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What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer (karma: 7)
By Adidimember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Fri Oct 08, 2004 09:06 AM
Edited by Adidi (30756) on 2004-10-08 09:05:05
Made sticky by alleycat (25274) on 2004-11-15 14:26:17

Salsa is not easily defined. Though many get caught up in the age old debate as to who "invented" salsa (Cubans or Puerto Ricans), 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.


Directly translated, Salsa is sauce. it is what gives Latino cooking its flavor. Like in Italian cooking. What's spaghetti without the sauce? Traditionally, in American music like Jazz (and Latin), when a band was really swinging, people would say, "They're cooking"... in Spanish--"Cocinando!" And when all the ingredients were cookin' just right--the music hot and spicy, Latinos would say, "It had Salsa y Sabor" (sauce and taste). So what it really denotes is music with flavor and spice.


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 creatively fusing equal amounts 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 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.


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 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).


The Rise of Salsa is tied to Fania Records, which had been founded in 1964 by Johnny
Pacheco, a bandleader with Dominican parentage and Cuban
musical tastes. Fania started out as a fledging independent label, with Pacheco distributing records to area stores from the trunk of his car. From 1967, Fania, then headed by Italian-American lawyer Jerry Masucci, embarked on an aggressive and phenomenally successful program of recording and promotion.

Particularly influential was composer-arranger Willie Colón, a Bronx prodigy. Colón's early albums, with vocalists Héctor Lavoe, Ismael Miranda and Ruben Bládes, epitomized the Fania style at its best and captured the fresh sound, restless energy, and aggressive dynamism of the barrio youth.

Every commercial music genre needs a catchy label, and there was a natural desire for a handier one than "recycled Cuban dance music". Hence Fania promoted the word salsa, which was already familiar as a bandstand interjection.

The 1970s were the heyday of salsa and of Fania which dominated the market. By the end of the decade, however, salsa found on the defensive against an onslaught of merengue and hip-hop and an internal creative decline.


By the late 1970s, salsa abandoned its portrayals of barrio reality in favor of sentimental love lyrics. Most of what is promoted on radio and records is the slick, sentimental salsa romantica of crooners like Eddie Santiago, Luis Enrique, and Lalo Rogriguez rather than more aggressive Afro-Caribbean salsa Caliente or Salsa Gorda. Perhaps there has been some criticism as to this new sub-genre but one cannot deny that it has managed to keep salsa alive and well. The change is also reflected in the fact that most of today's bandleaders are not trained musicians and seasoned club performers like Willie Colon or Oscar de Leon but cuddly, predominantly white singers distinguished by the pretty-boy looks and supposed sex-appeal like Giro or Salsa Kids .

Salsa remains essentially alive and well, within its limited sphere. Its market has grown in Latin America and Spain. The 1990s have seen former hip-hop/house singers La India and Marc Anthony return to latin music as part of the new wave of salsa stars, attracting new followers with their updated images. There is a glimmer of hope with stars such as Victor Manuelle and Rey Ruiz rising to fame in the current "scene" and many hope that this will lead to a resurgence of the glory years of the 50s and 70s.


30 Replies to What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer

re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
On Sun Nov 14, 2004 05:37 PM
This should be a sticky. I like your research. Although, I do believe Puerto Rico is distinct and original. (I'm biased)
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By Adidimember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Nov 15, 2004 04:38 AM
i thought so as well.... but i dont know what is a comment supposed to have to be a sticky :?

re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
On Mon Nov 15, 2004 02:35 PM
Whatever it's supposed to have, it has, because I asked for them to make it a sticky and they did!
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By Adidimember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Nov 15, 2004 06:15 PM
*faints* omg!!!

re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By NikkiBStyle
On Thu Nov 18, 2004 10:21 AM
congrats on making sticky adidi!! :) very helpful info
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By Gbabe
On Thu Nov 18, 2004 11:23 AM
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By heron
On Sat Nov 27, 2004 12:36 PM
your info is spot on and really useful for ppl
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By Rekhasaju
On Thu Dec 02, 2004 11:25 AM
wow that writeup was fantastic...i didnt know salsa had such a great history
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By dance_gal4evamember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Jan 06, 2005 10:39 AM
adidi your fab, you know that lol.
great post congrats on sticky :)
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By balletdiva3
On Fri Jan 07, 2005 10:09 AM
i'm pretty sure it started off in cuba then the americans nicked it and turned it into mambo then it sarted to be danced and the more cuban element started to come into again. i dance new york salsa but i know there is also cuban salsa
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By shastacola
On Mon Feb 07, 2005 11:39 PM
great post
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By crunchyPremium member
On Fri Apr 01, 2005 08:54 PM
great post!
what is salsa ?
By vetty
On Sun May 15, 2005 01:38 PM
salsas a very ilaliany typed dance its a bit like the cha cha cha but e=without the cha cha cha its fun to do and i first did it in the show for our dance school before christmas iv been doing it even since !!!
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By dancefairy002
On Fri Jun 17, 2005 04:16 PM
Edited by dancefairy002 (132979) on 2005-06-17 16:17:38 grammar error
The part of the clubs in Puerto Rico it's true but a can say for sure that the best artists of salsa are Puertoricans, and in the place that you can see people dancing salsa with more passion than anywhere in the world is in Pueto Rico, and I'm not just saying it because I'm Puertorican is because I dance salsa with that passion. And also the artists that support most of the genre are Puertorican.
with love, dancefairy002
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 06:01 PM
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By murado
On Sat Sep 17, 2005 02:05 PM
Very usefull! Thanks!
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By Ukitalian
On Wed Sep 28, 2005 03:58 PM
This is great info here, I really appreciate this post. I am considering taking salsa lessons and it will greatly help to know the history of salsa.

re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By gbpnoy2587
On Fri Sep 21, 2007 07:53 PM
Wow, you really answered this question well. The only things it is missing are the sources lol. But yeah, answered like a report.

One thing I notice it is missing (or at least, a question of mine that remains unanswered) is what are the cultural definitions of Salsa to the countries in which they are danced/were formed? And also, does salsa have a specific topic when the songs tell their stories? Or are there different categories of salsa that have their own descriptions (I think "Salsa Romantica" was one of them? Not sure)? For example, rap (at least, used to be) about difficulties of the urban youth; "gangsta rap" is rap of, basically, rappers bragging about how much money they got.

I'm just throwing these out in case you have an answer; I've had trouble finding more than just "history" or "origins" when it comes to salsa.
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By JLCDance
On Tue Jan 15, 2008 06:26 PM
This is from the work I did to take my Assiciate teachers diploma in club dance with the UKA(England)
Hope it of intrest to some of you.

Salsa is as diverse as the part of the world it comes from. Its History can start “In 1928 Ignacio Pineiro used the phrase ‘Echale Salsita!’ as the title of a new piece of music” The title Echale Salsita meaning ‘Spice it up’ was later simplified to ‘Salsa’. Or can be traced back to the African ancestors that were brought as slaves to the caribbean by the Spanish.

Modern Salsa History tells us that in the 1950’s the Mambo was influential in shaping what would become Salsa in New York and Castro’s revolution diminished Cuban’s influence on North America allowing New York's Latino community was largely Puerto-Rican to influence their Salsa to a large degree, If we move on a decade Danilo Phidas Escalone was using the word as the title to his program on Venezuelan radio. Jaime Andrés Pretell tells us that ‘New York created the term "Salsa", but it did not create the dance’. He states the term became a nickname to refer to a variety of different music, from of Hispanic influence
By the 1970’s Salsa was being used as a generic term for a diverse mixture of music. and it had joined ‘the list of Latin cultural dance forms that have grown out of developing traditional music.’ though ‘Salsa the dance as we know it today had not yet evolved in the UK’ Paul Harris claims that the Latin Clubs of the 1970’s where ‘largely divided in to two categories: those which played Cuban Music and those which played Colombian music’ today Modern Salsa is still evolving and has taken on elements of jazz, funk, reggae, hip-hop and samba.
But where did it come from? Jaime Andrés Pretell states Salsa ‘is not only Cuban’ though it is in Cuba where the Contra-Danze (Country Dance) of England/France, later called Danzón, was brought by the French who fled from Haiti, mix itself with the Rhumbas of African thought the slaves who’s origins where Guaguanco, Colombia, Yambú and the Afro-Cuban Són a mixture of African rhythm, Spanish guitar and Spanish poetry which has been reinvented throughout Cuban history.

We can already see a diversity appearing in the history of Salsa. It appears to originate from an area of the world with a significant mixture of beliefs, culture, language and music a complex structure within complex countries. Sue Steward in her book “Salsa Musical, Heart Beat of Latin America” states that Salsa, ‘begins among its tangled root system in Cuba, careens through the Spanish- speaking island of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and travels to Miami and New York’. She claims Salsa is a direct descendent of the music from the eastern end of the island of Cuba called “Son” the first truly Afro-Cuban music and dance style know. ‘Salsa is Son’ is a mantra repeated all over the Salsa world’.

No where can this diversity be seen more than within the instruments used for Salsa such as; the Maracas and Guiro from the Caribbean Indians, the Conga drums, Bata drums, and the Mirimba thumb pianos widely found in Africa, the Pandereta drum and Guitar from Spain, the Cuban Bongo, the Puerto Rican Cowbells, The Flute taken to Cuba by the French fleeing the Haitian revolution, the German Accordion, European Piano and Violin and the Chinese Cornet.

The steps being danced today largely come from the son, but we also see solo steps called "Shines", and we see the integration of swing dances and elements of Jazz, funk, reggae, hip-hop and samba. These where influenced by the mixture of cultures from all over the world, thrown together in Cuban and other Latin American counties were the diversity of population developed a mix of music a different sound its not Guaguanco, Son or Bembe any more it is unique. In modern history, Ignacio Pineiro is credited with its name “Salsa” but the people of Cuba and the Caribbean their history and culture built, shaped and expanded it all over the world.

The Cuban style is made up mainly of rotational movement with complicated arm movements and wraps. The style can be danced on the 1st beat called the down beat ("a tiempo") or the 2nd beat of music the upbeat ("a contratiempo"). One essential elements of this style is where the leader dose a backward basic action on 1,2,3 and a forward basic action on 5,6,7 know as the Cuban step or Guapea and the follower mirrors.

The Columbian style is the style danced in South and Central America. The break is on the 3rd beat and the "spare beat" is always used for a tap or other embellishment. This style is characteristically dance in place with fast basic movements and partners often dance side-to-side and mirror each other's movements

The LA or Los Angeles style a much younger style and considered sometimes as ‘more show than dance’. The break is danced forward on the 1st beat of music and made up cross body actions shines tricks and dips which have been influenced through Hollywood and dances such as the Mambo and the Rumba.

New York style is usually danced on the 2nd beat of the music but can be danced on the 1st beat. The breaks were the body changes direction happen on the count 2 and 6. This style has an elegant smooth look and though it to is danced with a cross body action it is more linear in execution.

Puerto Rican style again can be danced on the 1st or 2nd count of music. If danced on the 2nd beat the beat is always on count 2. Though these are not the only styles to be danced; Venezolana Style Salsa is the style is danced in Venezuela and Dominican, Salsa Rueda (Rueda de Casino) was developed in Havana, and the Mambo which is not really a Salsa but look similar to that of LA style though it is danced on the 2nd beat of the music with its breaks on 2 and 6.
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By frankritmo
On Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:46 AM
Yes, that is a good piece of research and writing. You may be interested in what one of the pioneers of salsa has to say: Mr. Izzy Sanabria (starred in the movie Hector Lavoe as himself). . . .

re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By jhon13
On Fri Apr 04, 2008 12:25 PM
JLCDance, though I do not know much about salsa, yet i really find your research more expository.The reason being that it had some links to African background.Because I do not think one can discuss a cultural phenomenom of the carrebians without an African flavor.
Although I do not know how to dance salsa steps presently, Yet I have a very strong passion for it ever since I knew about it from the movie"Dance with me".But I'm searching for a salsa dance shool.Keep up the good work.
re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By jhon13
On Fri Apr 04, 2008 12:42 PM
Nice job,reading your findings was an expository to salsa.In fact, I think for the first time I know more about what i really have passion for.Thanks.

Comment #7169055 deleted
Removed by oz_helen (35388) on 2008-05-08 22:11:00 Replying with the same or similar comment on every thread you see is called Starfarming and is against TOS.

re: What is Salsa & When Did it Started? - Here's the Answer
By ud_thedaancedean
On Sat Jul 19, 2008 02:12 PM
what is the coorect counting style of cuban salsa tell
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