Chanchona music, a style local to eastern El Salvador, is a spirited folk music played with violins and an upright bass. PRI's The World recently introduced listeners to chanchona music with a story about the group Los Hermanos Lovo who play the folk music. It is a music for joy and partying they say:
Chanchona music comes from eastern El Salvador, from the three, largely rural departments of Morazan, La Union, and San Miguel. The name “chanchona” literally means “sow,” – it’s a nickname for the heavyset upright bass that anchors chanchona groups. Many groups, Los Hermanos Lovo included, are made up of extended family, and the music is passed down from parents, aunts, and uncles.
The music’s roots probably stretch back to the early 20th century. In the ‘50s and ’60s, radio spread Colombia’s infectious cumbia music throughout Latin America. Chanchona music picked up cumbia’s distinctive, two-step rhythm.
That chanchona music kept its joy through the 1980s and 90s in El Salvador is remarkable. A civil war engulfed the country, and it was most brutal in the east of the country – called the “Oriente.” Sheehy says that, in fact, chanchona music sometimes created a bridge between the two warring sides. “In eastern Oriente where the civil war was the fiercest, there were moments of extraordinary peace,” Sheehy says. “There were radio DJs in San Miguel–the capital of one of three provinces or departments that make up the eastern part of El Salvador—who told me a story about a dance celebration where a lot of people didn’t realize the presence of leftist guerillas and also people from the armed forces–from the right politically–and they intermingled, played and had a great time. And everybody loved the music of chanchona; that was a force that brought people together.” (more).
This Smithsonian video interviews Los Hermanos Lovo and offers some of their chanchona music: