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The Latin Beat by Ed Morales

The Rhythms and Roots of Latin Music, from Bossa Nova to Salsa and Beyond

Latin Beat was written as a broad overview of Latin music, a continuously evolving creation with European, African, indigenous, and even North American ancestry. The unfortunate downside of any 101 survey course is that many important topics are omitted, misrepresented, or receive very limited treatment. The term Latin music refers to an overwhelmingly diverse body of art. Nonetheless, author Ed Morales has provided a fine starting point from which serious music fans will carry on long after reading these pages. A short bibliography and index will help somewhat on that quest.

Latin Beat will at least spark an interest in Cuban son, danz?n, mambo, bolero, Brazilian samba, Argentine tango, Columbian cumbia, Peurto Rican bomba and plena, Domini meringue, tropicalia, classic Latin ballads, new Latin jazz, pop, alternative, techno, and all the great music that lacks category. Morales colorfully describes the "rhythmic and harmonic tendencies that distinguish Latin music from European and North American music." Everyone has heard Latin and Caribbean influences in jazz, but its astounding how many people have never heard the real deal.

Latino Brooklyn-based writer Ed Morales possesses a deep love for the subject and writes in voice accessible to all readers. However specific criticism of Latin Beat centers around some erroneous details and antiquated non-Latin generalizations that strike some Latinos as insensitive. He and his work often provoke helpful discussion on multi-cultural issues. His literary credits include Living in Spanglish a related book about Latino American identity and a recent article published in The Progressive about the social implications of the Latina maid character in movies such as Spanglish and Crash. He is a Village Voice contributor whose work has also appeared in The Nation the Miami Herald the Los Angeles Times Rolling Stone Vibe and Spin.

Some jazz purists bash books like this or Rick Koster's Texas Music and Louisiana Music but these are all essential for generalists. Given the space constraints Morales digs as deep as possible and touches on the essential beauties of an important artform. If your Latin music library includes only Getz/Gilberto and Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain then you will absolutely benefit from reading this book. Recommended reading.

See also:

Living in Spanglish: The Search for Latino Identity in America also by Ed Morales ISBN: 0312310005

The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States

by John Storm Roberts ISBN: 0195121015

-David Seymour is a jazz journalist in Saint Louis Missouri USA.

Additional Info

  • Book Title: The Latin Beat
  • Author: Ed Morales
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press, also Perseus Publishing
  • Year Published: 2003
  • Book Type:: Non-Fiction
  • ISBN: 306810182
  • Rating: Three Stars
  • Number of Pages: 384
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