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Many people having seen the film "Dirty Dancing", will be reminded by music and dance of Mambo. This is no coincidence - Salsa (in English: sauce) in the USA evolved from several Latin American rhythms and dancing styles.



Salsa Cubana

Salsa music is no rhythm or music style. It is the union of all musical tendencies meeting today in Caribbean urban regions. Based on Cuban roots, musically enriched in New York of the seventies, Salsa spread all over the world. It is no wonder Salsa particularly can be found in regions prevailing the same social and cultural conditions as in Cuba, i.e. in Caracas (Venezuela), Barranquilla and Cali (Columbia) or San Juan (Puerto Rico), whose population is composed of black people and the descendants of African slaves. Salsa is the musical expression of the barrios, the urban quarters. The poor quarters more and more alike create themes and traditions having its proper effect in the Salsa texts today: family, love, friends, street, lack of money, violence and social dissatisfaction.


In the beginnings, from French Contredance, the Danzon evolved cultivated in the aristocratic dance halls of Havanna. But, like Bolero, it soon was taken up by common people and evolved into a popular folk dance. Up to the twenties, music and dance were a matter of race: the Afro Cubans had their Rumba, the white people danced Danzon. But shortly after the inauguration of republic in 1902 (the independence of Spain and the first US American military interventions), travelling workers from the far southeast of Cuba brought an dance to Havanna, which was combining black and white - a Creole mixture of Spanish and African traditions: the Son. The poetry and the string instruments are Spanish, the percussion and the syncopated rhythm are contributed by former slaves.

In the twenties, Son spread over the whole Cuban island into the cities. At each street corner its nonchalant syncopated rhythm could be heard. The musicians accompanied themselves with small lightly built instruments: the tres (a small sister of the Spanish guitar), bongo drums, maracas (known as Rumba balls) and the claves. An empty bottle often was used as bass instrument. When Son became the most popular dance in the capital city and the Habaneros fond of dancing filled bigger and bigger dancing halls, the instrumentation proved to be inadequate. Added were guitar, double-bass and trumpet - the instrumental basic equipment of innumerable sextetos and septetos in Havanna of the twenties.

In the fourties and fifties two other world-famous Cuban rhythms competed with Son: Mambo and Cha-Cha-Cha. All three dancing tunes are traditionally played by Charanga orchestras faint reminding of European coffee house orchestras: tremulous strings, a piano slightly out of tune, a transverse flute, a rhythmic double-bass and the specific Caribbean percussion.

In the seventies Son came to America. Prominent names as Celia Cruz or Tito Puente introduced it into the music and nightclub scene of New York city. Soon the public media were interested in Son and began to market it by the name Salsa (hot sauce) all over the world. A typical product of this commercialized variant for instance is Salsa Romantica, which corresponds with the less spirited American and European taste and spread internationally.