Latin America has a great diversity of musical forms and styles, and the region has given the world a wealth of musical innovation. Contemporary global music would be far different without the contributions of Latin American artists. Latin composers have also made contributions to classical and avant-garde music. But it is Latin America's popular music that has had the greatest impact. Reggae, salsa, and Latin jazz are just a few examples of Latin musical styles.

Some Latin American pop artists have gained worldwide fame. The Brazilian musicians Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim led the bossa nova movement in the 1950's and 1960's. Bob Marley, a Jamaican musician, popularized reggae in the 1960's. Ricky Martin, from Puerto Rico, became one of the most popular pop singers of the late 1990's and early 2000's. The Colombian-born singer and songwriter Shakira has sold millions of records worldwide. Her English- and Spanish-language pop songs are influenced by rock music and by her Colombian and Lebanese background. Milton Nascimento and Caetano Veloso, two popular Brazilian musicians, have won worldwide recognition.

Archaeologists know that music was important to precolonial people, but they know little about how this early music sounded. Such traditional instruments as the panpipes (a kind of flute) have made their way into modern Latin American music. African music also influenced music in Latin America. Calypso from Trinidad and the bossa nova of Brazil are just two of the kinds of music that reflect a strong African influence