SALSA MUSIC

Salsa music is a popular dance music genre that initially arose in New York City during the 1960s. Salsa is the product of various musical genres including the Cuban son montunoguarachacha cha chámambo, and to a certain extent bolero, and the Puerto Rican bomba and plenaLatin jazz, which was also developed in New York City, has had a significant influence on salsa arrangers, piano guajeos, and instrumental soloists.[5]

Salsa is primarily Cuban son, itself a fusion of Spanish canción and guitar and Afro-Cuban percussion, merged with North American music styles such as jazz. Salsa also occasionally incorporates elements of rockR&B, and funk.[6] All of these non-Cuban elements are grafted onto the basic Cuban son montuno template when performed within the context of salsa.[7]

The first salsa bands were predominantly Cubans and Puerto Ricans who moved to New York since the 1920s.[8][9][10] The music eventually spread throughout Colombia and the rest of the Americas.[11] Ultimately, it became a global phenomenon. Some of the founding salsa artists were Johnny Pacheco (the creator of the Fania All-Stars), Celia CruzRay BarrettoRubén BladesWillie ColónLarry HarlowRoberto RoenaBobby ValentínEddie Palmieri, and Héctor Lavoe.

Salsa as a musical term

Salsa means ‘sauce‘ in the Spanish language, and carries connotations of the spiciness common in Latin and Caribbean cuisine.[13] In the 20th century, salsa acquired a musical meaning in both English and Spanish. In this sense salsa has been described as a word with “vivid associations”.[14] Cubans and Puerto Ricans in New York have used the term analogously to swing or soul music. In this usage salsa connotes a frenzied, “hot” and wild musical experience that draws upon or reflects elements of Latin culture, regardless of the style.[15][16]

Various music writers and historians have traced the use of salsa to different periods of the 20th century. Max Salazar traces the word back to the early 1930s, when Ignacio Piñeiro composed “Échale salsita”, a Cuban son protesting tasteless food.[17] While Salazar describes this song as the origin of salsa meaning “danceable Latin music”, Ed Morales describes the usage in the same song as a cry from Piñeiro to his band, telling them to increase the tempo to “put the dancers into high gear”.[18] Morales claims that later in the 1930s, vocalist Beny Moré would shout salsa during a performance “to acknowledge a musical moment’s heat, to express a kind of cultural nationalist sloganeering [and to celebrate the] ‘hotness’ or ‘spiciness’ of Latin American cultures”.[18] World music author Sue Steward claims salsa was originally used in music as a “cry of appreciation for a particularly piquant or flashy solo”.[14] She cites the first use in this manner to a Venezuelan radio DJ named Phidias Danilo Escalona;[14][19] In 1955 Cheo Marquetticreated a new band called Conjunto Los Salseros and recorded some new songs ( Sonero and Que no muera el son ).In 1955 José Curbelo recorded some others salsa songs (La familia, La la la and Sun sun sun ba bae). The contemporary meaning of salsa as a musical genre can be traced back to New York City Latin music promoter Izzy Sanabria:[20]

In 1973, I hosted the television show Salsa which was the first reference to this particular music as salsa. I was using [the term] salsa, but the music wasn’t defined by that. The music was still defined as Latin music. And that was a very, very broad category, because it even includes mariachi music. It includes everything. So salsa defined this particular type of music… It’s a name that everyone could pronounce.[21]

Sanabria’s Latin New York magazine was an English language publication. Consequently, his promoted events were covered in The New York Times, as well as Time and Newsweek magazines. They reported on this “new” phenomenon taking New York by storm—salsa.[22]

But promotion certainly wasn’t the only factor in the music’s success, as Sanabria makes clear: “Musicians were busy creating the music but played no role in promoting the name salsa.”[23] Johnny Pacheco, the creative director and producer of Fania Records, molded New York salsa into a tight, polished and commercially successful sound. The unprecedented appeal of New York salsa, particularly the “Fania sound”, led to its adoption across Latin America and elsewhere.

Globally, the term salsa has eclipsed the original names of the various Cuban musical genres it encompasses. Ironically, Cuban-based music was promoted more effectively worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s by the salsa industry, than by Cuba. For a brief time in the early 1990s a fair number of Cuban musicians embraced the term, calling their own music salsa Cubana.[24] The practice did not catch on however.

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