History of Salsa music

2013-10-23 00:00

In order to understand the roots and evolution of Salsa Music, we need to define first the definition of something called “Rumba”.  Rumba is a secular dance/music/poetic expression that developed among the various African ethic groups first brought to Cuba as slaves during the Colonial times.

Initiated in the nineteenth century, the Rumba, more than a song or dance, is a festival, a secular ritual of recreation first created by blacks and later assimilated by all Cubans.  In fact, any informal gathering among the black lower class in the city was often referred to as a Rumba.  At the turn of the century, rumbas were played on a variety of drums, wooden boxes, chair and tabletops, spoons, jars, or almost any available item that could produce a percussive sound.  This style of drumming and singing that developed in the rumba influenced the popular music of Cuba and its most popular derivative called Salsa.

Duany (1984), a subject matter expert of tropical music, attempts to explore the meaning of Salsa from an anthropological perspective.  According to his analysis, the term Salsa may refer variously to the musical style of Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the entire Spanish Caribbean; it has been extended to the music of any “Latin” country.  However, Salsa is reduced to a more specific and concrete phenomenon:  popular Puerto Rico song and dance forms, as they evolved in the last two decades.  Salsa emerges in a context of urbanization, industrialization and profetarianization of the Puerto Rican labor force, and more important, the migration of more than one million of Puerto Ricans to New York in the early eighties.  From this intense syncretization has emerged the Music of Salsa, neither black nor white, African or European, but “negriblanca”.  Salsa should be understood as part of this displacement of poor Puerto Ricans from the countryside to the coastal cities and, beyond, to the United States.

Duany (1984) also summarizes that Salsa is an amalgamation of Caribbean folk traditions, musical styles, and rhythms.  It’s most characteristic traits are precisely this transculturation of songs, instruments, and dances of various groups of Caribbean migrants to the United States.  Salsa Music, as Duany tries to show, is deeply rooted in Puerto Rico’s popular sectors, despite the recent disco and rock fever and the proverbial upper class disdain for “native” music.  Salsa is above all a symbol of resistance to the loss of national identity, whether through the migration experience or the cultural penetration to the Island.  Like “comida criolla” (creole cuisine) or the Spanish language, Salsa is one of the ways through which the popular sectors can resort to their cultural traditions to re-align their mode of life.  When a group of youngsters gathers to listen, sing, and dance Salsa, it is celebrating and recreating the values, beliefs, and practices of its cultural heritage.  Likewise, when new Salsa Orchestras invade TV and radio stations, they are expressing and reaffirming a staunch collective will not to assimilate, not to lose themselves within the Anglo-Saxon cultural orbit.

Then, as a tree, Salsa has many roots and many branches, but one trunk that unites us all. The important thing is that Salsa is played throughout the Hispanic world and has received influences of many places within it.

 

 

Online source: http://www.worldsalsachampionships.com/history.htm

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