Description of the Salsa
Salsa is a dance and a musical style with deep Caribbean and African roots. It's very popular in almost all Latin America, and among Latino communities in the United States. In recent years, this dance has also gained popularity in Europe and in Asia. Maybe you've already seen it, or even tried it yourself.
The salsa rhythm is widely recognized for being catchy, sensual, and easy to learn, yet very difficult to master. There are several academies throughout the world dedicated to teaching this dance at different levels of difficulty. There are even worldwide competitions dedicated to salsa, such as the World Salsa Championship and the World Salsa Open.
Characteristics of the Salsa
Salsa music is Afro-Caribbean in its beginnings, though it has been adapted by Latin jazz musicians to meet the tastes of the current popular music, with contemporary pop, rock, and R&B also added to the mix. Salsa dancing features break steps, spins, showy performance moves and drops, and solo moves called “Shines,” a term borrowed from the world of tap dancing. Salsa music features a complex clave driven rhythm with exuberant horns and percussion sections (with cow bells and timbales) as well as a powerful vocalist.
Time signature – 4/4
Tempo – 40 - 55 measures per minute
Timing – 123(4)
Beat value is 1-1-2
The origins of salsa date back to the 1900s in Eastern Cuba, where musical elements and rhythms from various styles were combined. Cuban son and Afro-Cuban rumba, the two main styles, used diverse musical instruments to create the basis of a rhythm that would later become known as salsa.
Almost 50 years went by before this new rhythm reached Havana. There, salsa absorbed influences from other local Cuban music and from American jazz and continued to evolve. Due to the Revolution in Cuba, many musicians relocated to the United States, especially to New York City. Among the Hispanic community, these musicians found an ideal environment to develop their rhythm into what we know as salsa today; this was especially true in ''El Barrio'', also known as Spanish Harlem.
The definite rise and jump to fame of salsa happened thanks to Fania Records, a record label established in 1964 by musician Johnny Pacheco and Italian-American lawyer Jerry Masucci. This label became extremely famous, producing one huge hit after another. Many of the artists who signed with this label are now regarded as legends of salsa, particularly the team of ''Fania All-Stars''. This group included celebrities such as Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, and Rubén Blades, among others.
Fania Records edited the rhythms which originated in Cuba and gave them a sound that was catchier and more easily accepted by the New York Latin market. To better merchandise their music, Fania called this new sound salsa.
Salsa music is a mix of different Caribbean rhythms and instruments; that diversity provides its unique sound. Salsa dance has similarly evolved and adapted over the years to better suit the tastes of different localities, leading to the creation of different regional styles of salsa. Some of the most popular regional styles are:
Salsa Casino (Cuban style)
Salsa Casino (Miami style)
Cali style (Colombian Salsa)
Rueda de Casino
New York style
Considering such a variety of cultures in Latin America contribute to the vast diversity of styles in salsa, it's only natural that the musical instruments used also change a bit from style to style. A mix of instruments is used in each regional style. The most common percussion instruments are bongos, congas, timbales, maracas, and cowbells. Among the string instruments, we see the bass guitar, guitar, piano, violin, and electric guitar. The trumpet, trombone, flute, and saxophone are brass instruments commonly used.
The influence of salsa grew rapidly to become popular all over Latin America and within Hispanic communities worldwide.