CUB_ musicians_Peter Noyce_freewithcredit
Music recommendations from the Journey Latin America team: these albums are perfect either to recapture holiday memories or to get yourself well and truly into the mood for a trip you’ve yet to take.

Few things capture a feeling better than music: it’s amazing how a well-chosen record can seem to transport you straight back to a place or time.

At Journey Latin America there’s nowhere we’d rather be transported to than the South American countries we know and love, so as you can imagine our favourite Latin albums are rather well-worn. From amongst that large collection, here are the ones we would most recommend to you – perfect either to recapture the mood of a holiday you’ve already taken, or to get yourself into the Latin rhythm ahead of a trip you’ve yet to take. 


The world music label Putumayo have an excellent selection of Latin American compilation albums, covering a broad range of styles including salsa, tango, bossa nova, rumba and cumbia. If you aren’t already familiar with Latin music, this could be a great starting point.


Whether referring to a sauce or a genre of music and dance, the Spanish word salsa has marvellously spicy connotations! Musically, salsa is actually a relatively new term for a style of music that evolved out of the Cuban son and mambo rhythms, with African and jazz influences. It’s an infectious beat sure to put a wiggle into even the most British of hips.

Joe Arroyo y La VerdadRebelión (1999)
Hailing from Cartagena, Joe Arroyo was a Colombian vocalist and a legend of the salsa and tropical music genres.
Recommended by David Nichols, Product Manager

The Latin Brothers – Sobre Las Olas: The Best of the Latin Brothers (1999)
The essential collection of sizzling salsa from Colombian salsa outfit The Latin Brothers.
Recommended by Jenny Powles, Marketing Manager


Trova music, of which the most famous form is the bolero (comparable to a romantic ballad), is markedly different in style to salsa, though they both sit side by side at the casas de la trova (music halls) that can be found in almost any large Cuban town. Visiting at least one is a must while in Cuba.

Silvio RodriguezAl Final de Este Viaje (2004)
Silvio Rodriguez is a leading figure in Cuba’s nueva trova movement, which follows in the musical traditions of trova music but differs in content, often being overtly political. Al Final de Este Viaje represents Silvio at his best and most lyrical.
Recommended by Nicola Gude and Mary Anne Nelson, both Travel Consultants


The music and dance of tango famously have their origins in the dockyards and brothels of Buenos Aires amongst immigrant communities, and were consequently viewed as distasteful until tango arrived in Europe care of Argentine sailors and became an almost instant phenomenon. For a time it was immensely fashionable both in Europe and Argentina, where the ‘golden age of tango’ was epitomised by the singer Carlos Gardel – whose tragic death in an aeroplane crash in 1935 sealed his fate as a national icon. 

Today tango is enjoying a real resurgence, not only in the dance halls of Buenos Aires where young people are returning to milongas in droves, but also in recording studios, where innovative groups such as Gotan Project have added a modern twist to the spine-tinglingly passionate melodies of traditional tango.

Carlos GardelPor Una cabeza (1935)
Gardel’s tango standards are essential listening for anyone looking to understand the Argentinean psyche.
Recommended by Joaquin Dedomenici, Travel Consultant

Gotan ProjectLa Revancha del Tango (2001)
Gotan Project are an international troupe blending tango with electronica and modern jazz. Sultry, stylish and sophisticated yet accessible, this early album is the perfect introduction to their blend of updated tango. 
Recommended by Malcolm Parkinson, Travel Consultant


Much of Latin music is informed in one way or another by jazz, a category which indeed overlaps greatly with others in this list. Jazz is a natural fit for the vivaciousness of Latin music and can be heard all over Cuba and Brazil in particular.

Baden PowellTristeza on Guitar (1966)
Baden Powell de Aquino, so-named thanks to his father’s enthusiasm (perhaps over-enthusiasm) for scouting, was a guitar virtuoso from Rio whose mastery of the instrument is delightfully showcased in this definitive work.
Recommended by Natalie Paiva, Travel Consultant


Bossa nova is a smooth fusion of samba and jazz that sprung up in the stylish neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro and quickly went on to become one of the most recognised sounds of South America. The global fame of an early bossa nova track, The Girl from Ipanema, was never surpassed, but there’s no question that the genre did evolve and grow – eventually providing all the ingredients for the next big thing in Brazilian music: MPB (Música Popular Brasileira). 

Astrud GilbertoThe Very Best of Astrud Gilberto (2002)
This super introduction to bossa nova features The Girl from Ipanema along with other classic tracks.
Recommended by Claire Milner, Client Information Manager

Joao GilbertoChega de Saudade (1959)
This was the very first bossa nova record (the title track was the first song composed in the style) and has lost none of its freshness in the half-century since its release, which was met with delight and acclaim.
Recommended by Diego Vigliani, Manager, Tailor-made Holidays

Vinicius De Moraes, Toquinho and Maria BethaniaEn La Fusa / En Mar del Plata (1971)
Two live albums featuring three of bossa nova’s greatest stars at their musical peak.
Recommended by Angela Fernandez, Accounts Administrator

Caetano VelosoLivro (1998)
Caetano Veloso’s brand of bossa nova is flavoured with lyricism and unexpected texture.
Recommended by Sarah Beard, Group Tours Manager, and Claire Milner, Client Information Manager

Fernanda PortoFernanda Porto (2002)
A highly-commended example of the Drum ‘n’ Bossa genre – a lively mix of bossa nova and electronica.
Recommended by Megan Parkinson, Travel Consultant


Música Popular Brasileira or MPB is a broad term for post-bossa Brazilian music, incorporating influences from a wide variety of genres including samba, rock, pop and jazz as well as bossa nova. For many Brazilians, the advent of MPB is remembered as the moment when the country found its collective voice and a truly individual sound was born.

Elis ReginaEssential Elis Regina (2004)
Elis Regina’s song Arrastão is generally considered to have lit the touch paper of the MPB movement. Brazil’s answer to Edith Piaf, Regina was one of the most respected singers of her generation but lived a life of excess that was extinguished at the age of just 36, sending shockwaves throughout Brazil. This posthumously-released compilation showcases her magnificent voice at its best.
Recommended by Claire Milner, Client Information Manager

Gilberto Gil – Gilberto Gil Unplugged (1968); Eu, Tu, Eles (2002) 
With a career spanning nearly 50 years and remarkable musical latitude, Gilberto Gil is hard to categorise but impossible to leave out of any list of Latin America’s great music icons. Gil’s melodic, playful style imbues all his music with a signature sound, though his work draws from an eclectic mix of influences.
Recommended by Claire Milner, Client Information Manager

Milton NascimentoMilton (1976)
The classic album by highly acclaimed singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento, known for his distinctive falsetto.
Recommended by Claire Milner, Client Information Manager

Vanessa da MataSim (2007)
Drawing influence from many of Brazil’s musical greats, Vanessa da Mata’s music is soft and seductive with an unmistakably Brazilian soul.  
Recommended by Julia Ross, Marketing Executive

Daniela MercurySol da Liberdade (2000)
A much-loved album from the enormously popular MPB star, whose musical territory also encompasses the energetic axé genre typical of Bahia.
Recommended by Alexandra Walker, Travel Consultant


Forró is a style of country music from the northeast of Brazil. It is traditionally played with nothing more than an accordion, a drum and a triangle, and is tremendous fun to dance to.

Jackson do PandeiroMillennium (1999)
A compilation of hits by Jackson do Pandeiro, one of the foremost figures of forró.
Recommended by Laura Rendell-Dunn, Marketing Executive


The folkloric music of Latin America has provided many of the sounds with which the region is associated – from the haunting Andean melodies of Peru to the lively cueca of Chile.

Folk music took on an unexpected importance in Latin America during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s, when it became a vessel for protest against the brutal military dictatorships that characterised much of the political landscape. It was in this context that the nueva canción (“new song”) movement emerged as an immensely powerful force despite the persecution faced by its stars – many of whom were subjected to exile, torture and even disappearance.

Mercedes SosaAl Despertar (1998)
A magnificent and important album from "La Negra", an indigenous Argentine folk musician who gave a voice to the voiceless – and what a voice it was.
Recommended by Diego Vigliani, Manager, Tailor-made Holidays

Inti-IllimaniAntologia en Vivo (2003)
A live collection by the Chilean folk group Inti-Illimani, a potent force in the nueva canción movement whose music conjures up archetypal images of the Andes.
Recommended by Ben Line, Senior Travel Consultant


Despite Jamaican origins, reggae really took off in Caribbean Latin America, where it fused with a dancehall beat to create a new form known as reggaeton. Similarly Latin artists have carved out their own niche in the hip-hop genre.

OrishasA lo Cubano (2000)
Even if you aren't normally a fan of hip-hop you may be pleasantly surprised by Orishas, the Cuban hip-hop troupe putting a melodic spin on the genre. Fidel Castro is a fan. 
Recommended by Ben Line, Senior Travel Consultant

Daddy YankeeBarrio Fino (2004)
The break-out hit from reggaeton sensation Daddy Yankee. 
Recommended by Nigel Vaughan, Web Master


The modern-day music of Latin America is often influenced by global music trends, but always has an undeniable Latin flavour.

Carlos VivesLa Tierra del Olvido (1995)
This record is a great introduction to Carlos Vives’ enjoyable brand of Colombian pop. Also has a plausible claim to the title of world’s most ridiculous album cover.
Recommended by James McAllister, Ticketing Manager

BacilosCaraluna (2000) 
Bacilos was a Colombian group regarded as pioneers of ‘Rock en Español’, and Caraluna is their most acclaimed work.
Recommended by Eamonn Devine, Travel Consultant

NovalimaCoba Coba (2008)
Novalima are an Afro-Peruvian outfit from Chincha, the centre of Peru’s black community. Their exciting fusion of genres has resulted in a unique sound.
Recommended by Ben Line, Senior Travel Consultant

So did you recognise any familiar favourites? Or did we miss something that you really think should be included? Let us know in the comments!

Tailor-made holidays

Flexible, custom-made holidays to Latin America created to match your exact requirements: our tailor-made itineraries are as unique as the clients for whom they are designed.

Design my trip