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History of Latin Tropical Music
by Alex Cosper (4/20/2018)

The music industry considers "tropical music" to be Latim music of the Caribbean. Salsa is included under the tropical umbrella, as well as other styles that have developed on the Spanish-speaking islands. The category name once applied to Cuba but since the late twentieth century has reflected a broader range of Latin music. Tropical music typically combines the influences of European and African musical traditions, which more contemporary tropical bands include modern electronic instruments.

Tropical music began to get widespread attention in the nineteenth century with the Cuban contradanza. Other Cuban styles such as bolero and son cubano practiced in ballrooms became important components of tropical music. Each of the islands contributed to tropical music, which developed since Europeans invaded South America in the sixteenth century. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Colombia all generated stands of music that contributed to the development of tropical music. Influential styles included bomba, plena, bachata and vallenato.

In the 1930s tropical music became popular in the United States. Some of the emerging styles from the Caribbean included mambo, cha cha cha and cumbia. Xavier Cugat, for example, became an established Latin artist of the Great Depression years with hits such as "Brazil," "The Lady In Red" and "Perfidia." In the late twentieth century the term "tropical" began to appear as a radio Latin radio format that encompassed salsa, merengue, vallenato, cubia and bachata styles. Billboard debuted its Tropical Albums chart in 1985.

The first number one album on Billboard's Tropical chart was Innovations by El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. Reggaeton music was included on the chart until 2005, when reggaeton titles shifted to the Latin Rhythm Albums chart. Since the chart's launch top tropical artists have included Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle, Marc Anthony, Eddie Santiago and La India. The most popular mainstream American act that is considered Tropical is Gloria Estefan, who has sold over 20 million albums. Other names known to American audiences include Elvis Crespo, Buena Vista Social Club, Celia Cruz and Daddy Yankee.

In the twenty-first century leading Tropical artists include Aventura, Prince Royce, Juan Luis Guerra, Romeo Santos and Tito "El Bambino." One of the most popular tropical albums of the decade has been The Last by Aventura, which spent 24 weeks at number one on the Billboard tropical chart in 2010. The top albums of 2017 were by Romeo Santos and Prince Royce. Some of the most well known tropical songs include "Me Se Sigue Olvidando" by Marc Anthony, "Loco de Amor" by Jerry Rivera and "Suavemente" by Elvis Crespo.

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