Music of El Salvador

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Music of El Salvador Topics Cumbiay 'Xuc Merengue Rock Reggaeton Hip hop
Bachata Indigenous
Jazz Funk Pop Ska Reggae
Latin Jazz Electronic
Son Latin Power
Folklorico Trova Salsa Pop Latino66u Electronica
Nueva canción Punta Ballenato Timeline and Samples
Central American music
Belize - Costa Rica - El Salvador - Guatemala - Honduras - Nicaragua - Panama
Salvadoran musicians Casa Abierta-Familia Campesinas duenos de tierras. (25192145262).jpg
Salvadoran musicians

The music of El Salvador has a mixture of Lenca, Cacaopera, Mayan, Pipil, and Spanish influences. This music includes religious songs (mostly Roman Catholic) used to celebrate Christmas and other holidays, especially feast days of the saints with Tubular bells Chimes. Satirical and rural lyrical themes are common and played with Xylophone.

El Salvador Country in Central America

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador's capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million.

Lenca Honduran-Salvadoran native group

The Lenca are a Mesoamerican indigenous people of southwestern Honduras and eastern El Salvador in Central America. They once spoke the Lenca language, which is now nearly extinct. In Honduras, the Lenca are the largest indigenous group, with an estimated population of 100,000. El Salvador's Lenca population is estimated at about 37,000.

Cacaopera people Central American indigenous group

The Cacaopera people were an indigenous people in what is now El Salvador and Nicaragua. They are also known as the Matagalpa or Ulua.


Popular styles in modern El Salvador include Salvadoran Cumbia, Salvadoran hip hop, Rock and Native Mesoamerican Indigenous music which historically have had a long and large significance and impact to modern El Salvador music styles.

Cumbia Folkloric genre and dance from Colombia and Panama

Cumbia[ˈkumbja] is a folkloric genre and dance from Colombia and Panama.

Salvadoran rap is rap music that comes from El Salvador. It is a style of music that emerged with groups such as Pescozada and Mecate in the late 1990s. Salvadoran hip hop arose about 30 years ago when a large surge of Salvadorans began to migrate towards LA.Their time of arrival was similar to a surge in hip hop in the United States so they began to participate. Salvadoran hip hop is still a smaller kind of music but it is an important part to communities and the lives of many Salvadorans.

Folk music

Salvadoran women in folkloric garb Debut de la Compania Infantil de Teatro La Colmenita de El Salvador. (24314705069).jpg
Salvadoran women in folkloric garb

Musical repertoire consists of Xuc, danza, pasillo, marcha and canciones. The Xylophone is a representative folk music instrument. Some of the most well known songs are (El Carbonero) and (El Torito Pinto).

Marimba is one of the traditional folk music styles performed in El Salvador and was first introduced by African slaves. Two versions, of the percussion instrument that has intonations like a piano, the marimba de arco, which was played with a bow, and the marimba criolla were introduced. A coup d’état in 1932 resulted in the massacre of around 30,000 people and destruction of both the indigenous population and the original marimba de arco. The modern version of the instrument is a three octave marimba de arco and the music is always instrumental. The heyday of marimba in El Salvador was from the 1920s to 1930s when musicians played internationally, but because the instrument could be adapted to other styles, it remained popular until rock came on the scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1990, a revival of the indigenous music began. [1]

Salvadoran indigenous musicians Casa Abierta Casas de la Cultura 03 (25990585684).jpg
Salvadoran indigenous musicians

Marimba Centroamericana was one of the marimba bands popular in El Salvador and abroad. The first radio station in El Salvador, which was government-owned, played waltz, foxtrot, rancheras, sones, and songos, along with tangos. El Salvadoran musicians created their own versions of these styles. [1] Another early marimba band was Marimba Atlacatl, founded by Francisco Antonio Beltran in 1917. He toured the world in the 1930s, and in 1935, won an award, presented by the Prince of Wales and his fiancée Wallis Simpson, at the Palm Beach Casino on the Azul Coast of France. [2]

Waltz dance

The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance, normally in triple  time, performed primarily in closed position.

Foxtrot dance

The foxtrot is a smooth, progressive dance characterized by long, continuous flowing movements across the dance floor. It is danced to big band music. The dance is similar in its look to waltz, although the rhythm is in a 4
time signature instead of 3
. Developed in the 1910s, the foxtrot reached its height of popularity in the 1930s and remains practiced today.

Ranchera, or canción ranchera is a genre of the traditional music of Mexico. It dates before the years of the Mexican Revolution. It later became closely associated with the mariachi groups which evolved in Jalisco. Ranchera today is also played in virtually all Regional Mexican music styles. Drawing on rural traditional folk music, ranchera developed as a symbol of a new national consciousness in reaction to the aristocratic tastes of the period. Some well-known interpreters of the genre are the following singers: Amalia Mendoza, Antonio Aguilar, Chelo, Cuco Sánchez, Flor Silvestre, Irma Serrano, Javier Solís, Jorge Negrete, José Alfredo Jiménez, Lola Beltrán, Lucha Villa, Pedro Infante, Rocío Dúrcal, Vicente Fernández, and presently: Pedro Fernández and Pepe Aguilar.

Music of Northern El Salvador

Northern El Salvador is composed of the departments of Chalatenango, Cabañas, Morazán and the northern parts of Santa Ana (e.g., Metapán), San Miguel (e.g., Cd. Barrios) and La Unión (e.g., Nueva Esparta) as well as the town of Suchitoto in the department of Cuscatlán. Northern El Salvador or la Franja Norte is characterized by its mountainous and cool terrain as well as being an area of heavy European settlement and as a result a large majority of the people who inhabit the Northern Region (especially Chalatenango, Metapán, and Morazán) are light-skinned people with colored eyes. The impact they’ve had on the local culture has been great and the music of Northern El Salvador clearly reflects the European influence in the area.

Chanchona Music

Music from the northern department of Morazán is lively and upbeat with simple lyrics that describe country life, love, and working in the fields. It usually consists of a double bass (chanchona in Salvadoran Spanish, a local word for a female hog, due to its sow-like appearance), two guitars, and two violins. Nowadays, congas and cowbells are added to the mix to produce sounds similar to cumbias. Chanchona music is popular in Eastern El Salvador and it is present there in most of their civic parades and religious holidays. Popular chanchona acts include: la Chanchona de Tito Mira, la Chanchona de Arcadio, Rayos de Oriente, Sonora Santa Marta, and Los Torogoces de Morazán. [3]


In the northern department of Chalatenango a popular form of music and fandango-type-of-dance was called zafacaite. The term is a compound word composed of the word zafa, from zafar(to loosen) and caite— a Salvadoran term for shoes. It was called so because of the fast and intricate foot stepping down when dancing the music that tended to make ones shoes fly off. The music consisted of a duo or trio playing a guitar, accordion, and violin or sometimes just an accordion and violin but always to a fast-paced rhythm. Popular songs and dances included "La Raspa" ("The Scrape") and "El Levanta Polvo" ("The Dust Lifter").

Native American Indigenous music

Indigenous Salvadoran musical group Festival para el Buen Vivir y Gobernando con la Gente-San Vicente (25065791041).jpg
Indigenous Salvadoran musical group

Inspired by Ambient music, Indigenous music is influenced by the Native American indigenous Lenca, Cacaopera, and Pipil of El Salvador, and especially the Mayan people of the Mesoamerican region in Central America, are a staple in Salvadoran music. Many indigenous music groups such as (Talticpac), have risen in El Salvador, especially after the civil war. Many groups get inspiration from native indigenous music or themes from South and North American.

Salvadoran Marching bands

Banda El Salvador participating in the Rose Parade in 2013 Banda El Salvador (8375950759).jpg
Banda El Salvador participating in the Rose Parade in 2013

School and military marching bands are a staple in El Salvador and it is a vital and crucial part of Salvadoran youth culture, whether in town or cities. Salvadoran marching bands are present in any kind of Salvadoran events, celebrations, and even in smallest activities, they become present along with their (cachiporristas) cheerleaders. Marching bands are a representative of Salvadoran culture and tradition, music tunes will include anything from national anthem, folkloric music to dance music like cumbia.

Marching bands in El Salvador were once called (War Bands). After the peace accords that ended the civil war were signed, the named was changed to (Peace Bands). The Salvadoran marching bands have even made international appearances in events such as the Rose Parade in the U.S city of Pasadena in New Years, the first time in 2008 and the most recent in 2013, where the Salvadoran marching bands of boys and girls have been able to embrace their talents to the world.

Salvadoran Civil War songs

Salvadoran Civil War songs located in the nueva cancion movement and genre, have been very popular since the 1970- to present day. They were broadcast through Radio Venceremos station and appealed to the majority of the peasant Salvadoran population. One of the most well known songs is "El Salvador ta venciando" by Yolocamba Ita, as well as American songs like "U.S get out of El Salvador" dedicated to the U.S. involvement.

Salvadoran cumbia

Salvadoran cumbia is a staple in Salvadoran music. Groups such as Orquesta San Vicente who sing (Soy Salvadoreño), the Bravo group who sing (Sabrosa Cumbia) and the Hermanos Flores group who sing (Mi Pais) are three well known cumbia music groups in El Salvador.

Salvadoran rock and hip hop/rap

Salvadoran rock and Salvadoran hip hop/rap are very well established music genres in Salvadoran culture. Salvadoran rock has a longer history dating back before the civil war while Salvadoran hip hop/rap arrived after the civil war and it is seen as a legacy of the Salvadoran exodus, diaspora, immigration and deportation from the United States, especially from cities such as Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Joaquin Santos, Crooked Stilo and Code Blue are just some of the most well known Salvadoran hip hop/rap groups.

Rejection of Caribbean and Mexican music

Young Salvadoran rockers and hip hop/rappers usually reject, stigmatize and are hostile towards bachata and reggae music and listeners because those Caribbean genres are seen as queer and non-Salvadoran. Mexican music is also rejected and seen with hostility by rockers and hip hop/rap listeners. However foreign hip hop/rap groups such as Calle 13, are very welcomed and listened by Salvadorans.

Foreign rock bands from the U.S and other parts of the world are also very welcomed and listened in El Salvador. Many foreign rock groups dedicated songs to El Salvador and the Salvadoran people during the civil war, songs such as "Bullet the Blue Sky" by U2, "El Salvador" by White Lion, and "Weapons for El Salvador" by The Ex were all inspired by the U.S. involvement in the El Salvador War.

Salvadoran boy playing the guitar Gobernando con la Gente Sonsonate 15 (23559501410).jpg
Salvadoran boy playing the guitar

Popular music in El Salvador uses Xylophones, Tubular bells, Fanfare trumpets, guitars, Double bass Harmonica, Glass harmonica, pianos, flutes, drums, scrapers, gourds, and Theremin. Indigenous instruments such as drum and flutes are a standard in all Salvadoran music used as a solidarity with El Salvador indigenous ancestry, "El Sombrero Azul" for example, is a cumbia song by Salsa Clave which starts with an indigenous tune. Tubular bells are a cue for El Salvador's Christianity and majestic fanfare trumpets for El Salvador's national pride, the national anthem itself start off with majestic fanfare trumpets.

Music from Colombian mainly and other Caribbean, South American and Central American music has infiltrated the country, especially salsa and cumbia. For example, the very famous Favorited La Sonora Dinamita is a Colombian salsa group with one Salvadoran vocalist (Susana Velasques). As one of the first Cumbia groups to reach international success, it is credited with helping to popularize the genre throughout Latin America, and the world.

Political chaos tore the country apart in the early 20th century, and music was often suppressed, especially those with strong native influences. In the 1940s, for example, it was decreed that a dance called "Xuc" was to be the "national dance" which was created and led by Paquito Palaviccini's and his "Orquesta Internacional Polio." That was one of the many orchestras he led during and in the mid 40's, his other hit was known throughout the country. "Carnaval En San Miguel" was commonly known to the whole country as the first Salvadoran band that went on to receive numerous awards in the years to come. Paquito Palaviccini, being known throughout Central and South America, made tours to Cuba, Buenos Aires, where Paquito Studied, and other Latin American countries.

The inspiration came to Paquito to develop the "Xuc" and "El Baile del Torito" in a tour they had in Cuba. The 1960s saw an influx of American and British pop and rock, inspiring like-minded Salvadoran bands, while the following two decades were dominated by a wave of popular genres from across Latin America, mostly folk-based singer-songwriter genres like Chile and Nueva Canción. This new type of Salvadoran rock music was called "Guanarock" (portmanteau of Guanaco, a nickname demonym slang Salvadorans use to refer to themselves which means "brother" in native American indigenous Poton Lanca language of northern and eastern El Salvador, Guanaco comes from the word Guanacasco which means "gathering brotherhood" in Poton Lenca Mesoamerican language), which inspired bands such as Ayutush.

Dominican merengue and Bachata also became very popular. In the last ten years, hip hop and reggaeton has influenced the majority of the Salvadoran youth, which has formed groups like Pescozada and Mecate. Also former Reggaeton producers like Wilfredo Rivas (Dj Emsy) and Jose Castaneda (Mambo King) who had worked with vary of famous Reggaeton and Hip hop artists such as: Dj Flex, Cheka, The Black Eyed Peas, Nicky Jam, El Torito and many others.

Salvadoran cumbia is related to but very distinct from Colombian cumbia, which is better known outside of El Salvador. Chanchona ensembles, led by a pair or a single violin, are popular, especially among the immigrant community in the Washington D.C. area.

Alternative music

Salvadoran musical group in San Vicente Festival para el Buen Vivir y Gobernando con la Gente-San Vicente (24525350194).jpg
Salvadoran musical group in San Vicente

El Salvador has prominent heavy metal, reggae, ska, dubstep, punk and electronic dance scenes due to its prolific local bands and venues; and the recent increase in local concerts by international bands that include San Salvador as a frequent destination in their international tours. Anastasio y los del Monte was widely lauded for bringing reggae to El Salvador. [4]

Art music

The main composer of the 19th century was José Escolástico Andrino (born in Guatemala). Wenceslao García was the first native composer. Important military bands composers and arrangers include Jesús Alas, Alejandro Muñoz and Domingo Santos. María de Baratta was the main ethnomusicologist and composer in the 20th century.

Notable Salvadoran musicians

Related Research Articles

Demographics of El Salvador

This article is about the demographic features of the population of El Salvador, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

The music of Latin America refers to music originating from Latin America, namely the Romance-speaking countries and territories of the Americas and the Caribbean south of the United States. Latin American music also incorporates African music from slaves who were transported to the Americas by European settlers as well as music from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Due to its highly syncretic nature, Latin American music encompasses a wide variety of styles, including influential genres such as cumbia, bachata, bossa nova, merengue, rumba, salsa, samba, son, and tango. During the 20th century, many styles were influenced by the music of the United States giving rise to genres such as Latin pop, rock, jazz, hip hop, and reggaeton.

Music of Colombia

The music of Colombia is an expression of Colombian culture, music genres, both traditional and modern, according with the features of each geographic region, although it is not uncommon to find different musical styles in the same region. The diversity in musical expressions found in Colombia can be seen as the result of a mixture of African, native Indigenous, and European influences, as well as more modern American.

The music of Belize has a mix of Creole, Mestizo, Garìfuna, Mayan and European influences.

Music of Nicaragua is a mixture of indigenous and European, especially Spanish, influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others that are common across Central America. Pop music includes Cuban, Brazilian, Mexican and Panamanian performers, as well as those from Europe and the United States.

Central American music

Central America is dominated by the popular Latin music, or Black Caribbean trends, including salsa, cumbia, mariachi, reggae, calypso and nueva canción. The countries of Central America have produced their own distinct forms of these genres such as Panamanian salsa, among others. One of the well-known forms of Central American music is punta, a style innovated by the syncretic Garifunas who live across the region, in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. The marimba, a type of xylophone, is perhaps the most important folk instrument of Central America, and it is widespread throughout the region.

Departments of El Salvador administrative division

El Salvador is divided into 14 departments for administrative purposes, subdivided into 262 municipalities. The country is a unitary state.

El Gran Silencio Mexican band

El Gran Silencio is a rock en español band from Monterrey, Mexico that blends a variety of rock, reggae, dancehall, and hip-hop influences with traditional Latin American musical forms such as cumbia, vallenato and Norteño. Their lyrics tend to be bohemian and often talk about life in the “barrio” or poor neighborhoods of Mexican cities, especially Monterrey. As of 2015, they have recorded seven albums, eleven singles, six soundtracks, five tributes and seventeen collaborations and have toured Mexico and the United States.

Culture of El Salvador

The culture of El Salvador is a Central American culture nation influenced by the clash of ancient Mesoamerica and medieval Iberian Peninsula. Salvadoran culture is influenced by Native American culture as well as Latin American culture. Mestizo culture and the Catholic Church dominates the country. Although the Romance language, Castilian Spanish, is the official and dominant language spoken in El Salvador, Salvadoran Spanish which is part of Central American Spanish has influences of Native American languages of El Salvador such as Lencan languages, Cacaopera language, Mayan languages and Pipil language, which are still spoken in some regions of El Salvador.

Cumbia villera is a subgenre of cumbia music originated in the slums of Argentina and popularized all over Latin America and the Latin communities abroad.

Mecate are a rap music group from El Salvador.

Pescozada is a hip-hop group formed in Chalatenango, El Salvador. They usually rap in Spanish, sometimes throwing in bits of English like "Yeah" "Uh-huh" or "Hip hop", and use an extreme amount of Caliche. Their name, which used to refer to an honor given to a knight by royalty, literally means "slap" or "punch" in modern Spanish. They are also well known throughout El Salvador for rapping about topics like the country's political situation, its problems, and its civil war.

Omnionn is a music producer of Salvadoran music. A "guanako" himself, he is particularly active in the Salvadoran hip hop scene, where he is the official producer of Pescozada. He is also widely known as an artist of Electronic music. Ominonn resided in San Francisco, California for most of his life, but has dedicated himself to help establish an urban music scene in El Salvador, and in 2006 moved back to his home country.

José María Cornejo Merino y Guevara was a Salvadoran politician. Two times he served as chief of state of El Salvador.

Joaquín de San Martín President of El Salvador

Colonel Joaquín de San Martín y Ulloa was a Salvadoran military officer and politician who was twice chief of state of the State of El Salvador, within the Federal Republic of Central America.

Salvadorans, also known as Salvadorians, are people who identify with El Salvador in Central America. Salvadorans are mainly Mestizos who make up the bulk of the population in El Salvador. Most Salvadorans live in El Salvador, although there is also a significant Salvadoran diaspora, particularly in the United States, with smaller communities in other countries around the world.

Celso Piña Mexican singer-songwriter, musician, producer

Celso Piña Arvizu was a Mexican singer, composer, arranger, and accordionist, mainly in the genre of Cumbia, being one of the most important musicians in the style of "Cumbia rebajada".

Francisco Palaviccini was a Salvadoran composer and singer, also known as "Paquito" Palaviccini. Among his best known compositions are "Adentro, Cojutepeque", "Pasito tun tun""El Xuc", "El Carnaval en San Miguel", "Santa Ana mía", "El Café de mi tierra", "Usulután", and "Cocotero Sonsonateco".


  1. 1 2 Torres, George (editor) (2013). Encyclopedia of Latin American popular music. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood. p. 157. ISBN   978-0-313-34031-4 . Retrieved 12 June 2015.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. "Marimba Atlacatl - Central America (El Salvador, 1900s)". Canciones del Ayer (in Spanish). El Salvador: Canciones del Ayer. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  3. Benetiz, J. "De Tu Seno Hemos Nacido: Origins of Salvadoran Music". Archived from the original on 2015-06-28.
  4. ""Anastasio y los del Monte marcó todo lo que somos ahora"". Retrieved 2017-03-30.