The Salsa Concept
The Salsa Concept
Several centuries of interaction between musicians and audiences from diverse backgrounds in Cuba have produced the most intricate and appealing dance music of the world. An analysis of the music forms known collectively as salsa provides a good starting point for the study of Cuban music. This chapter examines the rise of the salsa music movement in the United States, its evolution, maturation, social and historical context, and especially, the musicians that created and developed it. Salsa cannot be limited to a musical definition, but is a collective term of recent vintage that encompasses several Afro-Latin musical forms. The core of salsa stems from the Cuban turn-of-the-twentieth-century country style, a marriage of southern Spanish and West African forms. Musicians attest to the centrality of Cuban dance music in the salsa phenomenon. Salsa began to enter the U.S. popular music scene in a substantial manner in the 1970s and 1980s. Appreciating the music took more than including an excluded culture; musical concepts as well as the culture of listening were rethought. Salsa is also analyzed as a vehicle for ethnic identity as it became identified with Latino urban communities in New York and other U.S. cities, as well as cities in the Caribbean. In the last two decades, it has exhibited a new twist in its development: the appearance of the salsa sensual, a romantic ballad with a steady salsa-rhythm background. This new approach represents a shift from Latin American music traditions characterized until then by rather strict separations between dance music and romantic listening music.
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