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Book Review:  "The Latin Beat"

by Mark Guerrero

     "The Latin Beat, The Rhythms and Roots of Latin Music From Bossa Nova to Salsa and Beyond," is a brilliantly written and well researched history of rhythmic Latin music.  The author, Ed Morales, has written in a way that the book can be used as an academic textbook, yet it can be also be enjoyed as a pop culture book for the layman.  He writes about the evolution of Cuban music into Salsa, the bolero, new Latin pop, Latin jazz, the music of Brazil, music of the Carribean, the Latin influence in rock and hip hop, and the new alternative Latin rock.  The book also gives us the history of Salsa and how the Nuyorican style emerged in New York.  "The Latin Beat" traces the roots of the various forms of Latin music, from Africa, the Carribean, and points beyond.  Morales explains each of the Latin music forms and informs us on their histories and countries of origin.  He also explains how the musical forms came to the United States and influenced and altered our musical forms.  How Latin music artists blended with American jazz and pop artists to create new hybrids.  Today one can hear a Latin music influence in rock, rap, and popular music in general.  One can also hear the jazz, r&b, and rock influences in Latin music.  Morales helps explain how it all came about.  "The Latin Beat" has biographical and musical histories of many legendary Latin artists, including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Eddie Palmieri, Beny More, Perez Prado, and many more.

     Relating to Chicano music and my website, Morales mentions my dad, Lalo Guerrero, and Don Tosti as pioneers in absorbing Latin music into rock & roll in the formative days of rock.  He sites my dad's Lalo Guerrero Y Sus Cinco Lobos and Don Tosti's Pachuco Boogie Boys as artists fusing mambo and boogie woogie into their music in the late 40s.  The book also touches on the contributions of Chicano rockers Ritchie Valens, Chan Romero, and Chris Montez, as well as East L.A. groups such as Cannibal & the Headhunters and Thee Midniters.  The book touches on other mid-60s Chicano artists such as the Champs, ? & the Mysterions, and Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs.  Attention and recognition is also given to East L.A.'s Los Lobos, who emerged in the early 80s.

     "The Latin Beat" follows the timeline to Santana and Malo in the late 60s/early 70s, and the Latino contributors to the punk, heavy metal, and hip hop in the U.S.  The Latin alternative music scene is surveyed with information on Mexican bands such as Maldita Vecindad and Cafe Tacuba, rock in Argentina, Carribean rock, rock in Spain, South American fusion rock, and Latin Electronica.  An educated guess into the future of Latin music is also offered.  Ed Morales, who lives in Brooklyn, is the author of "Living in Spanglish: The Search for Latino Identity in the U.S."  He's a journalist and a poet who has written for the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Spin, The New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, and is currently the Latin music columnist for New York Newsday.  His short fiction and poetry appeared in the collections "Iguana Dreams" and "Aloud."  Ed Morales has given us a great book, which can be utilized as a reference book on rhythmic Latin music and it's artists.  "The Latin Beat" by Ed Morales is published by DaCapo Press (2003) and is available at amazon.com at the link below.
 

 

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Mark Guerrero
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