Latin music — music encompassing many countries of origin, stretching many continents and even non-Spanish speaking countries like Brazil — has filtered into the global music scene, more specifically the U.S. market, and has mainly been a fusion of salsa, bachata, reggaeton, cumbia and other Caribbean beats.
So it came as a shock to me when I heard on NPR’s “The Breakdown” that heavy metal is one of the largest genres listened to across Latin America, with big names in metal selling out stadiums particularly in South America.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to bop to a Romeo Santos song now and then. But the following listed artists are my go-to’s when I’m letting out my inner “rockera.” They are mainly from the Latin and Spanish rock and alternative music world and hip-hop scene.
There are many other bands I haven’t mentioned — don’t think I forgot about “Maná” — but this is my list for those who’d like to dip their toe into that music world.
Enrique Bunbury – Spain
Song recommendation: “Despierta”
Bunbury got his start as the lead singer of 1980s Spanish rock band, Héroes del Silencio. In the’80s, Héroes del Silencio and many other rock bands popped up throughout Spain and Latin America to form what is known today as “rock en Español.”
In his solo career, Bunbury developed his style to encompass genres such as cabaret, electronic music, Bowie-esque songs and Latin beats. Possibly my favorite Spanish artist, I can never get enough of Bunbury’s all-encompassing music. Pair that with thought-provoking lyrics that will stick with you for life, and you have yourself a rock powerhouse. I plan to see him in concert in May — my first live concert since the start of the pandemic.
La Ley – Chile
Song recommendation: “Mentira”
I recommend listening to this band for their lead vocalist Beto Cuevas’s smooth voice alone. La Ley is the perfect band to listen to when you’re in your feels. To get a sense of their lyricism, look up their MTV Unplugged performances to hear the band play slowed-down, acoustic versions of their hits.
Caifanes – Mexico
Song recommendation: “Perdí Mi Ojo de Venado”
Caifanes is pure ’80s rock at its finest. You can blast their discography on a particularly scenic road trip as you’re taking in the view. Their songs have served as the soundtrack for many of my favorite memories. The band has garnered international fame, as their choruses are simple for even non-Spanish speakers to sing at the top of their lungs.
Los Enanitos Verdes – Argentina
Song recommendation: “Lamento Boliviano”
Many may recognize Los Enanitos Verdes from their hit song often played on Latin radio stations “Lamento Boliviano” which I can’t help singing along to whenever it comes on. At the end of the music video for this song, the South American band writes “Sea este un tributo a todas las razas indígenas latinoamericanas,” which translates in English to: “Let this be a tribute to all Latin American indigenous races.”
Puya – Puerto Rico
Song recommendation: “Oasis”
Possibly the band with the heaviest discography sonically on this list, the band fuses Afro-Caribbean beats into their heavy metal songs. While metal is usually seen as a counter to mainstream music, the band pays homage to classic salsa artists in their use of traditional salsa percussion instruments.
Control Machete – Mexico
Song recommendation: “Si Señor”
If you’re looking for some quintessential late ’90s, early 2000s hip-hop to walk down Commonwealth Avenue to, then Control Machete is the perfect group for you. Their music goes hard in an effortless way.
Plastilina Mosh – Mexico
Song recommendation: “Mr. P-Mosh”
Plastilina Mosh, along with Control Machete, was part of a new wave hailing from Monterrey, Mexico called “La Avanzada Regia,” which served in stark contrast to the earlier wave of rock en Español. While groups from this musical movement used rock as a jumping-off point, they melded genres and electro-lounge styles in their music, many utilizing the global popularity of rap in the ’90s as their vocal sound. Plastilina Mosh does this wonderfully with their bombastic style.
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Argentina
Song recommendation: “El Matador”
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs is a ska band from Buenos Aires, but their music spans genres, such as funk in the intro to their song “Surfer Calavera” and a salsa section in “Mal Bicho.” Most uniquely, a song will have abrupt genre switches, which can be unsettling or exciting depending on the listener. Each song in their discography is sure to get you out of your seat and dancing, as Latin percussion and powerful horn harmonies are plentiful in their music.