Salsa Music Salsa Music a popular genre of Latin American music. Since its emergence in the mid-1960s, salsa has achieved worldwide popularity, attracting performers and audiences not only in Latin American communities but also in such non-Latin countries as Japan and Sweden. In terms of style and structure, salsa is a reinterpretation and modernization of Cuban dance-music styles. It emerged around 1900 as an urban, popular dance-music style in Cuba. It derived some features from Hispanic music, including its harmonies and the use of the guitar and a similar instrument called the tres.
To these, it added characteristics of the rumba, a style of dance music with Afro-Cuban origins. Features derived from the rumba include a rhythmic pattern known as clave and a two-part formal structure. This structure consists of a songlike first section followed by a longer second section featuring call-and-response vocals and instrumental improvisations over a repeated chordal pattern. By the 1940s the son had become the most popular dance music in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and much of urban Africa; Puerto Ricans who moved to New York City brought the son with them. The 1950s were a particularly dynamic period for Cuban dance music. Cuban and Puerto Rican performers in Havana, Cuba, and New York City popularized the mambo as a predominantly instrumental, big-band style.
The mambo, together with the medium-tempo chachach, enjoyed considerable popularity in the United States. Most importantly, the son was modernized by adaptation to horn-based ensembles of 10 to 15 musicians and distinctive, often jazz-influenced instrumental styles. By the 1950s, New York City had become host to a large and growing Puerto Rican community. A wave of social and political activism, cultural self-assertion, and artistic ferment swept through this community in the 1960s. The newly founded Fania Records successfully promoted several young performers of Cuban-style dance music, and the musicnow repackaged as salsabecame linked to the sociopolitical effervescence of the era. Bandleaders such as Willie Colon, Rubn Blades, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, and Eddie Palmieri led the musical movement, in which salsa became a self-conscious vehicle for Latino pride, unity, and mobilization throughout the Hispanic Caribbean Basin countries and among Latino communities in the eastern United States.
Most importantly, however, salsa, with its intricate and driving rhythms, its brilliant horn arrangements, and its searing vocals, served as an exuberant and exhilarating dance music. By the mid-1970s, salsa had become the dominant popular music idiom in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, with Venezuela and Colombia emerging as music centers to rival New York City. But during the 1980s, salsas themes of Latin unity and sociopolitical idealism diminished. In addition, the genre faced new competition, especially in New York City and Puerto Rico, from the merengue, a dance-music style from the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, salsa has remained popular among younger generations of Latinos, who tend to favor a smoother, more sentimental style known as salsa romntica, popularized by such bandleaders as Eddie Santiago and Tito Nieves.
Notable salsa singers of the 1990s included Linda India Caballero and Mark Anthony.