History Of Salsa

The History of Salsa is still debated who invented it?, where does it come from?. Two Countries are the centre of this debate Cuba and Puerto Rico. The truth of the matter is that salsa has and will always continue to have a great number of influences that have each played a large part in its evolution.

CUBAN ORIGINS

Cuba established its identity by combining the influences of its entire population -white, black, and mulatto. Music played an important role in the formation of such an identity. The genre that was to succeed in creating a fusion of white- and black- derived musical features was the son, which subsequently came to dominate the culture not only in Cuba, but most of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean as well.

The ‘son’ originated in eastern Cuba during the first decades of the 20th century. From the start it represented a mixture of Spanish-derived and Afro-Cuban elements. The basic two-part ‘formal’ of the son has remained the same from the 1920s to the present, and the vast majority of salsa songs (which Cubans would called son or guaracha) also follow this pattern. 

Another development that occurred in the 1940s was the invention of the mambo. Essentially, the mambo was a fusion of the Afro-Cuban rhythms with the big-band format from Swing and Jazz. Although bands in Cuba like Orquestra Riverside were already playing Mambo-style in the 1940s, the invention of the Mambo is usually credited to Cuban bandleader Pérez Prado, who spent most of his years in Mexico and elsewhere outside the island. Bandleaders like Beny Moré combined Mambo formats with son and guaracha (a similar up-tempo dance genre). The Mambo reached its real peak in New York City in the 1950s, where bands led by Machito and the Puerto Ricans Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez incorporated Jazz-influenced instrumental solos and more sophisticated arrangements. With Prado based chiefly in Mexico and the New York mambo bands developing their own styles, Cuban music had begun taking a life of its own outside the island and the stage was set for the salsa boom of the 1960s.

PUERTO RICAN INFLUENCES

From the early 1800s until today, Puerto Ricans have avidly borrowed and mastered various Cuban music styles, including the Cuban danzón, son, guaracha, rumba, and bolero. Indeed, the richness of Puerto Rican musical culture derives in large part from the way it has adopted much of Cuban music, while contributing its own dynamic folk and contemporary popular music. Puerto Rico should not be regarded as simply a miniature Cuba, especially since genres like the seis, bomba, and plena are distinctly Puerto Rican creations, owing little to Cuban influence in their traditional forms.

Since the 1920s Puerto Rican music has been as much a product of New York City as the island itself, due to the fundamental role the migration experience has come to play in Puerto Rican culture. As a result, Puerto Rican culture can not be conceived of as something that exists of only or even primarily in Puerto Rico; rather, it has become inseparable from “Nuyorican/Newyorican” culture, which itself overlaps with black and other Latino subcultures in New York and, for that matter, with mainland North American culture as a whole. 

By the 1940s, Nuyoricans like the late ‘timbalero’ Tito Puente and vocalist Tito Rodriguez had become the top bandleaders and innovators, and the Latin dance music scene in New York came to outstrip that on the island. (Even today, there are more salsa bands and clubs in New York than in Puerto Rico).

SALSA THE DANCE

Salsa is listened to and danced internationally due to the growth of the dance form. Many Salsa Festivals, Congresses, Parties, Concerts are held world wide hosting international Salsa teachers/dancers, and musicians. 

Salsa is danced using a eight beat rytthm over two bars of four beats. Various styles have developed from this ie Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian etc.. Currently the most popular forms of Salsa in the uk are the Cross body Style derived from America breaking on the first or second beat. Then the Cuban style. Salsa Dancing has developed over the years from its previously known name ‘Mambo’.

The mambo dance first appeared in the United States in New York’s Park Plaza Ballroom – a favorite hangout of enthusiastic dancers from Spanish Harlem. However, the real breakthrough for the Mambo came when it gained its excitement in 1947 at the Palladium which was located in downtown Manhattan. The Palladium opened its doors as a club for whites only. However business was poor and so a Spanish music promoter named Federico Purgani was able to persuade the club owner to book latin music. He agreed but for Sunday matinees only. It opened its doors to Puerto Ricans and Cubans and became a rare spot where whites, blacks, and latinos could come together. From the doors of the palladium, the music and dance style known as the Mambo took America by storm. The palladium era were the glory days of Mambo and the nights were filled with the rhythms of the three Mambo Kings Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puete and Machito. Both of the Tito’s brought a Puerto Rican influence to mambo music and also their fusion of jazz into the Afro-Cuban sound added another wonderful layer of complexity paving the way for a new flavor of latin music that would be later called “Salsa”. 

Pallad ium Mambo and cha-cha was the progenitor of Salsa but is still quite different. It had a lot more open work and the dancers dance on all different beats. There was no dancing on1 or on2 and there was no formalised technique. Dancers of different backgrounds such as ballroom, tap, jazz and swing all danced the mambo a their own way. 

May 1966 marked the end of the palladium era as the nightclub closed its doors and the big 3 found their new home inside The Corso. Mambo music was played almost every night of week and it was here that a young Puerto Rican man named Eddie Torres learned how to dance the mambo by watching the dancers in the club. By this time, The mambo had already evolved into a slot dance and the cross body lead was there.

The 1970s gave rise to merengue, early forms of hip hop, disco and the hustle. 

1973 A Puerto Rican named Izzy Sanabria launched a tv show call ed “Salsa” along with Latin NY Magazine and in 1975, Latin NY Magazine hosted it’s first ever Salsa Awards. Coverage of this event by the N.Y. Times, News-week and Time magazine generated worldwide interest in what seemed to be a new form of music. Some musicians protested the term “salsa” complaining that Izzy was merely putting a new label on Cuban music but in many ways, it was new and had evolved to something unique in its own right. 

What was originally of African Cuban origin had found a home in America and adopted by the Latino community of New York. Innovations made by Puerto Rican musicians such as Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe transformed Afro-Cuban based music to a unique New York Latin Music. Modern salsa is something that was evolved here through the fusion of different cultural influences making what some might consider a home grown American phenomenon. So in a nutshell, africans were brought over to Cuba as a result of the slave trade. Their music blended with that of the cubans and a marriage between the clave and african drums was now formed. Mambo came along much thanks to Perez Parado who took it to america, he introduced the big band sound by adding brass instruments and Americans loved it and so began the glory days of mambo, innovation by New York’s puerto rican musicians added a element of jazz and the sound of the pianos. The music was transformed into what Izzy Sanabria labeled as salsa. 

Pereze Parado spiced up Danzon and taught a new more energetic dance called the mambo. The mambo came to the U.S. and incorporated elements of ballroom, swing, jazz, and tap while preserving it’s latin steps. In the 70s, the influence of the partner-work aspect of the hustle left it’s mark on the mambo and was brought off the street and into the studio in the 1980s by Eddie Torres and was now called the salsa. 

The history tells a story of a style of dance that is really a fusion of many different cultures and the dance continues to evolve this way today, with the newer generation mixing in components of hip-hop, belly dancing, and adding lifts and aerial moves from ballroom and swing. So now that you know the awesome rich kick ass history of salsa dancing, you’ll be able to go out and dance as a informed individual but more than just filling your head with knowledge and turning you into a salsa brainiac, I hope that this has helped you gain a new appreciation of our awesome spicy saucy dance known as salsa!

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