A Glance at the History of Salsa

A Glance at the History of Salsa

Salsa has its roots with the first settlement of  slaves from Africa, who  became the  new habitants of the islands of the Caribbean Sea.  Their big influence in music was played and danced to for their masters from different parts of Europe, such as France, Spain, and different colonies of the Americas.   It is important, in particular, to take note of the Haitian Contradance.

The Haitian Contradance was co-identified with the Habanera  contradance  (this dance should be explained as well), because it was part of the slaves’ folklore to play these rhythms together with the sound of the tambor (drums) to celebrate their religious rites.  It was, however, conducted for a social or religious leader, after the great evolution of the the different rhythms of Cuba.   These typical kinds of dances and rhythms ceased to be a part of group activities and progressed to couples’ dancing by the time Dictator Fulgencio Batista was in power.

Salsa music in Cuba later had a big influence on the new North American music rhythms, particularly with jazz.  The most notorious change under this influence was the introduction of the conga drums.  Then, after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro came into power in 1959:  a time when so many artists were making a living exploiting these marvelous rhythms.  These musicians were forced to abandon their country and move into exile.  Such was the case of Celia Cruz, who was known as ” La guarachera de oriente”  (what does this mean?),  and came  to be a part of North American society, as so many others musicians who  came from the Caribbean.   Many of these immigrated to New York City.  There, Puerto Rican musicians stopped playing their own traditional rhythms, such as Bomba and Plena,  and started a new genre of music.  Furthermore, musicians from  the Dominican Republic added their contributions to the mixing of these Afro-Caribbean rhythms, the final product of which is what the world has come to know as salsa.   

The locations that had major influences on the salsa music of the 60s were: New York, Puerto Rico, Miami, and Colombia.  Now, this likeable rhythm is played by the great bands and orchestras of salsa for different types of celebrations and is danced to in many countries of the world, where salsa is a part of the culture and folklore.  Some of the great  members of the salsa family are: Celia Cruz “La Reina de la Salsa” for her great contribution to latin music throughout her life span, and “El Gran Combo” of Puerto Rico.  Other well-known salsa artists in the world are the Borinquenian’s institution and The Fania Allstars.  The latter was the institution that was in charge of organizing the musicians of  New York City into a union for better organization.  Therefore, The Fania internationalized salsa ryhtms in the 80s, thanks to the proposal of the singer and  lawyer, Panamanian Ruben Blades, known as ” the salsa poet”.  

But, we can’t truly speak about salsa without mentioning some of the most representative performers of this rhythm, Hector Lavoe, the singer of singers; Charlie Palmieri, Frankie Ruiz, Louie Ramirez, who have all since passed away.  The great bands of the moment who have stepped in to fill their shoes are: Grupo Niche Of Colombia, Guayacan Orchestra, Oscar D’leon, Ismael Miranda, Willie Colon, along with many others.

Source:  salsa radio stations, salsa magazine, musicians, sendance, Danny Music, Salsa Braga.

Written by: Raul Arboleda A.

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