Salsa > Salsa/Mambo differences?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by Bronzestudent, Sep 10, 2004.

  1. Sabor

    Sabor New Member

    to me, it all essentially flows from the difference in timing.. the phrasing is different and so is the expression.. the other stuff is personal detail far as i'm concerned.
  2. wuthering

    wuthering New Member

    Which means that sometimes it can be on1 too, if it uses the NY patterns and is not rotational...
  3. jhb

    jhb New Member

    Salsa vs. Mambo

    There're a lot of very insightful comments in this thread!

    I personally find the notion that salsa and mambo are the same thing very bizarre. I'm talking about the music here. Of course they are very related, but the instrumentation and the feel of it is so very different. Can some people just not hear the difference?

    The same goes for son. There's little more frustrating than hearing comments like "salsa is just son" or "salsa is just Cuban music repackaged". Salsa is not son is not mambo is not guaguancó. They all share a similar rhythmic foundation, but past that, they are very distinguishable.

    I think in a lot of cases it has to do with a sort of bias that exists. People have a hard time crediting the US (ie, New York) with the creation of a latin musical form. This does such an injustice to the pioneers of the genre, most of whom were Puerto Ricans living in New York. To me, the sound of Willie Colón, for example, epitomizes the New York sound that is salsa. When I hear Machito, Tito Puente, Cachao, and the rest, I do not think "Salsa". Listening to music created through the 60s, you can really hear the evolution of the sound, as it becomes more and more "New York".

    When the likes of Machito and Tito Puente make comments like "Salsa is just Cuban music played badly", well, that's just a reaction from the old-guard, that seems very typical of musicians from all walks. The guard was changing, and they wanted to be able to think to themselves that they'd been doing it all along.
  4. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    @wuthering... Yes it can also be on1, I guess... :) But it is traditionally danced on2, most people there dance on2 ... :) Maybe a New York Salsero like boriken can explain better... boriken, where art thou?
  5. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Re: Salsa vs. Mambo

    Welcome jgb. :)
  6. wuthering

    wuthering New Member

    Never mind, it was just for the sake of argument. The truth is, the whole thing can get cunfusing, and what matters is to have fun dancing.
  7. randomMysh

    randomMysh New Member

    I'm a ballroom brat and a complete salsa ignoramus, so please don't bite my head off if this is completely wrong.
    To me the main difference between the American Rhythm mambo and the salsa I've seen in clubs is that the salsa seems more flowy and smooth, while the mambo utilizes a bent knee action and the movements tend to stay fairly small.

    My 2c.
  8. dTas

    dTas New Member

    i agree with random

    aside from Mambo being strictly on2 the style seems more sharp and deliberate like cha cha where salsa is more free flowing and loose.
  9. jhb

    jhb New Member

    Also, Salsa the dance is very heavily influenced by the hustle of the 70s, in its smooth and complicated turning patterns. What they call Mambo now (on-2 slot dancing) is in turn influenced by the Salsa that came after the original Mambo, which is probably in part what makes it so hard to come up with a difference between Salsa and contemporary Mambo definable in words.
  10. jhb

    jhb New Member

    I have to say, this story sounds very apocryphal, fishy, to me.

    Neither salsa nor mambo existed in the 20s, and when mambo did immerge in the late 30s and 40s in Cuba, they called both the dance and the music Mambo there as well. This music was exported to New York, where people continued to call it Mambo. There was no mistake or confusion in the name.

    One Cuban musical form whose name WAS confused in the 20s or so, in New York was the Rumba. What they call "Rumba" or "Rhumba" in ballroom circles is not Rumba at all, but rather a stiffened ballroom version of the son.
  11. SalsaAmore

    SalsaAmore New Member

    Boriken and MsJane, thank you for your insightfulness and interpretation of the differences in Salsa and Mambo music. Your knowledge of the history and background of the music is extremely fascinating to read. It is so exciting for me to learn more about the minute differences in the two genres.

    As for the differences in movements of the two styles, I follow on1 and on2. I enjoy and like both. Like Sabor says, it's about who you're dancing with as far as how sexy it feels. And, as previously mentioned, many movements are interchangeable on1 and on2. Mambo (Salsa on2) tends to be a little more compact in it's steps and body movements. Whereas, Salsa on1 these days, almost anything goes on the dance floor. The LA style (on1) incorporates more jazz showmanship (and even some ballet movements). The dance is evolving ever so quickly. So as we speak, new movements are being thrown in every minute and the old movements are being replaced and not used as much.

    One last thing, I'm not so sure I agree with your teacher saying you're better off learning Mambo instead of Salsa. If she is a good teacher, she wouldn't be so closed minded. It really is up to you which you feel better dancing. But, again as the dance evolves, on1 and on2 will be mixed and the new "Millenium" (lyrical) style will soon fall in.
  12. HF

    HF New Member

    Err ... I try my best to describe what I hear as differences between Mambo and Salsa music - please don't hit me on my head for this :roll:

    • - Mambo music is lead by the percussion group very dominantly. Of course there are the same percussion instruments in most salsa songs, but in mambo the percussion is clearly the heart of the music.

      - Probably there will be a percussion solo - no must but characteristical.

      - Mambo will tend to be more instrumental than salsa which will be more voice-orientated. Maybe there will be no voice in a mambo song at all. Maybe there will be alot of instrumental jazz-like solos.

      - Although mambo is instrument-driven, its mood is not necessarily to be perfectly arranged music. It is more like a jam-session ("hey, grab your bass"), and when listening to mambo records carefully you will hear even some "mistakes" in the rhythm group (not that anybody would care or that they would devaluate the music). While recording it was just not the time for perfection but for the real mambo mood.

      - When voice is used in salsa it will be in the focus of the song and most probably it will tell a story - about love, romance, whatever. If voice is used in mambo, it will be more or less used like an instrument playing around, and the text itself may make no real sense (like "Oh, I am going to town ... and my brother is going to town ... and my mother is going ...). Voice will be mostly used as an element of ostinato (repetitional musical element with small change over time that will eventually go more and more intense).

      - The ostinato character of mambo will make the music a little straining to just listen especially for non-salsa-freaks but it will be loved by dancers while dancing especially during salsa festivals.

    Nothing of that may be a sharp definition and also I maybe in error - hopefully not completely. 8)
  13. mexi_gabacho

    mexi_gabacho New Member

    Can't help but comment...

    As a musician since the age of 8, I find it amazing how people will try to take this Mambo vs. Salsa thing on so much. I hear the questions of 'how can you not hear the difference?'.. Well, as a percussionist since a very young age who grew up learning these things, I simply hear the percussion first always. And in this, there are very few differences.

    Lest we forget that music history - like art history - is a very opinionated thing and though the scientific side of us loves to categorize everything (it is a natural, psycological piece of being human), sometimes things are neither THIS nor THAT. Sometimes they are a bit of both.

    Just as Rock & Roll music has progressed through the years, so has Salsa/Mambo. Just like Jazz music went through phases, so has Salsa/Mambo. Musically, they follow the same basic rules. In my opinion, musically they are alot more similiar than not.

    I realize that alot of 'Mambo-people' seem to enjoy trying to furthur differentiate the two (sometimes in order to make the differences more significant, thus lending weight to the 'On2 is the only true way' - JUST TO NOTE, I'm not talking about On2 dancers in general, just the vocal minority, who also tend to be the mediocre On2 dancers :D ), but I simply see modern salsa as a progression/change in the music that was called Mambo at one time in some circles and called Salsa in others.

    Lest we forget that Mambo is a progression of Cuban Son with jazz instruments thrown in with the typical folkloric instruments (and in alot of cases, completely replacing them). It is a merger of two styles of music.... the cuban son w/ american jazz. It was a fusion that happened to create a wonderful match. Some would say that it was natural for that fusion to occur once cubans brought son to a USA obsessed with jazz at the time.

    What we call 'salsa' today is musically still the same in that the rules are practically the same, but it being based on jazz, gives it a free will to take on many styles. The 'jazzier' stuff, people typically like to call 'Mambo'. The more modern, more musical (someone mentioned the percussion influence/dominance in Mambo music, which I agree with for the most part).

    As far as how they are danced.... Mambo typically just means 'I dance On2 with the NY Style'. Salsa can mean 'I dance On1, maybe On2' in one style (cuban, LA, NY) or another. Neither is any better than the other. Neither is more proper.

    I don't see where people are seeing differences in things like 'this one has some knee bending... this one is done smoothly by its nature, etc., etc.. I dance primarily NY Style On1 (although I also dance NY Style On2 from time-to-time these days, and have some LA Style things that get thrown in, as well as Casino when a rueda starts) so I see and experience alot of different styles all the time, but none that I would call 'Mambo-specific'. In Florida, we get exposed to alot of different styles, which is a great and healthy thing... it keeps you open. But, as far as the Mambo vs. Salsa things goes, to ME, Mambo is a term for a TYPE of music, not dance. Maybe that's just the musician in me. ;)

    It is a facinating discussion to have and one that - believe me - will never end. Because no matter HOW you break it down or WHO breaks it down, it all comes down to opinions.
  14. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Great contribution there mexi_gabacho, thanks for sharing! :D
  15. tj

    tj New Member

    Yes, very nicely said.
  16. jhb

    jhb New Member

    Re: Can't help but comment...

    I agree, in that the percussion is fundamentally the same. But of course, percussion is not the only thing that defines music -- it is not the be all, end all! If the percussion is the same, but the instrumentation and feel is very different, then I think that's enough to say that these are different forms of music. One is this, and the other that. Sometimes of course, music falls right in between, and is difficult to classify, but what can you do! In this case, I also think that it is very worthwhile to make this distinction where possible. Marking between Salsa and Mambo also marks between to very different musical "cultures", and puts a better historical perspective on everything. If nothing else, it pays tribute where tribute is deserved: to the musicians through the 60s and 70s who pioneered that new sound. Despite what Machito and Tito might say, they weren't just playing mambo, and they weren't playing it badly!

    Definitely, they are more similar than not. But that doesn't mean we can't distinguish between the two or that it isn't worth distinguishing between them.

    That's very true. And most of what the 0n-2 Mambo people call mambo is the same music everybody else is calling Salsa.

    Well, not just music based on jazz evolves, all music does, and to me, Salsa is a very clear and distinct step in the evolution of afro-Cuban music. Whatever the 'rules' of the music are, they sound different. A different sound, feel, and culture, to me is enough to apply a different label. To say mambo and salsa are the same is like saying rhythm and blues and rock is the same. The latter grew out of the former, and is based on similar musical rules and ideas. It is difficult sometimes to distinguish early rock from r&b. But they quickly became two divergent styles, different enough to tell apart!

    I totall agree. Really, I would say that what just about everybody dances these days is Salsa. The On-2ers like to distinguish themselves, and they call their dance mambo, but in the end, it is much more similar to contemporary salsa than either Paladium mambo or Cuban mambo. If you can ever get the chance, watch some old Cuban mambo footage. It's facinating! As a dance, THAT is mambo. The styling is different, the timing slightly different, the turn patterns much simpler.
  17. SalsaAmore

    SalsaAmore New Member

    Mexi, I think you make a very solid argument. However, I think what you said above is what people tend to differentiate. And, there are old Mambo songs that have lyrics which actually say "Mambo," which are more jazzy than the new contemporary Salsa songs. So, people without the extensive musical background not being in the business to see how the music evolves will probably hear those songs differently than the more evolved contemporary Salsa as they are comparing the old and the new. I'm sure the newer songs that come out either it be termed "Mambo" or "Salsa" will not have many differences.
  18. msjanemas

    msjanemas New Member

    Re: Can't help but comment...



    Actually the Son is not what was fused. It was Mambo with Jazz. If you hear SON in it's natural form..which hasn't changed, you will know it was Mambo that was fused with Jazz. Now by Mambo I'm not talking Perez Prado, I'm talking NY Mambo. Is not the Son Montuno rooted from the Son, yet it's a genre all its own? And a Bolero > Guajira > Cha Cha? Is not speed, the introduction of a few instruments and standard charting/riffs the key in the difference in genre's? Then so is the NY Mambo" and "Salsa - the New York Sound", again I'll say "Salsa" is a Willie Colon (La Murga) or Palmieri (Puerto Rico) recording that has NO SON OR MAMBO in it. What is happening and confusing everyone is the misapplication of the term(s) to a Cuban Guaguanco, or Son.

    In NY Mambo or "Salsa" every instrument is important. Brass is the key that separates them from Son. Take away the Bass and you can't dance with fire. Of course anyone can dance to any beat or single instrument, but you can't really MAMBO from the soul. The Jazzier stuff is called Mambo because that's what the NY Mambo is. But a recording like Palmieri's Adoracion is not Jazzy it is classical, experimental, Pan like a NY Sound. Someone else said "Salsa is Afro-Cuban. It is not. It is Afro-Caribbean (see if you find any Willie Colon with Cuban tunes) and also includes influences from Europe too. It's not Afro only. Charanga has a French influence as well and if you take that away you will NOT HAVE CHARANGA.

    You could say that, but it's all Mambo just 2 different styles. One from Brooklyn (on 1) and the other from the Bronx and Manhattan (on 2).

    When one hears a Cuban Son and wants to dance, they dance SON. When one hears a Guajira and wants to dance, they dance a GUAJIRA. When one hears a Cha Cha Cha and wants to dance, they dance CHA CHA CHA. When one hears a bolero and wants to dance, they dance a BOLERO. When one hears a mambo and wants to dance, they have the options of doing a few things, dance Mambo on 1, on 2, or visibly bad! :shock: No that's not on 3! :shock: ! Some call on 1 Salsa and I won't argue with that as long as it's not applied to the music! :wink: !

    It all comes down to realizing what is factual and what is an opinion. The ability to say, "You know what, they were there, they are right", or "This does not make sense since the recordings say otherwise."
  19. msjanemas

    msjanemas New Member

    I would think it was the other way around. It was Mambo that influenced the Hustle to create the Latin Hustle.
  20. jhb

    jhb New Member

    Well, I wasn't very clear in the way I worded it, but that's really what I meant. I'm distinguishing between the Cuban and NY Mambos of the 50s, and what some people call "Mambo" now, that is, on-2 slot Salsa.

    Of course, the hustle is in part a derivative of the Mambo. There is a particular type of hustle called "the latin-hustle", but still, the hustle itself is "Latin" in its roots. This hustle, which became particularly associated with Disco, was quite different from the Mambo in terms of style, timing, and of course, very notably, in the hustle's approach to turn patterns, which we have inherited.

    The hustle had a major effect on the way people were dancing to Salsa at the time, and that mix created, as you say, the latin-hustle, and eventually became the dance we call Salsa now.

    Modern "mambo", as some call it, is just Salsa that, like the mambo, was danced on two (although not necessarily the same on-2 that most contemporary on-2 dancers use). It is much closer, in look and style to contemporary Salsa (with its heavy hustle influence) than Mambo, although I have seen a very few dancers dance the Mambo in that old style.

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