Teach Me the Rhythm

January Playlist Highlights






Ritmo de pollo Ritmo de Pollo - 20 Superhits Charangueros Fajardo y sus Estrellas 1950s Charanga Cuba
Mi Gran Pasion Mi Gran Pasión - Mi Gran Pasión Gonzalo Rubalcaba Danzón Cuba
Tintorera Ya Llegó Tintorera Ya Llegó - Legendary Sessions Chano Pozo y Arsenio Rodríguez Son Montuno Cuba
Tres Lindas Cubanas Tres Lindas Cubanas - Grabaciones Completas 1925-1931 Volumen 1: Tres Lindas Cubanas Sexteto Y Septeto Havanero Son Cuba
Chirrín chirrán Chirrín Chirrán - Colección Juan Formell y Los Van Van, Vol. II Los Van Van Songo Cuba
Bacalao con Pan Bacalao Con Pan - Irakere: Coleccion, Vol. 1 Irakere Modern Jazzband Cuba
Changui Clave Changui Clave - Elio Revé y Su Charangón (Vol. 2) Elio Revé y su Charangón Charangón Cuba
Nube Pasajera Nube pasajera - Pa' Que Se Entere la Habana Charanga Habanera Timba Cuba
Hablando en Serio Hablando en Serio - Hablando en Serio Manolito Simonet y Su Trabuco Timba Cuba
Pegaíto, pegaíto Pegaíto, pegaíto - Estamos pegaos Manolín, El Médico De La Salsa Timba Cuba
Oru Seco Opening: Orun Seco - Yemayá I Abbilona Yoruba – batá Cuba
Makuta Makuta - Iyabakua - Afro-Cuban Traditional Music


Bantu – makuta Cuba


Beyond Salsa for Beginners, An Introduction to Latin Music for Dancers and Listeners – Reviewed

For anyone interested in Cuban Timba or Cuban music in general a great web resource is Timba.com.   One of the driving forces behind the site is its co-founder and musical editor Kevin Moore.  Not only does Kevin help maintain the site he also writes books, a lot of books, on the subject of Cuban music.  I have been meaning to get a hold of one of these for a while but have made the excuse that they are intended for musicians or aspiring musicians or people with more musical background than me.  That was my excuse up until last November when he released Beyond Salsa for Beginners – An Introduction to Latin Music for Dancers and Listeners.   I may not be a musician or musically talented but I do love to dance and am pretty passionate about Latin music so no more excuses.  I picked up a copy of the book shortly before Christmas and have been working my way through it since.

At 250 pages Beyond Salsa for Beginners is not large but I am amazed at how long it’s taken me to get through it.  I’m a slow reader for sure but the book truly is packed full of really interesting info and stacks of song suggestions.  I have probably spent triple the time listening to the musical suggestions from the book as I have reading it.  The point here is that Beyond Salsa for Beginners is really not meant to be absorbed in an evening but is something that should be enjoyed and studied over a period of time to truly get the benefit of all the details that are packed into it.

The book starts off by layout out its intended purpose with the following three goals:

  • To give you a working knowledge of the full history of this (Latin) music
  • To increase your appreciation with some basic clapping, singing and dancing exercised to help you understand how it all fits together
  • To provide a little inside information for those taking dances classes, attending concerts and traveling to Cuba.

These goals are achieved through two major components, Listening Tours and Rhythmic Exercises, each of which are accompanied by audio tracks.  The rhythmic exercises highlight different rhythms that make up Cuban music with each rhythm being available as an audio download.  There are over one hundred audio tracks associated with the rhythmic exercises, which you can download for free without even buying the book.  That said, the tracks are of limited value without the explanations that the book provides.  What’s cool about the audio downloads is that they make the rhythm diagrams in the book come alive by allowing the reader (listener) to hear, internalize and even practice each rhythm.  Personally, I have found the exercises really useful for my own appreciation of Latin music and salsa dancing.

The other major component of the book is the Listening Tours.  There are 4 tours in all covering Cuban Pre-Revolution, Post-Revolution, Timba and Folkloric music.  A list of recommended listening tracks is provided for each tour with each track being selected to showcase the musical genres associated with that tour.  Additionally, there is also a section by selection break of each track so that you can get an understanding of what is going on in the song.  A long lists of further listening suggestions is also provided so that if you like a particular genre you can easily explore it further.   I have used these suggestions extensively to expand my own musically library.   Unfortunately, the recommended listening tracks are not available as a download with the book so you have to hunt them down yourself.  I have included a few of my favourites in this month’s playlist and if you listen to only one song from that list make it Bacalao con Pan by Irakere.  My jaw almost hit the floor when I heard that song for the first time, it’s that good.  I should add a caveat here that the book identifies very specific versions of each track so that the break downs match up with the track.  As I wasn’t always able to find the versions specified in the book the tracks in my playlist may not be identical to those in the listening tours.

In conclusion, if you are a salsero(a) and love to listen to and/or dance to Cuban music I would highly recommend this book.   At the very least it will give you with a deeper appreciation of the rhythms that make up the songs that you enjoy and provide you with suggestions of other songs to check out.  Beyond Salsa for Beginners may also be worth a look if you find Cuban music a little inaccessible.  It will provided you with insight into how intricate and evolutionary (and revolutionary) Cuban music is and also how dancable it can be.   Ultimately, at $30 for the printed copy or$15 for a digital copy it’s an inexpensive tool to expand your knowledge of and love for Latin music.

One last thing speaking of Cuban music, there a couple of upcoming Cuban music/dance events to mark on your calender:

  • If you are in Edmonton, Alberta on January, 19th you will want to check out Timbachata, a Salsaddiction Dance Party at Expressionz Café.
  • If you are in San Francisco, California any time between February 14-17 you will want to check out the San Francisco Rueda Festival, the largest Cuban music and dance Festival in the U.S.!!

Questions, comments, requests? Send me an email or leave a comment below.


Hasta la próxima



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




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