In the mid 1980s, house music started to expand its sound palette by incorporating several different musical styles other than disco. An early product of this sonic diversification, Latin house emerged when DJs in Latin America like Jesse Velez started incorporating Latin rhythms and Spanish vocals in their house mixes.
The percussive sound of Latin house comes directly from traditional African and South American indigenous music, with a structure and tempo reminiscent of deep house. Latin house makes heavy use of bongos, shakers, cowbells, and a host of other percussive instruments with vocal and horn arrangements found in Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, and African music.
At around 120 bpm, the rhythm of Latin house is very danceable with minimal swells and brief drops. Funky horns and harmonious vocals are usually found in Latin house, but the defining feature is the presence of distinctive percussion instruments, either in the main beat or during breakdowns.
Jesse Velez – “Girls Out On The Floor”
New York, 1985
Jesse Velez used a dry tom tom sound to create a stripped down bouncy rhythm on “Girls Out On The Floor”.
Proyecto Uno – “Todo El Mundo”
New York, 1991
Dominican-American group Proyecto Uno masterfully blends the sounds of the Dominican with classic house rhythms to help popularize latin house beyond New York.
C+C Music Factory – “Robi Rob’s Boriqua Anthem”
New York, 1994
The inclusion of extremely funky horns and what sounds like an analogue-recorded ancient goat bell are just a couple of the elements that make this a classic latin house track.
Sancocho – “Tumba La Casa”
New York, 1996
Syncopated vocals and super catchy hooks land on a hard house beat with an arrangement that oscillates between a bare-bones rhythm and full-blown Latin arrangement.
Quantic & Nickodemus Feat. Tempo & The Candela Allstars – “Mi Swing Es Tropical”
New York / Cali (Columbia), 2008
New York’s Quantic teams up with Cali’s Nickodemus and Puerto Rico’s Tempo & The Candela Allstars for a slightly slower incarnation of latin house.
Los Compadres – “La Rumba”
New York , 2010
Norty Cotto, a producer at NYC-based latin house label Cutting, was responsible for “La Rumba” as well as several latin hits dating back to the 90s; including “Tumba La Casa”.