As we move into the third week of Latin American Heritage month, we have already seen how conquest and colonization was a process that brought cultures from all over the world together, and the mixing of those cultures is what created the culture of Latin America today. From politics, to dress, to forms of art, cultural expression in Latin America draws on elements from African, Native American and European traditions, among others. In this week’s World Wide Web section, I’d like to take a look at music, a universal art form that tends to highlight and make visible the roots of these various world traditions.
Music has these basic elements that we all, as humans, become very familiar with at an early age. These elements include things like rhythm, harmony and lyrics. Because we can all relate to music so deeply, it also tends to be a form of art that draws people together, not just within communities, but from region to region. Especially in the formation of Latin American culture, which often brought groups of people together who did not share a common language, music can often serve as a universal language and potent form of communication.
The Smithsonian Institute has developed a beautiful resource for public access called “Musica del Pueblo” , which allows the user to browse through colorful and easy-to-navigate sections that breakdown the various elements of Latin American music into the categories of Rhythm, Harmony, Community, and Improvisation. Each category has its own menu of audio/video media as well as concise explanations of the importance of each of these musical categories, connecting them to various elements of Latin American Culture. The site is highly interactive and based around navigating through a Latin American style mural.
**One tip I found for navigating this site is that in the top-right corner of the mural, you can use your mouse to drag your screen from one section to another. Or, in the bottom right corner, you can click the magnifying glass icon to return to the home screen. **
Image: Cover image reprinted from Música del Pueblo.