Latin  •  Latin America


The word "bolero" usually conjures up images of fiery Spanish dancing, or memories of French composer Maurice Ravel's classic piece of the same name. But, as a Latin American musical style, the bolero is a romantic, sentimental ballad that's given highly emotive performances. Couples can still dance to its sensuous beat, but the bolero is most often described as the Latin equivalent of a torch song. Bolero, in its Latin American form, first appeared in the Cuban city of Santiago around the end of the 19th century; the legendary vocalist Beny Moré did much to spread bolero's popularity around the rest of Latin America during the '40s and '50s. The music took especially strong root in Mexico, where most norteño and mariachi groups still devote at least some portion of their repertoires to the style. Artists like Trio Los Panchos (with their tight three-part harmonies and intricate guitar work) and Agustin Lara, who followed in Moré's immediate wake, are generally regarded as the peak of Mexican bolero. However, the '90s witnessed a full-fledged bolero revival, spearheaded by Colombia's Charlie Zaa and Mexico's Luis Miguel, both young pop stars who could make their music resonate with young people accustomed to pop ballads as well as older listeners who still loved the classic style.