Lesson 9: Salsa

Mis amigos, we are going to dance! Salsa is a transcendent musical genre that owes much to Cuban, Puerto Rican and other Latin music genres, but essentially developed in the 1970s in New York City. “Salsa music” actually began as a marketing concept by a record company that wanted to sell a lot records by creating a pan-Latin cultural movement. It eventually became a real pan-Latin cultural movement that just happened to sell a lot of records. What could be more American than that?

OVERVIEW: “‘Salsa’ is the Spanish word for ‘sauce’–any kind of sauce–though in American English it often refers to a sauce with a spicy kick. Using the term “salsa” in reference to music invokes a sense of a sound that is ‘spicy’–hot and wild, and at the same time thoroughly Latin….”

HISTORY: “Salsa is certainly a Latin form, with Latin origins both historically and musically, but it’s also undeniably a product of New York….”

THE MUSIC: “Salsa music is a mishmash of Latin genres, a jumble of sounds and Spanish sensibilities. You may see salsa as the elevation of those genres or is as Latin music’s lowest common denominator, but as a genre itself it stands on the shoulders of much marvelous music….”

THE INSTRUMENTS: “Salsa bands are exuberant, multi-instrumental ensembles, with blazing horns and an ebullient rhythm section. While we are generally familiar with the trumpets, trombones and saxophones that make up the salsa band’s squad of horns, we should meet a few of the percussion instruments that make the music sizzle….”

SALSA DANCING: “Salsa dancing developed in Nuyorican nightclubs in the late ’60s and early ’70s alongside salsa music….”

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