As a visitor to the El Salvador, you will have the opportunity to hear a wide variety of music from across Central America, Latin America, the Caribbean, as well as music that is native and indigenous to El Salvador.
You can also occasionally hear famous European and US songs. Many Salvadorans love them, but these types of songs are played much less in public spaces.
One thing for sure is that there are so many different styles to the music of El Salvador that it can be hard to distinguish between them all!
Music Of El Salvador In Context
Because El Salvador has a hot climate, much of life is lived outdoors so music is part of the fabric of life. You will often hear music playing in the streets, at the beach, and in parks.
Anywhere and everywhere!
El Salvadorans typically like to listen to their music loud, so sometimes you may find that you don’t have a choice but to listen to it, whether you want to or not!
Well, that’s not 100% true.
Outdoor life means that often the music is played loud to drown out the surrounding hustle and bustle such as traffic noise. Neighbouring restaurants at the beach may also feel the need to turn up the volume so that you can only hear their chosen song!
But don’t think it’s all loud music. Peace and quiet are also on hand in El Salvador but that’s not the subject of this blog post!
Genres Of El Salvador Music
El Salvador does not exist in a vacuum. And as such you can experience almost any type of music you like here if you care to search it out.
Folk, Cumbia, Merengue, Marimba, Salsa, Bachata, Rock, Indigenous, Jazz, Funk, Rap, Hip Hop, Pop, Ska, and Reggae are all musical genres that can be found in El Salvador.
It’s worth mentioning that like most other places there is a distinct generation gap between the classic traditional styles and the modern music you will hear.
The type of music you’ll hear in El Salvador will also depend on the social setting and context.
Modern Popular Music In El Salvador
The modern-day soundtrack of El Salvador is mostly a mix of music styles that are popular with the younger generations, such as Cumbia, Reggaetón, and Salsa.
These genres are heavily influenced by music from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States, and feature a mix of electronic beats and traditional rhythms.
The music listed below is what you are most likely to hear on a trip to El Salvador.
Cumbia Music In El Salvador
Cumbia is a genre of music that has been around since the 1950s and has many different styles throughout Latin America.
Its sound, which originated in Colombia is percussion-heavy with a signature double beat, mainly using accordions and drums.
El Salvadoran Cumbia developed as orchestras made their own interpretations of songs that gradually evolved into a distinct style.
Cumbia is often heard at parties and other social gatherings and is a staple of Salvadoran beach culture.
As anyone under 30 in El Salvador what music they like and the chances are the first thing they’ll say is Reggaeton.
This style of music, which originated in Puerto Rico during the late 80s, is characterized by its fast-paced beats, catchy melodies, and sexually explicit lyrics.
Some popular international Reggaetón artists that are popular in El Salvador include J Balvin, Maluma, Bad Bunny and Ozuna.
El Salvador has quite a big scene of local Reggaetón artists and you can get a flavour from this video mix.
Cuban-style salsa which has been around since the 1900s remains popular in El Salvador, with modern artists updating the sound.
The most famous international salsa artist that you may hear seems to be Marc Anthony.
This mix gives a feel for modern salsa in El Salvador.
Mariachi Bands in El Salvador
Although Mariachi bands are far from modern they are also still a common sight in El Salvador.
These mostly brass bands are often hired by individuals to come and play romantic music in a restaurant for a loved one or are found seeking trade at beach towns like El Tunco on the weekends.
The sound of the Mariachi is a unique blend of traditional Mexican and Salvadorian music, and it is very distinctive.
Traditional Music In El Salvador
Indigenous Salvadoran Music
Traditional indigenous tribal music is the oldest musical style in El Salvador.
Its sound is ambient and often flute based.
Present-day groups such as Talticpac are influenced by the sounds and musical themes of the Lenca and Pipil tribes and the Mayan people.
Marimba Music In El Salvador
In El Salvador, Marimba is an adopted traditional music style that is often played alongside classical Salvadoran dances that showcase the country’s culture.
The Marimba style was first introduced to El Salvador by African slaves and reached its peak popularity in the 1920s and 1930s.
The music is mostly played using one or several xylophones.
Religious Music In El Salvador
If you visit or go near a church on a Sunday, or sometimes get within half a kilometre of one, you’ll likely hear traditional religious music that has been passed down for generations.
Traditional religious music is mostly Spanish Catholic hymns performed by a choir or a banda (a type of Salvadoran brass band) and features a mix of Spanish and indigenous instruments such as the maracas and the guitar.
Chanchona is a musical style that originated in El Salvador in the remote northern mountain area of Morazon.
Its musical sound was largely influenced by European settlers in the area.
Chanchona (in slang translates to ‘female pig’ after the shape of a double bass) is lively and upbeat with simple lyrics.
The sound is often led by violins backed up by double bass and guitars.
Chanchona is now widely known in El Salvador and is still popular at festivals and special occasions.
The music of El Salvador is diverse, fun and enjoyable. Be sure to enjoy it when you visit. And if you can’t visit I hope this post has given you a flavour of the sounds in the country.
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