What’s in Your Salsa?

April Playlist Highlights






Pa’los rumberos Pa' Los Rumberos - 150 Cuban Classics Tito Puente Descarga Timbalera USA
Guaracha Guaracha - The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Willie Colon Guaracha Puerto Rico
Elige Tu Que Canto Yo Elige Tú Que Canto Yo - Cubano! Beny Moré Guaracha Cuba
Eres Como Yo Eres Como Yo - Andar Andando Azucar Negra Guaguancó Cuba
Que Bueno Baila Usted Qué Bueno Baila Usted - Benny Moré - El Bárbaro del Siglo Beny Moré Son Montuno Cuba
De Guantanamo De Guantanamo - Sabor al Guaso Ban Rarra Son Montuno Cuba
I like it Like that I Like It Like That - I Like it Like That Pete Rodriguez Boogaloo USA
Mercy Mercy Baby Mercy Mercy Baby - The Bad Boogaloo Ray Barretto Boogaloo USA
La Pachanga del Futbol La Pachanga del Futbol - Musica Tropical de Colombia, Vol. 16 Fruko y Sus Tesos Pachanga Colombia
Mas Pachanga Ray Barretto Pachanga USA
Bronx Pachanga USA Bronx Pachanga U.S.A. - Pachanga At The Caravana Club Charlie Palmieri Pachanga USA
Bomba De Navidad Richie Ray y Bobby Cruz Bomba USA
Bomba Carambomba Bomba Carabomba - Quitate de la Via Perico Rafael Cortijo Bomba Pureto Rico
Si Dios Fuera Negra Roberto Anglero Bomba Puerto Rico


If you have ever wondered why one Salsa song can sound so drastically different from another the answer could be in the origins of the genre.  The fact is that the musical genre known as Salsa is made up of several sub-genres each with their own unique rhythm and musical arrangement.  These sub-genres are the focus of this month’s blog post.

You will often read or hear about how Salsa music, like the food, is a mix of many different ingredients.  This fact was was brought home for me by a podcast episode I was recently listening to entitled ‘Por qué la salsa no existe’.  The episode came from ‘La Salsa no Existe’ written by Juan Fernando Rodríguez Escoba,  a podcast I have mentioned before in another blog post.   I was so impressed by how the episode opened my ears to the many sub-genres that make up Salsa that I contacted Juan asking him if I could translate and reproduce the text for this blog.  He gracisouly gave his permission.  The translated text is below and for those who are interested, here is a link to the original podcast text and the podcast itself.


Por qué la salsa no existe by Juan Fernando Rodríguez Escobar

Translated by Clavecito with the help of Sara M.

On this site we argue that “Salsa” is not a real genre because it is too simplistic a way of labeling a world of music made of many rhythms that share a common language.  The fact is that this is not a language of just one word.

Take Tito Puente’s song “Pa’los rumberos”, which could be called a Salsa but is actually a descarga timbalera.

Willie Colon y su Orquesta’s “Guaracha”, a song which marketing has labeled “Salsa”, is as its name indicates a modern version of a guaracha, a popular Cuban genre of music that has ancient traditions, and which has added its own thread to the [Salsa] musical quilt.

Willie Rosario’s “La Esencia del Guaguancó”, as its title indicates is not a Salsa but a guaguancó, another Cuban genre known as rumba.  Guaguanco has also participated in the making of this unique but heterogeneous language that brings us together on this website.

Pete Rodriguez sang “I like it Like that” never thinking of it as a salsa.  What this famous New York Latin American artist gave the world was a boogaloo, a genre which we discuss at length in another podcast, and which consists of Afro Caribbean rhythms mentioned above, as well as Afro North American rhythms like Jazz, Rock and Soul.

The genre [Salsa] is also composed of “son montuno”, which many experts believe provided the musical foundation for what has become the unified commercial sound of Salsa.

Furthermore, what is often called “Salsa” should be called “Pachanga” like Fruko y sus Tesos’ song “Los Charcos”.  This Cuban rhythm evolved among Hispanics in New York and swept through Latin America at the end of the 50s.  It was interpreted by many great musicians from Joe Quijano to Rubén Blades, Charlie Palmieri through to Ray Barretto.

Then along came Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz  in the 70’s who threw a bomb into the Caribbean that spread throughout Latin America.  Not a bomb like those that threatened the world during the Cold War but a Bomba ,the afro-Puerto Rican musical genre from the time of slavery, which itself contains a dozen sub-genres and in which the protagonists are the drums as well as the dance.

While the rhythms of Cuba and Puerto Rico have borne the majority of the load in creating this genre, many others have contributed their heritage, including those of Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.  Even Brazilian rhythms can be heard in songs such as “La Vide es Bonita” by Hector Lavoe.

And if Colombia added a large part of its musical richness to this new language, so too would Venezuela.  Nelson González [of the Venezuelan group Nelson y Sus Estrellas] is one of the main people responsible for exploring the frontier of this new genre adding a touch of the Andean-Caribbean that refreshed the [Salsa] music that came from North of the continent.

Tito Puente, one of the heroes of afro-Caribbean music in the 60’s and 70’s, detested the concept of “Salsa”.  For the best timbalero of all time, Salsa was something that you ate but could not see nor could you dance.  “It’s a word that does not signify anything” he said at every opportunity and we can understand why.  He could hear the mix of dozens of musical genres defined by such a narrow term. “Salsa is something I eat with spaghetti” he said.

Therefore we say again that “Salsa” does not exist

As you can see, the podcast identifies some of the influences in modern Salsa and there are many more.  Artists continue to add new rhythms to the Salsa universe.  A recent example is the addition of a reggaetón (dembow) beat to Salsa music.  This type of Salsa has become known as Salsaton and Cubaton.   I am sure you can identify other rhythms in your own music collections.  Ulimately, it is my hope that this knowledge will inspire you to increase your appreciation and understanding of  the “Salsa” music that you listen to and enjoy.

Questions, comments requests? Send me an email.

Hasta la próxima



MPop – Merengue for the Masses

February Playlist Highlights






Un Monton de Estrallas Un Monton de Estrellas - Guajiro Natural Polo Montañez Salsa Cuba
El Maraquero El Maraquero - La Timba Soy Yo Soneros All Stars Salsa Cuba
Identidad Identidad - Beginner's Guide To Timba Azucar Negra Salsa Cuba
El Mas Rico Beso Guayacán Orquesta Salsa Colombia
En Mi Puertorro Andy Montañez y Julio Voltio Salsa Puerto Rico
Indestructible Indestructible - Indestructible Ray Barretto Salsa USA
Vicio Del Pecado RKM and Ken-Y Bachata Dominican Republic
Entre Tu Amor Y Mi Dolor Entre Tu Amor y Mi Dolor - 2 Grandes de la Bachata, Vol. 3 Yoskar Sarante Bachata Dominican Republic
Ya No Toy Pà Eso Ya No Toy Pa' Eso - Hecho en el Patio Ilegales Merengue Electronico (MPop) Dominican Republic
Bailando Por El Mundo Bailando por el Mundo - The King of Dance Juan Magan ft Pitbull y El Cata Merengue Electronico (MPop) Spain / USA
Mueve la Cadera Proyecto Uno, Reel-to-Real Meren-rap (MPop) Dominican Republic / USA


What is MPop?

Originating in rural areas of the Dominican Republic, merengue (which literally translates into whipped eggs or meringue) is a musical style that dates back to the late 1800’s.  In its most basic form, it is made from a collection of 4 instruments; a tambora drum, güira, and marimba box bass for rhythm and either a guitar, banjo or button accordion for the melody.  This simple country music gained popularity over the years and was raised to a level of national importance when it was made the official dance music of the Dominican Republic by General Rafael Trujillo, president/dictator from 1930 to 1961.  Merengue music is built on a 2/4 rhythm, which makes it very easy to dance to.  General Trujillo apparently had two left feet so this easily identifiable beat worked well with his limited dancing abilities.  It’s worth repeating that this simple rhythm is very easy to hear even for people new to Latin dance.  If you want your non-dance friends to enjoy themselves at a Latin club, introduce them to merengue.

Is the traditional form of merengue still around today?  Probably, and while I suspect that you would find it alive and well in many rural areas of the Dominican Republic, when it comes to merengue in an urban setting, the music has evolved.  Artists like Juan Luis Guerra, Elvis Crespo and Olga Tañón have modernized the genre making it accessible to a wider audience.  Not only has merengue been modernized but it has also been “popularized” and this is where the term MPop comes in.

MPop is a catch phrase I use to describe merengue influenced popular music.  This would include such fusions as merengueton, meren-rap, techno-rengue, and merengue electronico.  The fusing of genres happens with many popular musical styles but seems to be especially common with merengue.  The merengue 2/4 rhythm lends itself so well to being blended.  Take the song La Despedida by reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee as an example.  The song has elements of mainstream reggaeton but at its core is a basic 2/4 merengue rhythm.  That rhythm makes the song easy to listen to and easy to dance to and I don’t mean that as a criticism.  I’m a fan of catchy, danceable MPop in general and La Despedida is a great example of it.

I’ve included a few more MPop examples in this month’s play list, one of which dates back to the late 90’s.  It’s juicy meren-rap by the great House/Reggae band, Reel to Real and meren-rap group Projecto Uno.  Unfortunately, Reel to Real isn’t around anymore but Projecto Uno’s Magic Juan is.  You can find one of his MPop songs in January’s blog post.

Comments, questions or music requests?  Send me an email.

Hasta la próxima