruments, giving a percussive edge to the music, and adds answering melodic variants. A piece featuring him, the stunning “Arpeggio Por Arsenio,” offers a short, catchy opening figure and Rodriguez improvises with beautifully clear articulation and strong, well-centered rhythmic control, his unusual lines often based on three-note chords with syncopation, with shifting modulation up and down the neck. During the revolutionary turmoil of the 1960s, Silvio Rodriguez, the politically active singer-songwriter and guitarist, emerged as an influential figure.
In the modern age, Ry Cooder has helped rediscover figures such as Compay Segundo (b. 1907), who plays a small, seven-string guitar.
Over the vast area of Latin America, native cultures have had a reciprocal impact on dance, song and rhythms brought in from Spain and Portugal. There are variants on the guitar. The tiple with four courses is used in Colombia and Venezuela to accompany dances including the bambuco, and in Peru the guitar plays rhythms to accompany the charango, a mandolin-like stringed instrument with a back made from armadillo shell. In Mexico, ensembles play a rhythmic accompaniment and melodic fills behind the huapango, a fast, complex dance accompanied by heel and toe tapping.
- Hawaii & India
- Caribbean & Reggae
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