09 Jul

Salsa music

 Salsa is an inspiring music that causes a response in the body for music lovers all over the world. It is highly rhythmic and energetic and always gets the dance floor packed in seconds. People sitting in their seats have to sway from side to side and groove along. First of all, salsa music is infectious and joyous and the music of fiestas! People go wild for Salsa music.

This music has its origins in Cuba and Africa. The first wave of Salsa was actually know as “Son” music. Son cubano  originated in the highlands of eastern Cuba during the late 19th century.

Instrumentation in Salsa music.

Classic Salsa music instruments are as follows:  The Tambora is a popular percussion instrument. Bato is another highly used instrument in Salsa. Clave, maracas, cowbell and bongo are all used a lot in salsa music.  Congas form the backbone of the music. The instruments and the vocalists very often imitate the call-and-response melodies of African songs. Other salsa instruments are: Guitar, vibraphone, bass, violin, piano, accordion, marimba, flute. Furthermore, a brass section of trombone, trumpet, and saxophone. As of late, in modern salsa, electronics are added to the mix.

The rhythmic basis.

Similarly, Salsa music has a basic “clave” rhythm grouped in the following way |1-2-3| 1-2  |. Likewise in the opposite order: |1-2| 1-2-3 |. Samba is not just limited to one rhythm or group of instruments. The tempo is usually up, and the energy is frantic. In any Sydney Recording Studio this energy is essential.

There are different kinds of salsa. Salsa dura is popular in Colombia. Romantica is huge in Mexico. Merengue is another type of salsa.

Where Salsa Began.

Salsa music began in Cuba. Another school of thinking says that salsa is a newer version of older, traditional Afro-Cuban forms. Furthermore, these schools conclude that the origin is in Cuba. This is worthwhile knowing when you walk into a Sydney Voice Over studio.

The reality is that the wave of popularity surrounding Salsa (and the name itself) actually began in New York in the 1960’s. Salsa music developed there over about a decade. It was imported by Cubans and Puerto Rican musicians.

Some old school musicians say that Salsa is not even a style. An expert inside a recording studio will affirm this. Tito Puente was not convinced it was a style. He was asked about his thoughts on the music and simply replied: “I’m a musician, not a cook.”

Development and birth of Salsa.

Between 1930 and 1960  musicians from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and South America journeyed to New York to try their luck in the music scene. They brought their own cultural rhythms. They bought traditional forms and as they listened to each other they mixed and matched styles.

In this way, in the 1950’s the combining of various styles with Cuban “Son” music led to the classic Mambo sound. As a result, mixing of styles lead to the various categories we know today as cha-cha, rumba, conga, and Salsa

Back and forth collaboration.

Above all, this musical collaboration went both ways. The music went back to South America, Puerto Rico, and Cuba and continued to develop there. It progressed differently in each location. Today we have Cuban salsa (timba), Puerto Rican salsa, and Colombian salsa (dura). Each style has the classic, forward moving energy that is the cornerstone of Salsa, but they also have their unique cultural sounds from each country.

Origins of the name

The spicy salsa sauce that is eaten in Latin America is added to give food zing. Similarly disk jockeys, radio announcers, bandleaders, and musicians were yelling “Salsa” as they were introducing a particularly energetic music to a program.

While this is reminiscent  of  Celia Cruz  who would shout, “Azucar,” meaning “sugar,” to inspire the crowd at her own concerts. The word “Salsa was used to spice up the music. Tito Puentos words are quite ironically appropriate!

What’s in the lyrics?

Salsa music lyrics range from basic dance calls and catch phrases, to sentimental romantic songs, to sexy and politically divisive material. Isabelle Leymarie states that salsa musicians and writers incorporate machoistic bravado (guapería) in their words. This is similar to those found in calypso and samba.  Guaperia is a theme she ascribes to the lyricists’ “humble backgrounds”. Leymarie states that the music is “essentially virile, an affirmation of the man’s pride and identity”. Similarly, manly taunts and challenges (desafio) are also a part of salsa.

Above all, Salsa lyrics often incorporate traditional Cuban sones and rumbas. As a result, there are also references to Afro-Cuban religions, such as Santeria, even by artists who are not adherents to these faiths. Many Salsa lyrics also show Puerto Rican origins. Similarly Hector LaVoe used typical Puerto Rican form in his singing. It’s not unusual to hear the Puerto Rican exclamation “le-lo-lai” in some songs.

Political motivation

Furthermore, Politics and Social Activism have long been an important part of salsa lyricism. Consequently Eddie Palmieri wrote many songs in his recording studio in this vein. His “La libertad and lógico” became Latin, and Puerto Rican anthems.  Ruben Blades  is appraised for his socially-conscious salsa lyrics. Ruben wrote about many topics from imperialism to disarmament. He is from Panama. His classic and well composed songs have resonated with audiences throughout Latin America. Ruben is an example of a very sophisticated type of Salsa writer. Hence, his songs are far more than just dance catch phrases. Not only the lyrics, but the music also is very composed and though out in an orchestral way. Similarly, other salsa lyrics contain a nationalist theme, centred around a sense of pride in Latino identity. Finally, Salsa lyrics may be in Spanish, English or Spanglish. Spanglish is a mix of Spanish and English.

Salsa music began in Puerto Rico.

Similarly Cumbia began in Colombia.

Tango began in Argentina.