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The History of Tropical Music
by Alex Cosper (10/28/14)

Tropical music covers a broad range of music from Caribbean to African to Hawaiian. We often think of soft relaxing instrumental music or surreal organic music with bongos as well as reggae and electronic dance music. In the United States there are not many radio stations that describe their format as "tropical." Even in Hawaii many of the commercial radio stations mainly play familiar national hits. The radio format called "tropical music" or "musica tropical" is more common in Latin American countries. Some of the popular styles of this format include salsa, merengue, cumbia and reggaeton.

Jazz has influenced tropical music the past century, which is why a lot of it includes horns and wind instruments. Many jazz artists have made monumental contributions to the concept of actual tropical music, which should paint pictures in the mind of nice warm beaches with palm trees. Some of the jazz artists that have been considered tropical include Hiroshima, which initially became popular with an easy listening sound that eventually transformed into new age.

Since the "genre" is so broad, it can be viewed as several subgenres of music. Reggae music comes in many flavors and has its roots in Jamaica. It has evolved since the 1950s from an r&b style to more of an alternative rock style. Many topical styles fuse together, such as the guaracha in Chile. The music developed in the 1930s and the 1940s with a mix of mambo and cha cha. A more modern genre that mixes in electronics with tribal sounds is worldbeat, in which prominent artists have included Peter Gabriel, Afro-Celt Sound System and Enigma.

In 1985 Billboard established a chart called that monitored the sales of tropical albums. Billboard has published its Latin Tropical song chart since 1994 in which Marc Anthony has had the most number one hits. Other leading artists have included Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Eddie Santiago, Juan Luis Guerra and Gloria Estefan. Here is a list of Anthony's chart toppers:

1995 Te Conozco Bien
1995 Se Me Sigue Olvidando
1995 Nadie Como Ella
1996 Te Amare
1996 Liegaste a Mi
1996 Hasta Ayer
1997 Y Hubo Alguien
1998 Si Te Vas 1998 Contra La Corriente
1999 No Me Ames (Jennifer Lopez featuring Marc Anthony)
1999 Dimelo
2000 Muy Dentro de Mi
2001 Celos
2002 Viviendo
2004 Ahora Quien
2005 Tu Amor Me Hace Bien
2006 Que Precio Tiene el Cielo
2007 Mi Gente
2011 Rain Over Me (Pitbull featuring Marc Anthony)
2012 Por Que Les Mientes (Tito Bambino featuring Marc Anthony
2013 Vivir Mi Vida
2014 Cambio de Piel
2014 Flor Palida
2014 Cuando Nos Volvamos a Encontrar (Carlos Vives featuring Marc Anthony)

The best selling tropical album since 1986 has been Mi Tierra by Gloria Estefan on Epic Records in 1994. It sold over 16 million units, according to RIAA statistics. Her 1996 album Abriendo Puertas sold 6 million units. Another big seller was by Aventura in 2008, selling 8 million units with the album Kings of Bachata: Sold Out at Madison Square Garden.

In American pop music history a few artists have incorporated tropical sounds into their music. Jimmy Buffett has been once of the most memorable examples, as he has long been a top artist in the Gulf of Mexico region. Here is a list of songs with a tropical sound or spirit.

1949 Perez Prado - Mambo No. 5
1955 Perez Prado - Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White
1956 Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)
1958 Perez Prado - Patricia
1963 The Kingsmen - Louie, Louie
1966 The Sandpipers - Guantanemera
1968 Desmond Dekker - The Israelites
1968 The Beatles - Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
1970 Eric Burden & War - Spill The Wine
1971 The Partridge Family - Bandela
1971 Bob Marley & The Wailers - Sun Is Shining
1972 Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now
1972 Harry Nilsson - Coconut
1973 Bob Marley & The Wailers - Get Up, Stand Up
1973 Bob Marley & The Wailers - Stir It Up
1973 Paul Simon - Loves Me Like a Rock
1974 Hues Corporation - Rock The Boat
1974 Kool & The Gang - Jungle Boogie
1975 Stevie Wonder - Boogie On, Reggae Woman
1975 Ringo Starr - No No Song
1975 War - Low Rider
1975 War - Why Can't We Be Friends
1975 Elton John - Island Girl
1976 Neil Diamond - Don't Think ... Feel
1976 George Baker Selection - Paloma Blanca
1976 KC & The Sunshine Band - Boogie Shoes
1977 Jimmy Buffett - Margaritaville
1977 Bob Marley & The Wailers - Jamming
1977 Bob Marley & The Wailers - One Love
1978 Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good
1978 Boney M - Rivers of Babylon
1979 Spyro Gyra - Morning Dance
1979 The Dirt Band - An American Dream
1979 Jimmy Buffett - Fins
1979 Jimmy Buffett - Volcano
1980 Bob Marley & The Wailers - Could You Be Loved
1981 Blondie - The Tide Is High
1982 Kool & The Gang - Let's Go Dancin' (Oh La la La)
1982 Musical Youth - Pass The Dutchie
1982 Blondie - Island of Lost Souls
1983 UB40 - Red Red Wine
1983 Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride
1984 Billy Ocean - Caribbean Queen
1984 Sade - Smooth Operator
1984 Sade - Your Love Is King
1984 Sade - Why Can't We Live Together
1985 Sade - The Sweetest Taboo
1985 Opus - Live Is Life
1986 Sting - Love Is The Seventh Wave
1986 Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al
1986 Madonna - La Isla Bonita
1986 Howard Jones - Life In One Day
1986 Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer
1986 Talking Heads - And She Was
1986 Miami Sound Machine - Conga
1986 Steve Winwood - Higher Love
1987 Sting - Englishman In New York
1987 Sting - We'll Be Together
1988 Ziggy Marley - Tomorrow People
1988 Sade - Paradise
1988 The Beach Boys - Kokomo
1988 Huey Lewis & The News - Perfect World
1990 Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour - Shaking The Tree
1991 Enigma - Sadeness Part 1
1991 Sting - All This Time
1992 Peter Gabriel - Kiss That Frog
1992 Sade - Kiss of Life
1993 Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World
1993 Sting - Love Is Stronger Than Justice
1993 Shaggy - Oh Carolina
1993 Billy Joel - River of Dreams
1994 Enigma - Return To Innocence
1994 Deep Forest - Sweet Lullaby
1999 Sting - Brand New Day
1999 Jennifer Lopez - Let's Get Loud
2000 Shaggy - Angel
2000 Shaggy - It Wasn't Me
2002 No Doubt - Underneath It All
2004 Jimmy Buffett - Back to the Island
2006 Shakira - Hips Don't Lie

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