Music of Panama

Panama is a Central American country, inhabited mostly by mestizos (persons of mixed African, European and indigenous ancestry), with a small minority of Africans. Only independent from southern neighbor Colombia since 1903, Panama's national identity has been quick to assert itself. The culture of the Azuero region in the west has come to dominate the country.

With salsa and Colombian cumbia often dominating the chart's, Panama's own popular music has had to struggle to survive. A distinctive vocal style dominates the music, which is said to derive from Sevillians of African descent who arrived in the early 16th century. The most important native instrument is the mejorana, a five-stringed guitar used to play songs called torrentes.

A folk dance called tamborito is very popular. Danced by men and women in costumes, the tamborito is led by a cantalante, a female lead singer, who is backed by a clapping chorus that sings four-line stanzas of copla (a lyrical form related to Spanish poetry) as well as three drums. A somewhat similar genre called congo is popular among the black communities of the eastern coast; it distinguished by using upright drums and wild, lascivious movements and lyrics. Jamaican immigrants have brought mento and calypso music as well. Closely related to its more well-known Colombian cousin, Panamanian cumbia (cumbia panameña), especially amanojã and atravesao styles, are domestically popular. Another important music is punto and the salon dances like pasillo, danza and contradanza.

References

  • Broadbank, Robin and Nigel Gallop. "Dancing Between the Oceans". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 477-480. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

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