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Central Standard

The Impact Of Latin American Music


Coming from dozens of countries, from Mexico and the Caribbean in the north to Brazil and Argentena in South America, Latin American identity encompasses a variety of cultures, backgrounds, stories, traditions, and, of course, music. The diversity can be heard in every measure, as each artist brings not only their own personal style, but also their Latino ancestry to the lyrics, melodies and rhythms of music.

On Central Standard we listen to how Latino beets, African inspired rhythms, a variety of instruments and dance have influenced jazz, pop music, mambo, salsa, rock, hip hop— and popular culture since World War II. Also, we hear how these cultural influences have impacted the Latino civil rights movement in the United States. And we hear some favorites from some players in the  Kansas City’s local Latino music scene.

Our four guests discuss topics such as famous Latino artists: Gloria Estefan, Carlos Santana, and Selena as well as share some of their own music. From John Currey's ensemble, Marimba Sol de Chiapas, we hear "Chiapas." The marimba instrument is a part of the xylophone family, but is larger than a xylophone, and is most popular in southern Mexico where it is played more than the piano. In Currey's ensemble, all four of the ensemble members are playing on the same marimba synchronizing their mallets to create a unique sound.  

Also from Dr. Uzziel Pecina's band, Trio Aztlan, we listen to "Cumbia Dulce." Pecina recalls listening to his father's Ranchero music, a style of Mexican music from Jalisco, Mexico that is considered the Mexican Blues due to its passionate and emotional lyrics and themes. He uses that same passion to create traditional Latin folkloric music as a vocalist/guitarist for Trio Aztlan.

Latino/Chicano music has definitely had its impact on the national music scene in the United States, however oftentimes the terms to refer to those producing the music can get confused. Dr. Miguel Carranza speaks to the difference between the terms Latino and Chicano as the director of the new Latina/o Studies Program at UMKC. Latino can refer to anyone from any of the Latin American countries, but excludes Spain, whereas Chicano refers specifically to Mexicans who grew up in the United States. The term Chicano became popular in the 1960s when it gained usage with increasing agricultural boycotts.

You can learn more about Latino music and culture at theAmerican Jazz Museum called American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music. The exhibit features the influences of Latino artists covering a cast array of genres. It also explores how Latin music thrived in hubs such as New York City, Miami, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The exhibit is free and open through October 27th.

The American Jazz Museum is also hosting competitions in spoken word and dance as well as discussion panels by local and national scholars inspired by the exhibit.


  • Dr. Miguel Carranza, Director of Latina/o Studies at UMKC
  • Gregory Carroll, Chief Executive Officer at American Jazz Museum
  • John Currey, Director of Marimba Sol de Chiapas
  • Dr. Uzziel Pecina, Assist. Professor of Education Administration at UMKC, Member of Trio Aztlan
Central Standard blues/jazzLatinos
Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I aim to provide context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. In that role, and as an occasional announcer and reporter, I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.