Salsa music originated in Cuba but gained world wide popularity in the 1970’s. It became popular through a group of Puerto Rican musicians in New York who were playing afro-cuban music which developed into what is now known as salsa. Salsa is a dance music with its most defining characteristic being the use of a clave. Typically other Cuban instruments are used as well like bongos and congas. The use of these instruments is what gives Salsa its signature sound. Due to its origins Salsa is very tied to Latin American culture in both its main audience as well as its lyrical content.
History of Salsa Music in Puerto Rico
There is some dispute as to whether or not Salsa music originated in Cuba or Puerto Rico. Most of the world recognizes Cuba as the originator of salsa music, but Puerto Ricans tell a different story. According to some salsa can be traced to the 1930’s and 1940’s in Puerto Rico when mamba and son music was first brought there. Then in the 1960’s it was brought to New York through the mass migration of Puerto Ricans and given its final influences of big band music to become Salsa.
Whether or not Salsa was invented in Puerto Rico or New York, Puerto Ricans have still had a large impact on the development of Salsa music. Puerto Rico was instrumental in the creation of Salsa Romantica. This genre of Salsa music is characterized by the blending of different musical styles with Salsa. Typically, Salsa Romantica would start with a slower style of music like a rumba then build into a salsa, finishing with a mambo. Salsa Romantica is also known for having more romantic lyrics than previous the form of Salsa know as Salsa Caliente which focused on barrio life in its lyrical content. Salsa Romantica first began to gain popularity in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and is still quite popular to this day.
Contemporary Puerto Rican Salsa
Salsa is still very popular to this day in Puerto Rico. In fact it is generally agreed upon that Puerto Rico has replaced New York as the capitol of Salsa music. Modern Puerto Rican music makes use of some indigenous instruments such as güiros which are made out of gourds and used as a rhythm accompaniment. Another modern development in Puerto Rican salsa is the use of a cow-bell along with the traditional clave to keep rhythm. Some of the more well known artists in the Puerto Rican Salsa scene today are Willie Colón, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, and Hector Lavoe. They are also popular on an international scale as well. There are also numerous Salsa clubs in Puerto Rico where Salsa aficionados go to dance and enjoy top quality salsa music.
The future of Salsa
It is easy to see that Salsa shares a rich cultural and historical background and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is a comfort to the older crowd of Salsa lover’s in Puerto Rico that the youth seem to have the same passion for Salsa as their parents did. It will be exciting to see what new innovations and changes this new generation of Salsa fans will bring to the genre.