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The History of Salsa Music
Salsa Dancing – The music originated from Cuba in the early 1930's. Its roots come from various African rhythms and the traditional Cuban music "Son". While it is definitely more than just Cuban, a large part of the dance originated on the island. The French who fled from Haiti brought the Danzón or the country-dance of England/France to Cuba. This dance began to mix with the African rhumbas such as Guaguanco, Columbia and Yambú. Added to this is the Són of the Cuban people, which was a mixture of the Spanish troubadour (sonero) and the African drumbeats. This type of syncretism occurred in other places like the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Puerto Rico, albeit not at the same grand level and manner as in Cuba.
There are many different styles of salsa dance that are influenced by their respective regions. What makes the salsa dance unique is its ability to absorb the many steps and turns from other dances such as the mambo, cumbia, hustle, swing, jazz, and other local dances. Uniting the all styles of salsa despite these differences is an underlying rhythmic frame established by the clave, a pair of smooth wooden cylindrical blocks. The salsa beat is formed when they are banged together enthusiastically in a sinuous 1-2-3 phrase. Everyone who dances salsa obeys the beat of the clave. As the famous veteran conga player Joe Cuba once said, "the Clave makes the world go round."
Since its birth, this Afro-Cuban rhythm has traveled throughout Latin America with major influences coming from both Puerto Rico and Colombia. Salsa was later brought to the United States with the Latino immigration to big cities such as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. With its sensual style and flashy turns, it is crossing cultural barriers and sweeping the nation from coast to coast.
The History Of Salsa Music
The roots of salsa music come from traditional Cuban music such as el Son, la Rumba, el Guaguanco and el Mambo. Musicians began to mix these music styles into one during the early 1950s. Before and around the time of World War II, the music traveled to Mexico City and New York. It was in New York where the term "Salsa" was created. In fact, the use of the word salsa for danceable Latin Music was coined in 1933 when Cuban song composer Ignacio Piñerio wrote the song Échale Salsita. According to the late Alfredo Valdés Sr. the idea occurred to Piñerio after eating food that lacked Cuban spices. This new style of music traveled to New York City from Cuba and Puerto Rico as Latinos began to migrate in search of a better life. Upscale nightclubs and dancehalls, such as "The Palladium", started to appear around Spanish Harlem and cater to New York City's Latino immigrants.
In the early 1960s, Fania Records began and commercialized this new style they dubbed "Salsa". Salsa quickly became popular among the dancers and local bands started switching their music styles. The pioneers of this new music immerged during this era such as Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, and the legendary Tito Puente.
Fania Records peaked in the 1970s by the success of salsa artists such as Cheo Feliciano, Ruben Blades, Hector Lavoe, Joe Cuba, Willie Colon, Frankie Ruiz, and El Gran Combo. During this time, Fania Records set up huge concerts in Madison Square Gardens featuring the best artists.
In the early 1980s, salsa music began to change as top artists swayed from the fast-tempo mambo beat to a slower rhythm. They called this new style, "Salsa Romantica". Artists such as Lalo Rodriguez, Ray de la Paz, "El Canario" Jose Alberto, Eddie Santiago, and Oscar De Leon led this new trend. The mid-1980s marked a dark period for salsa artists. Merengue, with its upbeat rhythm, started to become the norm and clubs began to play more of this music from the Dominican Republic. Local bands turned away from salsa and were forced to play more merengue in order to find work.
The 1990s marked a revival for salsa music. A new record label, RMM, began promoting a new energetic brand of salsa utilizing the elements of the original sound based on the mambo. Other artists such as the Buena Vista Social Club, Africando, and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars also started a revival of salsa from the original Cuban styles. New artists began to immerge and their innovated styles brought back the passion of salsa to the dancers. Artists such as Marc Anthony, India, Fruko, Los Van Van, Grupo Niche, Jerry Rivera, Victor Manuelle, Michael Stuart, and Dark Latin Groove pushed salsa back to popularity where it is today.
The metamorphosis of salsa to what is heard and danced in clubs today has been a long and slow process. Not one person or place can be attributed as the founder of salsa. Instead, the dance and music has evolved over time through an elaborate syncretism of different sounds, cultures, and meanings. For example, in much of today’s salsa you will hear the base of són and the melodies of Cumbia and Guaracha. You will also hear some old Merengue as well as some old styles mixed with modern beats. Salsa varies from place to place and from one song to the next. The diversity and complexity of the music is what keeps its listeners enticed, as well as delightfully surprised, and its dancers on their toes. This is the beauty of the salsa!!