Salsa Music

Salsa means sauce in Spanish. Sauce would be the best description for this kind of music. It is full of ingredients that are blended in into one mix and served to the audience as the final product for judgment. Salsa music has been around for quite awhile, according to online encyclopedia “wikipedia”: “Salsa’s roots can be traced back to the African ancestors that were brought to the Caribbean by the Spanish as slaves. In Africa, it is very common to find people playing music with instruments like the conga and la pandereta, instruments commonly used in Salsa, thus creating a sound similar to that of Salsa. Salsa’s most direct antecedent is Cuban son montuno, which itself is a combination of African and European influences.”

Salsa can adopt many different variations, styles for example: mambo, rumba, chachachá etc… It is very diverse and was distributed to the world by Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants. But Salsa as we know it today did not come from the Latin countries. The style evolved in the streets of New York! Two major reasons pushed it to be what it is now; Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants felt need to be closer to their home and Latin music loosing the influence because of R&B, Rock and Roll etc.

Salsa music has 4/4 meter and it is phrased in group of two bars. Usually it has around 180 beats per minute, but can vary more or less. The main beat is played by two wooden sticks called claves, but also can be played by cowbell. Salsa music blends in many different instruments into making it Salsa. Instruments such as a guitar, trumpets, trombones, piano, and many others are used depending on the performing artists. As I was visiting my parents, who live in Cincinnati my friends took me to this place, called The Mad Frog where Banda Tropicoso was performing their Salsa playing skills that night. It was good; I thought it was good and everyone in the audience appeared to agree. The musicians were smiling, people were dancing, and even the bartender was cracking jokes.

The audience was a mix; mostly young college students forced to come here, because it is next to the University of Cincinnati main campus. Some people were there, it seemed, to show off their salsa dancing skills; others were watching or trying to learn; and most were just listening to the music.

The venue was actually kind of odd. The Mad Frog is an old apartment building… but they make it work. The stage is the first thing you see when you walk in, then you can=t miss the dance floor, and the huge space in the middle where tables are at with people listening and watching. It is definitely a band-centric venue, because the stage is front and center, and the band members interact with the audience. For example, oddly enough, when I sat down, I did not even notice the vacuum cleaner in between the seats at the table until the bongo player pointed it out mid-song.

Most of the styles, that were played there, were different styles of salsa. Most popular style was ALos Angeles@ or better known as “freestyle” and it was played, for most of the night. Singing was involved too, as it was performed by two vocalists, who appeared from time to time on the stage, while drinking “Corona” beer.

Music was arranged in a very timely matter. Person sitting in the audience could guess, what the next musician move would be. It seemed like the musicians were playing same thing over and over again, just switching the instruments, it was really repetitive. At the beginning, I thought it was kind of boring, to hear same thing again and again. Then I realized how many variations, different possibilities one can create by adding, or dropping new instrument into play.

Beat was fast, but constant. It did not change at all throughout the concert. Variations of instruments changed, but the beat it self stayed the same. There was thirteen instruments that played. Sometimes beat was stronger, sometimes it was weaker, it all depended on which instruments were playing, leading the concert. Meter was constant, it stayed the same most of the time.

The best thing about the concert was melody. It kept people dancing on the floor, it kept people clapping in the audience, and it kept positive attitude throughout the evening. Music was not too loud, because you could hear a person sitting next to you talk. I think that was a positive thing, as people did not get tired from the loud music. Melody, from time to time, was accompanied by two vocalists, which made the music more live, more interesting as they were singing in Spanish. Leaves you wondering what do they sing about…

Texture, would be the most common thing that the jazz has in common. The blend of thirteen instruments that were played by the musicians proves it all. Various sounds were mixed together, that made Latin Jazz sound perfect. Audience was able to hear Polyphony and Homophony in the music that was performed that night. Sometimes one could hear more then two melodies braided together, and other times you could hear one strong, leading melody. Leading melody, that all the music seemed wrapped around it. The main instruments, that created the leading sound were; drums, trumpets and keyboard. Others like; flute, sax, bongos, electro base guitar and etc. were just fulfilling the lead melody. But other times person could hear two or more main melodies. For example; drums and bongos were making one kind of beat, sax, trumpets and base were making different beat. Put these two leading beats together and you get beautiful melody, which of course is accompanied by flute, vocalists and so on.

According to Scott Yanow – AOf all the post swing styles, Latin Jazz has been the most consistently popular and its easy to see why. The emphasis on percussion and Cuban rhythms make style quite dance-able and accessible. Essentially, it is a mixture of bob-oriented jazz with Latin percussion. The music (which has never gone out of style) has remained a viable force through the 1990s. The style has not changed and much during the past 40 years but it still communicates to today=s listeners. Latin jazz is also sometimes called Afro-Cuban jazz, a term preferred by Mario Bauza and Ray Barretto@

Over all I would grade this performance 9 out of 10. There was couple of flaws, that the musicians and their staff made, for example vacuum cleaner by my table, bongo guy made several mistakes on leading his crew. I never thought I would like Jazz, especially Latino style, but it was great experience for me, and I think in the future I will definitely go back to see them perform, but next time I will be able to dance salsa, like those dancers that were showing off on the dance floor.


1) Padura Fuentes, Leonardo. Faces of salsa: a spoken history of the music. Stephen J. Clark. Washington D.C. : Smithsonian Books, November 2003. 2362) Salsa music CD # B00004U0PY “Congreso De La Salsa”3) Internet source: online encyclopedia Wikipedia