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The heart of African beats within Latin Music

Dept. of Modern Languages and Literatures hosts Africa in Latin America event.

Presenting+different+cultures+of+music.
Presenting different cultures of music.

Presenting different cultures of music.

Thomas Rodas

Thomas Rodas

Presenting different cultures of music.

Ricky Rodas, Investigative Reporter

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Latin America has had a rich history of creating vibrant music and catchy dances that have mesmerized the continent and the world at large. What the casual music listener may not realize, though, is that African rhythms are the backbone of nearly every form of Latin music. 

This was the focus of Colombian musician Leopoldo Novoa’s lecture “Africa in Latin America”, who spoke enthusiastically about the origins of Latin musical traditions. 

“What’s most important for me to clarify in the beginning is that the settlement of the world began in Africa, from which we can conclude that all of us are Afro-descendants,” Novoa said in Spanish. “The majority of you have listened to and danced to a lot of music that has a great African presence.” 

Novoa cited mambo, cumbia, calypso, and habanera as examples of products of this African influence. According to Novoa, when Europeans nations like Portugal, France, and England colonized the Americas, they needed a large labor force to fulfill their imperialistic goals.

According to a 2005 NY Times article, Africans walked through the infamous “door of no return” at Cape Coast castle off the West African coast, in what is now Ghana. They were forced directly into slave ships and never again set foot in the land they called home. 

Despite his hardship, Novoa said that these people held onto their cherished traditions, and their way of living had a deep impact on all aspects of life in the Americas, especially musical customs. “They were not only in labor, they came to America with their culture, their music, their way of life, relating to each other, and son,” Novoa said. (waiting for Ricky to edit quote)

With great passion, Novoa closed his lecture by circling back to his opening argument about mankind’s beginning and where the music we love comes from. “What I want to tell you is that at the origin of humanity, we are African descendants. With all the immigration that has occurred, we continue to be African descendants and what we listen and dance to is descended from Africa.”

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