Music » Local Music Profiles

Your guide to Indy's Westside Latin scene


  • Ted Somerville

Here's a sampling of genres you're likely to hear if you spend a night in the Latin music clubs on Indy's Westside. Read our cover story on the scene in English and in Spanish.

Bachata (Dominican Republic) 

Bachata's roots date back to the early 20th century. The style was born in the Dominican countryside from a mix of influences, including Cuban bolero, Mexican son and a variety of other guitar-based Latin music. With its gracefully delivered, stately melodies and austere instrumentation (guitar, bass, bongos and guiro), bachata harkens back to a simpler era in music, before the influence of synthesizers, drum machines and auto-tune. Despite its traditional leanings, bachata is wildly popular, not just in its home country of the Dominican Republic, but throughout all of Latin America and right here in Indy too. On just about any night of the week, you can find a club spinning the Dominican sound somewhere in Indianapolis
Recommended artists: Anthony Santos, Romeo Santos, Prince Royce

Banda (Mexico) 

The term banda refers to the large brass-based music ensembles of Mexico. The development of banda music in Mexico was influenced by the influx of German immigrants in the late 1800s. While banda groups play a variety of musical styles from boleros to rancheras the influence of German polka remains a strong part of the banda sound. Banda music has maintained a strong traditional sound; a typical modern banda ensemble includes brass, woodwind and percussion. Banda is one of the most popular styles of regional Mexican music in Indianapolis and the genre's stars make frequent appearances at clubs like Chispas and El Venue. 
Recommended artists: La Arrolladora Banda El Limón, Banda El Recodo, Banda Los Recoditos

Corrido (Mexico) 

Rapper Chuck D once famously called hip-hop "the black CNN." In Mexico during the 1800s and early 1900s, corridos served a similar purpose. The narrative poetry of corrido songs transmitted information about important social and political events of the day. Today, a wildly popular subgenre of corrido music known as narcocorrido examines the stories of Mexico's infamous drug cartels.  
Recommended artists: Chalino Sánchez, Gerardo Ortiz, Larry Hernandez

Cumbia (Colombia, Mexico) 

The cumbia rhythm was imported to Colombia from West Africa via the slave trade during the 1800s. As the music developed in Colombia it absorbed influence from Spanish and indigenous Colombian traditions. In the 1900s cumbia spread throughout Latin America and today it's one of the most widely listened to forms of music in the Americas. Distinct regional styles of cumbia are found throughout North and South America. In Indianapolis the most commonly heard form of cumbia is sonidera, a distinctly Mexican variant of cumbia connected to DJ sound system culture.
Recommended artists: Celso Piña, La Sonora Dinamita, Andres Landero

Duranguense (Mexico, United States) 

You could say duranguense is a modernized form of of Mexico's traditional banda music. Duranguense bands have replaced banda music's elaborate horn sections with an arsenal of synth sounds - and they also quickened the tempo for the dancefloor. Unlike most other genres represented on this list, duranguense was developed here in the United States during the late '90s – in Chicago to be exact. But the sound caught on in Mexico and duranguense has become a staple sound in Mexican popular music. It's also wildly popular in local clubs and gets plenty of airplay on local Latin radio.
Recommended artists: K-Paz de la Sierra, Alacranes Musical, Grupo Montez de Durango

Latin hip-hop (Latin America) 

As the name suggests, Latin hip-hop is a catch-all term used to describe regional Latin American variations of rap music. In the United States artists like Big Pun and Cypress Hill brought Latin hip-hop to mainstream attention.
Recommended artists: Ana Tijoux, Control Machete, ChocQuibTown

Merengue (Dominican Republic) 

This genre is a fast-paced dance music combining African and Spanish elements that developed in the Dominican Republic during the 1800s. Merengue takes many forms in the D.R., from rural, traditional accordion-based sound of típico, to the contemporary modern style of mambo.
Recommended artists: Johnny Ventura, Wilfrido Vargas, Milly Quezada

Norteño (Mexico, United States) 

Like banda music the accordion led ensembles of norteño draw heavy influence from traditional German waltzes and polkas. Norteño music has been very influential on the Mexican-American style known as tejano or Tex-Mex music.
Recommended artists:Los Tigres Del Norte, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Los Rieleros del Norte 

Punta (Guatemala, Honduras, Belize) 

A blend of African and indigenous Caribbean ancestry, the Garifuna people of Central America have become famous for their vibrant form of music and dance called punta. The intensely percussive sound of punta exemplifies one of the best-preserved African music traditions in the Americas. Punta's roots stretch back over 300 years, but the modern form of the music began developing about 30 years ago. 
Recommended artists: Kazzabe, Andy Palacio, Los Silver Star

Reggaeton (Puerto Rico, United States, Panama, Cuba) 

A blend of Jamaican dancehall, American hip-hop and a variety of Latin influences reggaeton developed in Panama during the early 1990s. The birth of the genre was directly influenced by Shabba Ranks 1991 release "Dem Bow." 
Recommended artists: Tego Calderón, Vico C, Daddy Yankee

Rock en Español (played across Latin America) 

From punk to metal to psychedelia, rock music enjoys tremendous popularity throughout Latin America.
Recommended artists: Café Tacvba, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Manu Chao

Salsa (Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, United States, Venezuela) 

One of the most popular forms of dance music in the world, salsa was created in New York during the 1970s from a fusion of Cuban and Puerto Rican Afro-Latin rhythms.
Recommended artists: Willie Colón, Celia Cruz, Joe Arroyo

Tribal Guarachero (Mexico) 

Triball is newest genre of music on this list. It's a form of electronic dance music that combines heavy electro synths with pre-Hispanic Mexican rhythms. Tribal began as an underground club music in Mexico City during the early 2000s, but started attracting international attention in 2010 in the city of Monterrey when a group of three teenaged producers formed the breakout group 3Ball MTY.
Recommended artists: 3Ball MTY, Alan Rosales, DJ Mouse


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