Music in Paraguay is just as diverse and flavorful as the culture, food and history of Paraguay. Music in South America is often a way of life, and Paraguay is no exception. Tourists traveling through Paraguay will find that the citizens of the country use music to express happiness, sadness and every emotion in between. They also use music to celebrate birth, death, marriage and everyday living.
In Paraguay, the most popular musical style is a form called Guarania. This music is practiced mostly in the more urban areas of Paraguay, such as Asuncion and Itapua. Guarania was created to reflect the suffering and turmoil of Paraguay. Guarania was created in the 1920s and is characterized by a slow melodic beat and minor keys. Guarania has a sad, slow feel to it, and is popular in streets while tourists and locals shop. It’s also popular on urban Paraguay radio. In urban areas, there’s also a budding jazz market. Though small, several jazz clubs exist in urban Paraguay.
The less populated countryside derives much of its music tradition from a more conservative aspect. When Spanish settlers came to Paraguay, the fast native Guarani beats mixed with European polka. The result was Paraguay Polka, with both ternary and binary beats. Rural farmers and villages have a term for this style: Purahéi Jahe’o. Urban youth in Paraguay look down on this genre, while rural youth place more value on the traditional music style.
Another less popular but relevant musical style in Paraguay is called zarzuela. This style incorporates orchestral arrangements, acting, opera and dancing. Traditional zarzuela shows are common in the urban areas, where locals and tourists watch as a novelty. Tourists should try to catch a show of this musical style, as shows are offered several times a week in Asuncion.
In 1989, when Paraguay was liberated from dictatorship, several rock bands rose in Paraguay. Continuing to today, local urban youth of Paraguay are keeping rock alive in South America. Paraguay rock is fast and melodic, much like the Purahéi Jahe’o. Famous rock bands of today are Ripe Banana, Area 69, Paiko and Nod. In the countryside, rock is much rarer and you probably won’t experience very much there.
Many Paraguay youth are taught either Spanish-style guitar or Paraguayan harp from an early age. A Paraguayan harp has 38 strings and has been produced within Paraguay since the 1550s. The style of Paraguayan harp playing is distinctive to the region.
Slow, careful and meticulous Paraguayan harp playing must be experienced in person to truly describe its value! Meanwhile, Paraguayan Spanish guitar is one of the most exported musical styles of Paraguay and is enjoyed by many foreigners. The predominance of Spanish guitar radio in the country will give the tourist a very good idea of Paraguay’s musical flavor.
As you trek through the cities and more rural parts of Paraguay, be prepared to notice very different styles of music that reflect both the culture and social aspects of Paraguay. Paraguay’s rich history is reflected in its diverse musical tradition.