Rhythms of Panama

Rhythms of Panama

Gabriela Pedrotti 2020-11-11 12:47:15

Just as the mix of cultures is reflected in the local gastronomy, so do the musical rhythms. It is well known that there is nothing better than a delicious meal paired with good music during any celebration; this is the perfect match to brighten and cheer up any special occasion. Music is the link that unites and creates empathy to make couples dance, and why not, it is the beat that defines our lives.

Different rhythms invaded the continent during the colonization and Panama’s narrow Isthmus has not been the exception, with the massive transit of people who were populating the continent, music also came. This is how the original inhabitants had flutes, maracas, turtle shells, small and rudimentary drums, and heavenly voices among their instruments. With continuous rhythms of short notes, monotonous bars that were mostly used for shamanic ceremonies.

Spaniards brought the guitar, which over time, local luthiers transformed into “mejoranas”, a native instrument, as well as castanets and drummers with more serious rhythms, versions of ballroom dancing. On the other hand, Africans came to the continent with their drums that used to fill up full moon nights at the traditional “palenques” or wooden houses with their rhythms of joy and regret, celebrating both life and death.

The magic of musical syncretism that occurred throughout the continent, in Panama has not been an exception. We have “tipico”, a vernacular rhythm with its characteristic instruments: accordion, guitar, mejorana, drums, as well as its amalgamated rhythms that make the feet move. As the main dance we have “punto”, great-great-grandson of a ballroom dance similar to a minuet, as well as the traditional “salomas”, an unspoken language of the country man. We also have the native African rhythms known as "Congo", a sensual and hypnotic rhythm that will take you from the heart of Africa to Panama. The rhythms of the Caribbean coasts and the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, such as “calipso” and “socca” were brought from Jamaica. All these rhythms and dances together make of Panama a melting pot of cultures and music.

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