The popular folkloric music in Panama is called típico, also known as “pindín”. This music is said to be derived from the Sevillians of African descent who arrived in the isthmus in the early 16th century. Some of the instruments used are the guiro and conga, but the accordion is by far the most important in creating the distinctive sound of típico. This instrument is the main attraction of every típico music performance in a country which prefers Caribbean-accented rhythms.
In the Azuero Peninsula, a region in Panama known as the “Cradle of Panamanian Culture”, early Vallenato music was combined with the salomas, a type of yodeling typical in Panama, and típico was born. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, many típico artists from Las Tablas and Chitré to David and Santiago performed at nearly all of the festivals and became local celebrities. However, in Panama City, típico was considered “cholo” or redneck music.
With the help of the late revered típico icon Victorio Vergara and other talented artists, típico boomed in the 1990’s and today is a centerpiece of Panamanian culture. Some of the most popular típico artists today include Ulpiano Vergara, Samy y Sandra Sandoval, and Nenito Vargas y Las Plumas Negras.
Ulpiano Vergara was born in San José, Las Tablas, and is considered to be the most popular current típico artist. Ulpiano is not known for vocal contributions to his songs, however he is famous for his talent with the accordion. A popular song by Ulpiano is “Mil Maneras de Olvidarte”.
Samy y Sandra Sandoval are a brother and sister duo from Monagrillo, Herrera. At an early age, Samy began playing the accordion and Sandra accompanied him with vocals. They began performing on stages in their native Herrera and slowly began to gain momentum in other provinces like Coclé, Chiriquí, Veraguas and Los Santos. The pair has risen in popularity due to the sensual style of dancing combined with the Afro-Caribbean and pop rhythms infused in their music. A hit song by the duo is “Dale Donde Más le Duela”.
Nenito Vargas y Las Plumas Negras is also a very popular típico group, however their success has been overshadowed by their rocky and tragic history. Nenito took over the group after the late Victorio Vergara, who was known as “El Tigre de la Candelaria”. Despite the deaths of a few of the group members, Las Plumas Negras has been able to compose popular songs such as “No Sé Por Que no le Gusto”.
Típico is the music most often played throughout Panama, including places such as taxi cabs, cantinas or bars, and other public places and events. It can often be heard blaring from a car radio as it speeds by just like Americans would blast hip hop, and most Panamanians could sing a majority of the songs in their sleep. Because of the upbeat rhythm and rich lyrics, it’s no wonder people of all ages in Panama prefer típico over merengue, bachata, salsa, and other latin music genres.