May 25, 2018 / 6:40 PM

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Zumba: Bringing Latin Music to New Listeners in the United States and The World Over


Latin music has found a way to branch out from exclusively Latin buyers, and they did it by going to the gym. Zumba, the dance-aerobics class developed in 2001 in Florida, has helped many a participant stay in shape, and get hooked on Latin music in the process. 

Zumba Fitness cofounder and CEO Alberto Perlman said that the exercise program turns people onto a style of music they don't actively search out, and therefore might not find otherwise. Case and point: his mother. 

"My mom loves Pitbull, and she loves Pitbull because of Zumba class," Perlman said. "She would never, ever have heard Pitbull on the radio because she doesn't listen to those stations, but because of Zumba class, she's listening to him and I'm like, 'Mom, stop singing Pitbull songs.'"

Pitbull may have a burgeoning career outside of Zumba, but many artists are realizing the potential for the workout program to promote their own music. Don Omar's "Zumba" and Daddy Yankee's "Limbo" are both popular on the Zumba circuit, and remain high on the Billboard Latin charts as a result. Perlman described the relationship with artists like Brazilian pop vocalist Claudia Leitte as symbiotic. Leitte's music propels the Zumba market in Brazil, so the company returns the favor by using her music in the United States, or other markets where it might not otherwise reach. 

"We have to concentrate on the verse, the chorus, the bells, the drums - anything in the song we can use" Perlman said. "And that makes people have to think about the song while they're taking the Zumba class. And that's why after the class, they always go up to the instructor and say, 'What was that song that you played?' and they start singing it. And the instructor says, 'Oh, that's Claudia, that's Victoria, that's Sean Paul.' And that drives a lot of sales on iTunes, views on YouTube, social media mentions."

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