National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions made by Hispanic and Latin American people. Hispanic/Latin culture is filled with great music, dancing and unique instruments. Instruments like the maracas and the güiro — both of which originate from Puerto Rico — castañuelas, congo, la chitarra and the cuatro puertorriqueño (a miniature guitar), are often played. Growing up, I was engulfed in a culture of music and dancing. Each family gathering has a playlist of songs that instantly get everyone on their feet and dancing. Here are some of my personal favorite Latino songs that are great segues into Latin music and culture.
“La Vida Es Un Carnaval” and “Rie Y Llora” by Celia Cruz
Celia Cruz is a Cuban singer and is known as the “Queen of Salsa.” She is an icon and her Afro-Cuban music includes numerous hits. Celia Cruz began her career by singing with the Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera. Though others questioned her ability to sell salsa records, she proved a fine replacement to the group’s previous singer. Her music made a great impact on Latin music. Cruz performed in the 1960s up until 2003, the year she died. 23 of her 75 records were gold albums. In 1994, Cruz received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Medal of the Arts. Her songs are great for salsa dancing.
“Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo
This song is great to get the party going. This dance is a classic song for dancing Merengue, a dance originating from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. This is a great steady and slower-paced merengue. This Grammy award-winning song is a timeless hit. “Suavemente” was first released in 1998 and certified platinum after selling over 1 million copies in the United States. It is a song that will go down in Latin music history.
“Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony
Marc Anthony is a New York City native and Puerto Rican icon. “Vivir Mi Vida” is an amazing song that will get everyone singing. The song’s name translates to “Living My Life” and includes lyrics that describe appreciating all life has to offer. The song is guaranteed to cheer you up on your worst days as you sing of laughing and dancing. Marc Anthony released this salsa hit in 2013. “Vivir Mi Vida” won a Latin Grammy award for Record of the Year in 2013. Marc Anthony has won a total of three Grammy awards: Tropical Latin Album (1996), Latin Pop Album (2005) and Tropical Latin Album (2020).
“Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” by Selena
“Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” won Most Performed Song of The Year at the 1996 Broadcast Music Incorporated Latin Awards. Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was an internationally famous singer. She is recognized as a Mexican American artist who reimagined Tejano music. Her album “Amor Prohibido” includes numerous hits including “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” The album is labeled a Tejano cumbia album, and the cumbia dance is exciting yet simple. “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” is a fun and cheerful song, and was released in 1994, a year prior to Selena’s murder. At the 37th Grammy Awards in 1995, “Amor Prohibido” was nominated for Best Mexican-American Album and made #29 on Billboard 200, reaching double platinum status. In 1994, Selena was the first female Tejano artist to have won a Grammy in the category of Best Mexican-American Album, for her “Selena Live!”
“Yo Perreo Sola” by Bad Bunny
Bad Bunny is a Puerto Rican singer and songwriter, and one of my favorite modern-day Latino artists. Bad Bunny, or Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, speaks out to protest corruption in Puerto Rico and supports the LGBTQIA+ community. His music is great for a night out and this song made my summer of 2020 playlist. Bad Bunny is described as the king of Latin trap music. “Yo Perreo Sola” (I Twerk Alone) was first released in March of 2020 and is currently the most-watched Latin music video worldwide. The music video is used to promote women’s rights and features Bad Bunny dressed in drag. “Yo Perreo Sola” is written from the perspective of an empowered woman who prefers to dance alone, without anyone else’s company.