History of Salsa
Salsa is sweeping the world today with salsa congresses. Dance clubs, dance teams. Whether in the US, Latin America, Europe or Asia salsa is connecting the world with the Afro Caribbean beats. The origins of salsa music are as diverse and mixed as the cultures that are embracing it and adding their own style.
The roots of salsa come from the African Slave Trade. Musicians played the conga and other percussion instruments as a spiritual calling to the gods during a time of struggle. Once musicians came to the Caribbean, the African sound was the background for a dance called the rumba incorporating body isolations and creative footwork.
The dance developed the French who fled from Haiti brought the Danzon or country dance of England/France to Cuba. This dance merged with African rumbas, such as, Guanguanco, Columbia and Yambu. Added to this is the Son of the African drumbeats. Moreover, the clave was introduced to the music which is the backbone of salsa music.
As prohibition in the 20’s emerged, Americans fled to Cuba and the son was popularized and traveled to Mexico City and New York. It was in early 1930’s New York where the term “salsa” was coined by a Cuban composer Ignacio Pinerio after he ate bland food that need some spice or sauce. Salsa became a nickname for a variety of Latin influenced music including the rhumba, Son, Mambo, Montuno, Guarcha and more.
The 40’s started the Mambo craze with Perez Prados orchestra sounds that incorporated brass and the sax. He called the sound “Mambo” as a conversation to the gods with vocal sounds interspersed with calls like Dilo! (Say it) or Mambo! which is played in his famous song Mambo Number 5. 1947 through the 50’s also brought the height of The Palladium in NYC offering the first diverse crowd and big band sounds of Tito Rodrigues, Tito Puente and Machito. Dancers moved to the music in their own creative style (not on one or two as today).
When the Palladium closed in 1966, the Crystal Ballroom opened and a young Puerto Rican dancer named Eddie Torres hit the scene as the slot style began. Eddie took to the floor and started to follow the clave beat on 2 with lessons for all dancers.
1970’s: Salsa Explosion
Latin music exploded and brought in new forms of dance like merengue but with the popularization of the hustle, salsa became a closed frame partner dance with classes and workshops teaching the style. Eddie Torres became a master of the On 2 with dance teams and video instruction.
As the dance developed, so did the music and marketing. Fania Records marketed the term salsa for its music genre. Icons like Issy Sanabria created a magazine called Latin NY with his own Latin music TV show. The first Salsa awards celebrated greats like Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Ray Barretto and more.
1980’s – Present
Through the 80’s, 90’s, and till today, salsa has taken on new forms and now fuses with hip hop and other cultural influences. The music with its African rhythms and electrifying sounds are being taken to new heights. Who knows what is next? From the conga drums to the sound today, salsa continues to bring the world together in its own language
Here are some CD’s that every salsa lover should have in their collection:
- Sonora Carruseles Heavy Salsa
- El Gran Combo 30th Anniversary
- Salsa Fresca Compilation
- Rough Guide to Salsa Volume One and Volume Two
- Spanish Harlem Orchestra
- Oscar D’Leon, The Best Of Oscar d’Leon
- Willie Colon: Idilio
- Hector Lavoe: Periodico De Ayer
- Victor Manuelle: Llore Llore
- Spanish Harlem Orchestra: Llego La Banda
- El Gran Combo: Guaguanco De Gran Combo