5 Afro-Latino Artists Who Changed Latin Music

By: Mariana Ochoa

There is pretty much no aspect of Latin American culture that has not been influenced by the Afro-Latinx community particularly when it comes to music.

So, let’s take the time to explore this community's contributions:

1. Celia Cruz

Early on, the Queen of Salsa worked in the African rhythms, which she grew up with, into her music. When she started out in the music scene, Afro-Latin music was mostly made up of men until she garnered success with a style that combined music of diverse cultures. What was taken as her catch phrase, “Azucar!” also served as an empowering statement of her Afro-Latin roots, a community which survived slavery and colonialism.

2. La Lupe

Another Queen, But this time the Queen of Latin soul. The Afro-Cuban performer single–handedly redefined the genre with her incredible vocal abilities and bewitching energy she brought to the stage. Her talents and personality took her very far, as she was one of the first Latinx women to perform at Carnegie Hall with Tito Puente. What a woman, what a presence:

3. Susana Baca

Susana Baca is known for breathing new life into Afro-Peruvian music. Her music was composed of Peruvian instruments with Cuban and Brazilian music influences. Her music has been enjoyed all over the world since the 80’s, and in 2011 she became the second ever Afro-Peruvian cabinet minister in Peru when she was named Minister of Culture.

4. Bebo Valdés

Bebo Valdés was one of the most influential bandleaders in 1940’s and 50’s Cuba and went on to make a solid comeback in his 70’s. After the Cuban revolution he moved to Sweden then in his early 70’s he went on to win a slew of Grammy awards for his new recordings. He also appeared in the Latin jazz documentary,Calle 54, and wrote the music for the Oscar-nominated animated film, Chico & Rita in 2010, which was loosely based on his life.

5. Sergio Vargas

Sergio Vargas is a Dominican Republican icon, reaching widespread success for his contributions to merengue as a member of La Banda Brava and Los Hijos del Rey. In the late 80’s Vargas became an icon to the rest of Latin America only to then sign with an American label, CBS. Vargas is still one of his country’s top artists.

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