How do we identify Salsa music?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by squirrel, Nov 26, 2004.

  1. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    What tells one a song is Salsa???

    The rhythm? The beat? The instruments used? The language?

    Are DLG a Salsa band? What about Gilberto Santa Rosa? They are so different...

    Modern singers and bands mix Salsa and other musical genres... like hip hop... is the result Salsa????

    Salsa music is based on clave... Victor Manuelle doens't use the clave... are his songs Salsa?
     
  2. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    To repeat what I wrote in SalsaForums...

    To me it's the clave-based rhythm that makes salsa salsa. The clave beat does not have to be played out; it can be implied by the rhythm pattern of other instruments. Salsa doesn't have to be played by a salsa band to be salsa (and most salsa bands also play other forms of music too). You already know my view on the language aspect :wink:.

    In Britain "R&B salsa" is the in thing right now, and some of these songs have the salsa rhythm while others don't (or, at least, I don't hear it). We dance to both anyway.
    And of course people commonly dance salsa to "not strictly salsa" music anyway, like boogaloo ("Micaela" is probably one of world's most popular "salsa songs that aren't salsa"), timba, son. I also feel there's a very clear difference between salsa and mambo as music, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
     
  3. Tasek

    Tasek New Member

    Seeing as how salsa is already meant as a term to gather up a bunch of different (though related) music styles, exactly defining what is salsa music is going to be impossible. There are some dead give aways (what I consider to be salsa music anyway), like a clear clave, a big latin percussion section following that clave. But there are also a lot of things which might technically not be salsa, but there I usually go under the assumption that if I can dance to it, and my partner can too, I'll call it salsa and be done with it (i'm usually from the school of thought that says 'shut up and dance').
     
  4. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Sounds good to me :wink:
     
  5. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    Sure Tacad... but you can dance Salsa to house music, or oriental music, or sometimes R&B... Is that really Salsa dancing??? 'cause it ain't Salsa music for sure!
     
  6. tacad

    tacad New Member

    This could be confusing. I didn't think I had posted in this thread.:? That was Tasek, not tacad. :wink:
     
  7. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    Gosh... I gotta stop posting in multiple threads at the same time... and/or get some sleep!

    Tacad and Tasek, sorry for the confusion! But I had too few hours of sleep last night! And, I don't know why, my boss thinks I should be fit to do some office work today! :oops: :oops: :roll: :roll: :lol: :lol:
     
  8. Tasek

    Tasek New Member

    I personally won't dance salsa to house (even though measure wise you could), what I wanted to say is that if it resembles salsa (whether technically it's son or danson or timba or charanga, or whatever) and I can dance to it i'll call it salsa. I personally wouldn't call dancing salsa steps to house or r'n'b (although here there are some songs where it gets very blurry) salsa dancing, for me it just doesn't fit the music so i don't dance salsa to it, and if people do salsa steps to other genres it may superficially look like salsa, but for me it'll still be someone dancing to house using salsa steps, but it's not salsa.
     
  9. Tasek

    Tasek New Member

    Oh and don't worry about the confusion, chipmunk ... er ... eh... squirrel ;) :p
     
  10. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    Right Tasek... :)

    See, that was my problem... of course dancing Salsa steps to any other music than Salsa is not Salsa dancing... I would do it at times... if I were bored and wanted to move a little, or to make fun of stuck-up house people who think there's only one way of dancing house and despise Latino music... the look on their faces when I start my Salsa steps on their precious house music is priceless!

    But: is "No me dejes de querer" Salsa music? Not according to Gloria Estefan... not even according to poor me... still, most people dance Salsa to it. Is "El Talisman" Salsa music? No... but most people dance Salsa to it! Is raggaeton Salsa? Obviously not, but there are people who dance Salsa to it! And, most of all, is Cumbia Salsa music? By all means no, but anybody I know (including Colombians) dance Salsa to it!

    So... coming back to my original question... what shall I tell my students when they ask "What music is Salsa music?"... ???

    I cannot tell them Cumbia is Salsa... but I cannot even name songs or musicians... for instance, I love "Puerto Rican Salsa", but I cannot say this is Salsa and Cuban Salsa is not Salsa... If I say "The music played by Frankie Ruiz is Salsa"... I leave out DLG or "modern Salsa"... if I say "Sonora Caruselles sing Salsa" it is wrong, because they also sing boogaloo and cumbia... What to do? How to make my students understand what Salsa is without asking me all the time???
     
  11. Tasek

    Tasek New Member

    As far as I know, salsa was first used a a structured term in the late 1970's by a record company to group together a whole bunch of latin musical genres for marketing purposes.
    You should probably tell your students this and tell them that there is no one set of rules to which a salsa song has to confirm for it to be salsa.
    Then you could tell them about various elements that often appear in salsa songs, most important being the clave, be it explicit or implied, but also various percussion rythms that often occur and that will help them with the beat, e.g. cowbells on 1 3 5 and 7, double tap on the conga?? (<-- i think) just before the 1 and 5, etc. or how lyrical phrases (vocals, brass) often start on 1.
    You could let them listen to some old mambos (e.g. Perez Prado) for some historic perspective and how this old mambo often has a very strong drive on 2, then compare it to alot of the modern salsas which have a strong drive on 1.
    You probably have a selection of relatively easy, 'standard' salsa which you often use in your lessons, maybe you could end each lesson with an 'obscure' song, so your students can get a feel for what different possibilities there are within the salsa genre.
     
  12. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    Yeah... this is what I mostly try to do... except for the "cowbell, clave and the rest" part... as they can barely identify beat... I start mentioning such terms to intermediate dancers... maybe it's a mistake... but when I tried explaining to the beginners, they were all like :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: ... so I gave up and just told them to listen to as much Salsa as possible... :)

    Obscure Salsa... I think you wanted to say "Real Salsa" :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Yeah, I tried Frankie Ruiz... they were losing it all the time! :roll: :cry: So now I use a mix of Latino, well-know "easy" Salsa and Puerto Rican Salsa (my favourite)... I chose Luisito Carrion and Pedro Conga... :) . The beat is all right, there is also obvious clave in it, and it is not fast (as Colombian Salsa or some Cuban Salsa).
     
  13. ElSereno

    ElSereno New Member

    A quick 2c -- just listened to El Talisman and it sounds like boogaloo to me.

    Round here all the salsa DJs play some boogaloo, some latin R&B, some reggaeton and people dance salsa to it...
     
  14. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    As far as I'm concerned it's all jazz. I don't get into these little sub genres everyone tries to pigeon hole music into. Salsa/mambo/whatever you feel like calling it today is a form of jazz centered around a rhythm section consisting of conga, timbale, bongo and other latin percussion, with piano, guitar or vibes and joined often by horns and vocals. To me that's it at a most basic level.
     
  15. etchuck

    etchuck New Member

    As has been told by me, many of the original swing dancers in NYC don't discriminate their dances as much as swing does nowadays (WCS, lindy, balboa, hustle, etc.). So I suggest (along with Youngsta), that you just dance to the music and how it feels to you.

    But I will admit it felt weird to dance salsa to cha-cha music.
     
  16. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Actually the most basic form of Salsa is son, not Jazz. If it were another form of Jazz it would mean that its basic composition was derived from Jazz and the use of the clave as a backbone wouldn’t be so. As it is known Jazz didn’t have son feel until the 1940s when it became Latin Jazz. To add a clave feel to Jazz it has to be modified, but once modified it is rather put onto of the clave as opposed to clave on top of Jazz.

    Parts of Jazz were added to son to eventually make salsa. Hence, why we say Mambo-Jazz, and Latin-Jazz ,because elements of Jazz were added on top of son. Otherwise it would be Jazz-Mambo, or Jazz-Latin. Son is the most scaled form of music the world has ever known. Anything can be added to it without changing its basic form, where as if we add son to Jazz it completely changes the feel of Jazz. For Jazz would have to follow the clave rhythm to fit in the music.

    Which means that because of the clave son can’t be added to the basic structure of Jazz without making it feel completely different, but Jazz can be added to son and still leave intact its basic rhythm. For if son was added to Jazz it would take away the clave backbone and cease to be son, where as adding Jazz to son never changes its basic composition.
     
  17. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    Yeah, explain that to a beginner! :lol:
     
  18. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Squirrel,
    Tell your students that because of geographical reasons salsa from different parts of the world sound different. Because like any other human extension we add our own flavor to that which we do.

    That is why Puerto Rican salsa, Cuban Salsa, Colombian, and New Yorikan Salsa sound different. Different cultural elements were added which make it sound different. Do note that cubans ddin't start playing salsa until very late after salsa was created in NY City.

    Unlike it is mainstream beleived, the term salsa ceased to be a grouping of music by the late 70s. From then on Salsa meant a unifrom sound. Kind of what we have today... Salsa took its uniform sound in 1972 when all music thought of as salsa had the particular feel it does today. Before that from around 1960 to 1972 salsa was one song mixed with different genres of music. It had no form and it wasn't even called anything because they had no name for it, but as it was mentioned by tasek, the term salsa was first used to mean a grouping of all different flavor of Afro-Caribbean rhythms.

    Today, even when salsa isn't its own genre or hasn't its own music sheet, it is accepted by muscologists as a sound of its own. Unlike mambo, unlike rumba, unlike son, unlike guajira, unlike guaracha, unlike bomba. It is a new sound with origin in New York City. It is thought off as a horn based aggresive urban sound.

    Now if you want to teach them the difference in regional salsa sound then do as you have... Have them listen to salsa music form different parts of the world and see if they can hear the difference.

    Do let them know that it is salsa, it is just a different approach caused by regionaly flavor.

    More than that they would really have to read up to clear the confusing mess that is still beleive to be a fact.
     
  19. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    lolol... I'll just tell them to... ahhhhhhh... Listen to youngsta It's all jazz!
     
  20. ElSereno

    ElSereno New Member

    Well this might be true if Jazz had a "basic rhythm". But jazz is a very, very broad church, which has always used as many rhythms as it can find. Even in the 20s and 30s jazz was described as having African or "jungle" rhythms, and it's often said that the clave derives from West African beats. So it was completely appropriate that in the 40s these two grandchildren of Africa met up.

    I wouldn't say though that either one made the other "completely different", rather, they complement each other and the resultant mix brings out some of the best in both.

    As an illustration, I have an album called "Rumba para Monk", by Jerry Gonzalez -- Latin jazz arrangements of some of Thelonoious Monk's tunes. One Latin reviewer, explaining why it works so well, wrote "I am convinced that [Monk] wrote in clave, and therefore his music lends itself perfectly to 'Latinization".
     

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