Sirius Coyote Music | Latin American Music
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Latin American Music




Giovanni Ciarlo, Dennis Waring and Kathleen Sartor
All rights reserved

Click here to hear musical samples


Workshop Programs offered by Sirius Coyote
NEW RESIDENCY PROGRAM: "My Latin America Trip"
Ethnic Music Background -The Americas
Partial song list from which Sirius Coyote performs.


Activities for the Classroom
High School Honors Activities
The Amazon Rainforest

Connecting to the Curriculum
List of Musical Instruments from Latin America
The Seven Levels of Intelligence
Young Audiences of Connecticut
Connecticut Commission on the Arts
Sirius Coyote's Web Page Links
Other Related Web Sites


The Amazon River system, though not the only important river system in Latin America, is unquestionably among the mightiest found anywhere in the world. Fed by the Andes Mountain range from the Pacific west, it stretches about 4,000 miles across South America to the Atlantic Ocean resulting in the processing of over one fifth of the earth's fresh water. With its over 200 tributaries, the Amazon covers an area nearly as large as the United States.

Historically, the Amazon and other river systems have provided an entry way into otherwise impenetrable remote rain forests. Gaining entry has led to the introduction of large scale farming, ranching and the processing of timber, all of which have begun to create ecological difficulties. These highways have further opened rainforests to encroachment by outsiders.

We know that the Amazon is one of the most important single ecosystems in the world and is necessary for running the earth's climatological clock. The Amazon and other rainforests help make the earth=s environment habitable. Unfortunately, some industries have turned a blind eye to these issues and are harming this natural system. With cooperation from groups sponsored by the United Nations, the Brazilian government has begun to find alternative methods of agricultural management which are economically and environmentally sound.

The world must also consider the plight of hundreds of native peoples who, having lived in the rainforests for thousands of years, are being bulldozed into oblivion by powerful corporations. Even now, as when Columbus arrived, diseases brought from outside-- against which native people have no natural defense--continue to decimate their population. Many native people have been killed outright. Cultures are being disrupted and destroyed at an alarming pace.

Tribal groups such as the Yanomami have begun to organize politically and are in a race with the Brazilian government and world community to protect their way of life against greedy land grabbers and encroaching settlement. Though change seems inevitable, preservation efforts will hopefully help maintain native tradition and heritage while at the same time easing these groups into the modern age.


HUEHUETL: Large three legged drum from Mexico used in Aztec dances.

BOMBO: Large drum from South America with skins on both sides.

TEPONAZTL: Log drum from Mexico made out of hollow log.

FURRUCO: Large friction drum from the Andean regions of Peru.

CUICA: Small friction drum from Brazil used in Samba music.

TORTUGA: Turtle shell used as a two tone drum.

CARACOL: Conch shell cut to sound like a trumpet.

SONAJAS: Rattles made from gourds, seeds, bones or other objects.

AYOYOLES: Ankle shakers made with seed pods.

MARACAS: Rattles made from small gourds filled with pebbles.

PALO DE LLUVIA: Rainstick made of bamboo filled with pebbles.

GUIRO: Rasping instrument made by cutting grooves on long gourds.

CLAVES: Hardwood sticks used to cue the rhythm section.

CAMPANAS: Metal bells (Cowbell, Agogo), one or two tones.

CONGA: Afro-Caribbean drum with metal tuners.

BERIMBAU: Stringed bow from Brazil of African origin.

CHARANGO: Hybrid stringed instrument made on an armadillo shell.

GUITARRA: Nylon string guitar of Spanish origin.

OCARINAS: Clay whistles used in North and South America.

CHIRIMIAS: Reed flutes used in Mexico by the Aztecs and Maya.

QUENA: Vertical flute producing five tones used by the Incas.

PANDERO: Tambourine used in Brazilian and Puerto Rican music.

SURDO: Brazilian large drum used for zamba and in parades.

CAJON: Wooden boxes of various sizes played with the hands.

ATABAQUE: Large conga drum used in Brazilian candomble music.

TAMBORA: Two sided barrel sized drum used in the merengue.

XICAHUASTLI: Aztec rattles made of hollow wood or gourds.

CAXIXI: Woven basket rattle used widely in Brazil.

MARIMBULA: Four tones thumb piano used in Caribbean folk music.

QUIJADA: Bone rattle made from a horse's jaw with loose teeth.

CHEQUERE: Large Caribbean gourd rattle with outer woven beads.


Preparing students: Teachers should explain to the students that they are about to hear some very unusual, but fun, music from another place and culture very different from what they hear every day on the radio or TV. This is a live performance. Not only will the music be different, but they will also see and hear instruments they may never have seen before. The central theme is Latin America and the Caribbean. The music will take them to the rainforest, mountains, cities and oceans of Latin America. There will be a lot of participation, but they should be very respect full and follow directions. The songs will mostly be in Spanish, but there will be plenty of English translations and explanations of the songs.

  • Ask them to pay close attention to every detail so that they can later write, draw or tell about it in class or to their parents and friends.
  • Introduce the topic of Latin America in social studies, language or other areas of the curriculum. Use a map and photographs to orient the students.
  • Invite the music, art and media specialists to work with you on a Latin American theme.
  • Send out letters to parents and guardians so they are informed about the program.
  • Ask the artists for their permission to take photographs for educational purposes.
Behavior: Students should know that when they are in a concert there are certain specific ways to act. They must know how to listen, get involved when asked, be critical of what they see and hear, and most of all not distract their friends or the artists during the performance.

After the Performance: Display photographs and other students work done before and after the concert. Discuss the performance with the students and ask them to evaluate/criticise the concert.

Correspondence: Students are invited to write to the artists and send drawings, stories, critiques and other writings they do after the performance. When possible and appropriate the artists may write back a form letter to encourage their interests.
Send work to:

Sirius Coyote Music
P.O. Box 811
Watertown, Connecticut 06795

e-mail us

Follow up: Please save any notable work produced by the students after the performance so that it can be documented. Display some of the work in the halls, classroom or media center so that parents will see it and talk about it when they visit the school. If you can compile some of their work and send it to the artists they may start a correspondence with the students.

Some questions to ask:

  • What was the performance about?
  • Did anything particularly stand out from the performance?
  • What words would you use to describe the music?
  • What words would you use to describe the musical instruments the artists used?
  • What did it make you think and feel?
  • Can you make up a story based on what you saw, heard and felt during the performance?
  • How did you relate to what the artists said about their music and work?
  • What questions would you want to ask the artists?

High School Honors Reflection Paper

After the performance ask students to write a short reflection paper on their experience in listening and participating in the program.

I. Students: Choose a part of the performance that particularly interested you. Imagine that you could invite a student of your age from one of the countries mentioned in the performance and have that student spend time in your home. Consider the following questions:
  • What country or area would you choose? Why? (If you do not want to use one of the countries mentioned in the performance, use the country of your own heritage.)
  • What would you want to know about the music of that country or about the history of that music?
  • What would you hope to learn? What would you want the other person to learn about the music of your country and its history?
  • How would you describe your reaction to the music of this country? What features do you like best (rhythm, harmonies, texture, instrumentation, stories told, etc.?)
  • Would the other person be familiar with the folk music of your country? What would you tell them about it?
  • Do you see the influence of other cultures on the music of your country? If so, where?
II. This is a creative assignment with a good deal of choice in areas of interest. Students do not need to answer all the questions above, but should:
  • Write a cohesive assay of at least 4-5 paragraphs (introduction, explanation of their choice, main idea, and conclusion), no more than 2 pages in length, reflecting some part of their experience.
  • Find out about the country they are researching; use at least one reference and include a bibliography. Check the internet if they can and list the web sites visited.
  • Find one example of the music they are interested in and listen to it. Relate this music to that which they listen to every day. Does it relate? If so, how?
III. Students: After completing the assay, reread the assignment and give yourself a grade for how well you have fulfilled the criteria. This grade and your rationale for it will be considered in your final evaluation.
Be sure to use one reference source and to cite your source in your bibliography. If you are unsure os the bibliography form to use, check with your English teacher or the school librarian.


Art and Crafts:

        Formal Elements: Learn how the formal elements of art and crafts (color, line, shape, texture) contribute to the meaning:
        Color: What colors come to mind from the music and culture of Latin America ?

        Which are warm and cool colors?

        How does color, line, shape and texture help tell a story?

        Have students practice making brown and tan colors of every shade using only primary colors and white.

        Art projects: Ask the students to draw the landscape of their own culture, their home or their neighborhood while listening to their parents' or grandparents' music at home.

        Show students how to make a musical instrument.

        Have students interview their parents and grandparents about their roots, religion, music, dances, customs, environment where they grew up, etc.

        This exercise will teach them interpersonal skills, which Howard Gardner mentions as one of the basic intelligence. They will practice interviewing methods, and skills useful in getting to know another person. What are their attitudes about the people they interview before and after their assignment? Any attitudinal change?

Language Arts:
        Diversity: Select a song or poem by a Latin American author and distribute it to the students with a vocabulary sheet. Go over the meaning with the students. Read it out loud with the whole class. Rehearse a few student volunteers to read before the group and over the school's P.A. system. Find work that has been translated so you can do this in both languages.

        Storytelling: Use a family photograph or a picture to tell a story set in Latin America. Have the students put on music while telling their stories. Remind them to use the elements of place, characters, purpose, actions (beginning, middle and ending)

        Have students make-up their own measuring system.
        Have them design a musical instrument using mathematics.
        Understand the way rhythm is notated like a fraction.
        Have them find the population density of each country in Latin America and calculate the percentage of people living in each country. Percentage of indigenous population. Land mass. Percentage of Rainforests area.
        Media Specialists may show how to conduct research via the internet or display books, CD-ROMs, biographies, recordings, stories, etc. about the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.
        Music teachers may want to get involved in educating the students about the many different musical styles of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Social Studies:
        Geography: How does the geography of Latin America compare to regions of the US. and other parts of the world?

        History: Do a unit focused on the history of the Native Americans (North and South). How does the history of Latin America compare to the history of North America?

        Diversity: The Americas today is a region made up of people from all over the world. What has each group contributed? Explore culture as a result of people's food, religion, rituals, celebrations, art and music. What happens when two or more cultures meet?

        Explore the notion that "a diverse ecosystem is a healthy ecosystem." How do we affect our ecosystems? Can we make them sustainable (use them to meet our needs today without taking away from the needs of future generations)?



1. LINGUISTIC INTELLIGENCE This is the ability to understand and use words to fashion ideas and convey complex meanings.

2. LOGICAL MATHEMATICAL INTELLIGENCE This is the ability to classify, order, tally, reason and sequence. This category of intelligence and its value in our culture has exploded during the 20th century.

3. MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE This is the ability to understand the world and give information back to the world by using and/or understanding sound.

4. BODILY-KINESTETIC INTELLIGENCE This involves the ability to understand the world through the body, use tools with precision and timing, to express ideas and feelings, and actually communicate to others physically.

5. SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE This is the ability to understand the world in three dimensions.

6. INTERPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE This involves the ability to understand, perceive and discriminate between peoples moods, feelings, motives and intentions.

7. INTRAPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE This is the ability to know the self, to have an accurate reading of one's own internal landscape.


All human beings posses all seven intelligences. Most people have the ability to develop every intelligence to a higher level. The intelligences are always interacting with each other in complex ways. There are many ways to be intelligent within each area



Athey, Lois 1987 Latin America. Globe Book Company, Inc. New York.

Bateman, Penny 1994 The Aztecs. Thames and Hudson Inc., New York, N.Y.

Bergman, Billy 1985 Hot Sauses: Latin and Caribbean Pop. Quatro Books: NY

Behague, Gerard 1977 Music of Latin America: An Introduction. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Bellber, William and Montanez, Marta 1981 Canciones De Mi Isla. Dorsey Brothers Music: New York

Bruchac, Joseph and Caduto, Michael J. 1988 Keepers of the Earth. Fulcrum, Inc. Golden Colorado.

Child, Jack 1994 Introduction to the Geography of Latin America and the Caribbean. Gesseler Publishing Co. Roanoke Virginia.

Delpar, Helen 1974 Encyclopedia of Latin America. McGraw-Hill. New York.

George, Luvenia A. 1978 Teaching the Music of Six Different Cultures. BookCrafters, US.

Gerard, Charlie and Marty Sheller 1989 Salsa: The Rhythm of Latin Music. White Cliffs Media.

Kubler, George. 1993 Cities of Latin America Since Discovery. University of Delaware Press.

Lester, Julius 1991 Black Folktales. Groves Press, Inc. New York.

Lockhart, James and Schwartz, Stuart B. 1983 Early Latin America. Cambridge University Press. NY

Mauleon, Rebeca 1993 Salsa Guidebook For Piano and Ensemble. Sher Music Co. Petaluma, California.

Roberts, John Storm 1979 The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States. Oxford University Press: New York and Oxford.

Sayer, Chloe 1990 Arts and Crafts of Mexico. Thames & Hudson Ltd.,London.

Tenebaum Barbara A., ed. 1996 Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. Charkes Scribner's Sons, New York.

Peter Bakewell 2004 A Hitory of Latin America. 2nd ed. Blackwell Publishing. (Upper level High School)

Dr. Paul B. Goodwin, Jr. 2003 Global Studies: Latin America. 10th ed.  McGraw-Hill/Dishkin, Guilford, CT (Middle and high school starter)

Alfred W. Crosby Jr. 2003  The Colombian Exchange: Biuological and Cultural Consecuences of 1492. Praeger Publishers. (Upper level HS)


Enemies of War by Ester Cassidy (57 minutes)
Looks at the brutal civil war of el Salvador through the eyes of a combatan's wife and a U.S. Congressman.

If the Mango Tree Could Speak by Patricia Goudvis (58 minutes)
Story of ten boys and girls who grew up in middle of war in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Palenque: Un Cnato by Maria Raquel Bozzi (48 minutes)
Every day life in San Balio de Palenque, Colombia where descendants of African slaves practice their ancient traditions.

The Garifuna Journey by Andrea E. Leland and Kathy L. Berger In colaboration with National Garifuna Council (46 minutes)
Story of the Garifuna people's resistance to slavery in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica. Shot in Belize.

The Long Road Home by Andrea E. Leland (30 minutes with study guide)
Follows a 19 year old Mayan refugee from his home in Chicago to a Guatemalan refugee camp in Mexico.



Handbook of Latin American Studies.

The Cultural Heritage for Community Outreach (CHICO) provides cultural, social, historical, economic and political information for high school studies.

Dr. Merry Merryfield's Online Modules of web sites arranged by region to procide introduction to culture into the classroom.

Latin World is a Great search engine for studying the Caribbean and Hiberoamerica.

Zona Latina is a good place to start for students doing research on current events in Latin America.

Best source of ideas and activities on the environment for elementary grade students.

CLACS: Center for Latina American and Caribbean Studies-University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.


The Incas and their Descendants Introduction to the Inca People of Latin America.

Rainforest Education Provides virtual tours of much of the larger rainforests in the world.


Order CDs online


Biographical Information

Sirius Coyote in Concert

Sirius Coyote's Multi-Cultural Workshops

Catalogue of Handcrafted Musical Instruments 

Visit our Ecovillage in Mexico




Sirius Coyote
P.O. Box 811
Watertown, Connecticut 06795

or email us