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History  of Salsa

Below is a general synopsis of the history of Salsa.  For a detailed insight into Salsa's history, check out David Ortiz's Music Notes.

 It's impossible to say the whole history of Salsa here, there would not be enough space on this server to say it, so a short HISTORY OF SALSA is provided.

During the early 1970's, a new kind of rhythm could be heard playing in New York.  The name “Salsa” was given to it.

It is not known how Salsa got its name or who named it.  Never before was this word used to denote a type of music, although the term “sabor” which means flavor, was used to indicate any type of music that had a really good beat.  Perhaps that is where it originated.

In the November 11, 1966, issue of Bohemia magazine, there is a caption under a photo of a singer that says: Pedro Gomez in full salsa.  Young musicians from different districts and other Latin nuclei in New York started producing innovating Latin music with jazz and a mix of instruments used in a new way, keeping classic Cuban rhythms as a base, especially “son.”

“Salseros” or salsa musicians such as Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Willie Colon, Ray Barreto, Ricardo Rey and Bobby Valentin from New York, and later, Mon Rivera, Roberto Roena, Cheo Feliciano, Hector Lavoe, Rafael Itier, Andy Montañéz, Pellin Rodríguez , Ismael Miranda, Ismael Rivera from Puerto Rico and many others including Americans like Larry Harlow started playing this new beat.

At first, salsa took two forms. One, over the Cuban son base with songs that reflected sorrow or joy.  The other, with old sones or old Cuban songs that mixed with the new instrumentation.  Both forms coexisted and both innovated the orthodox Cuban instrumentation; parting from the musical form of the group, but reinforcing its classical percussion of bongo and tumbadora, with the paila. This was done in Puerto Rican orchestras, but not Cuban; or it used bongo or paila but not both.  This percussion trio converted itself into something consistent of the salsero movement.

The old base many times was substituted for the electronic base and the major change was in the metals; the two or three trumpets of the classical group was substituted for two trombones and a trumpet.

As a result, the salsero group had a sound that was much stronger than the traditional Cuban.  The “tres” gained importance in salsa and later so did charangas salseras, which could be distinguished for not respecting the classical traditions of the Cuban instrumentation.  Charangas with trumpets and salsa orchestras with flute emerged.

Salsa is a musical form that was created in New York with something new added to the Cuban base. This new musical movement emerged with its commercialization and production in New York, with records like Allegro, Tico and most of all Fania, created by the Dominican musician Johnny Pacheco and the American Jerry Masucci.  Fania had an almost monopoly, since they controlled the majority of Salsero artists.  By 1975, Salsa was heard all over the world with New York being known as the Salsa capital.

Salsa received acceptance in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Santo Domingo but especially in Puerto Rico where a large amount was contributed to the creation of the music with distinguished musicians like Papo Lucas, Luis Perico Ortiz, Ismael Miranda, the composer Tito Curet Alonso, etc.

Venezuela also created its salsero movement, like the Latin Dimension Orchestra and Oscar D’Leon and his orchestra.  Notably, Cubans in and out of the island were against Salsa, considering that it is the old son adulterated and exploited commercially.  What bothered most Cubans was that it tried to ignore the base most evidently Cuban.

Inclusively, Fania in one of it's films, pretended that Salsa had come almost directly from Africa to New York.

Now no-one denies that Salsa is a remnant of the old Cuban music, but also interestingly, over a Cuban base also derives many different things like “Salsa Consciente” best composed and sung by Ruben Blades from Panama.

Salsa also revalorized many Cuban musicians that were residents in the United States like contrabass player Israel López (Cachao), percussionists Orestes Vilató, Patato Valdés, Julito Collazo, Mario Papaíto Muñoz, Virgilio Martí, pianists Javier Vázquez and Lino Frías, trumpet players del Negro Vivar and Chocolate Armenteros, soneros like Roberto Torres, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, Miguel Quintana, Justo Betancourt and Felo Barrios, young artists like violinist Alfredito de la Fe, pianist Alfredo Valdés, sonero Fernando Lavoy, la Lupe and above all Celia Cruz.

Salsa has evolved to unite diverse ethnic groups from Latin America, such as people from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Santo Domingo and Colombia where magnificent musical groups such as “El Grupo Niche,” “Guayacan” and many others have come from.

The impact of Salsa has grown to be a world-wide phenomenon where folks from all over the world are playing, dancing, and enjoying this music called Salsa.

Copyright © 1999  All rights reserved.

Revised; July 07, 2005

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