Music of El Salvador. Getting to know Salvadoran Music

Music of El Salvador
Salvadoran Music and Dance. Photo by @fotospresidencia_sv

The music of El Salvador is a result of the combination of colonial times Spanish influence with Mayan, Pipil, Lenca, and Cacaoperaa indigenous culture and modern sounds. The music of El Salvador is historically related to past events and everyday activities. This music help Salvadorans remember past nostalgic moments with family or friends doing ordinary daily things.

Salvadoran Music and Dance
Salvadoran Music and Dance.

Getting to know the Music of El Salvador

The principal aspects of Salvadoran music are happy, upbeat, and romantic. This music is divided into many areas that include religion, traditional, classic, and modern. Traditional Salvadoran music includes religious songs and songs that describe El Salvador’s history and culture.

Religious music is mainly Roman Catholic and is used to celebrate special occasions such as Christmas and municipality’s festivities that honor their respective patron saints.

Traditional music used to portray colonial times is performed on special occasions such as independence day and municipality celebrations honoring colonial heritage and history.

Classical Salvadoran music includes Folk Music, Xuc, and Marimba. This music is composed using drums, flutes, rattles, and Xylophone. Modern Salvadoran music includes cumbia, hip hop, salsa, and reggaeton.

Marimaba. Folkloric Music of El Salvador

Marimba is considered the traditional or Folkloric music of El Salvador. It is played alongside classical Salvadoran dances that aim to show the culture of El Salvador.

African slaves introduced the Marimba style and its most popular period was in the 1920s and 1930s. It is played with a percussion instrument that has piano intonations.

Two well-known marimba songs worth listening to better understand Salvadoran music are El Carbonero and El Torinto Pinto.

Traditional Marimba expresses the integral part of the social fabric, family, and the community. Marimba Centroamericana was one of the marimba bands popular in El Salvador and abroad.

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.” Wikipedia.

Chanchona Music

Chanchona music originates from the eastern region of El Salvador, San Miguel, La Union, and Morazan. Chanchona is an upbeat style of music with lyrics that describe country life, love, and the struggles of working in rural El Salvador.

The traditional instruments for playing Chanchona Music are guitars, violins, and double bass. Nowadays, cowbells, congas, and other musical instruments are added to the mix to produce tropical sounds parallel to cumbias.

In 2022, Chanchona music continues to be popular in eastern El Salvador. This music is always played on religious holidays and municipality events.

A popular Chanchona group worth knowing is “Los Hermanos Lovo,” this musical group immigrated from Morazan and settled in the Washington DC area. Click here to view a Smithsonian video about this Salvadoran group.

Los Hermanos play country music with roots in the rural, eastern region of El Salvador, although the group’s members themselves put down roots in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. more than a decade ago.”

Chanchona Music
Playing Chanchona Music. Photo by Ingrid Mariela

Zafacaite Music

Zafacaite music originates from the Chalatenango department in the northern part of El Salvador. It is a fast-paced musical rhythm played by a duo or trio with a guitar, accordion, and violin.

The term Zafacaite is a combination of two words, Zafa (to loosen) and Caite (a Salvadoran sandal made out of auto tires rubber).

It is called Zafacaite because the fast and complex foot stepping done when dancing to this music tends to make one’s shoes fly off.

Salvadoran Tropical Music “Cumbia, Salsa, Merengue”

Salvadoran Tropical music, which includes Cubias, Salsa, and Merenge, is a staple in Salvadoran culture.

This type of tropical music is upbeat and gets played during national holidays and family gatherings or celebrations.

Some of the most popular Salvadoran music groups famous internationally are La Orquesta San Vicente, Los Hermanos Flores, El Grupo Bravo, La Maquina, and Banda Laser.

Other Music of El Salvador

El Salvador has locally recognized heavy metal, punk, reggae, and electronic dance musicians. However, they mainly play at small local venues.

Salvadoran music has had numerous songs that have gained notoriety locally and internationally. The following songs are some of them!

1. Nada se Compara Contigo by Alvaro Torres

Alvaro Torres is a Salvadoran singer who has achieved great recognition outside El Salvador. He has been producing music since the 1980s. One of his prominent songs is “Nada Se Compara Contigo” or “Nothing compares to you.”

2. Mentiras by Marito Rivera

Mentiras” or “Lies” is a song by Marito Rivera that will remain for immortality as one of the biggest hits in Salvadoran Music.

3. El Sombrero Azul by Salsa Clave

El Sombrero Azul” or “the Blue Hat” is an iconic song dedicated to Salvadoran culture. The song is a dedication to those Salvadorans that work under the blue sky that serves as a hat to the country.

4. La Bala by Los Hermanos Flores

La Bala” or “The Bullet” by Los Hermanos Flores is a popular song that gets played a lot during Christmas and other family gatherings. This classical song was created in the 1970s; since then has been copied by other artists.

5. La Chica de Humo by Rene Alonso

Rene Alonso is another Salvadoran singer that has produced long-lasting musical hits. Alonso started with the “Espiruto Libre” musical group and left to start his own group called “Rene Alonso y Su Banda Laser” one of his most recognized hit is “La Chica de Humo” or “the smoke girl.”

6. A mi me Gustan las Pupusas by Espíritu Libre

A mi me Gustan las Pupusas” by the lost lasting group Espíritu Libre is a dedication to Pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador. The title of the sang in English is “To me, I like Pupusas.”

The six songs listed above are just a small number of great music produced in El Salvador. The country has plenty of other musical groups or musicians that create or have created fantastic music.

Alvaro Torress El Salvador
Salvadoran musician Alvaro Torres.

Salvadoran Music

The Music of El Salvador features the different cultures that have been mixed among its people throughout its extraordinary history. If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to Salvadoran Music, head to YouTube and listen to good Salvadoran music.