/sahl"seuh/; Sp. /sahl"sah/, n.
1. a lively, vigorous type of contemporary Latin American popular music, blending predominantly Cuban rhythms with elements of jazz, rock, and soul music.
2. a ballroom dance of Puerto Rican origin, performed to this music, similar to the mambo, but faster with the accent on the first beat instead of the second beat of each measure.
3. Mexican Cookery. a sauce, esp. a hot sauce containing chilies.
4. to dance the salsa.
[1970-75; < AmerSp, Sp: lit., sauce; prob. so called orig. because of its mixture of styles]

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Contemporary Latin American dance music.

Salsa developed in Cuba in the 1940s. It drew upon local musical styles, such as charanga (featuring primarily strings and flute) and the dance music of the conjuntos (bands), and blended them with elements of jazz. In the 1950s salsa began to flourish in New York City, where it incorporated traditional Puerto Rican rhythms, and later, elements from Venezuelan and Colombian music and rhythm and blues. Its stars have included Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and Willie Colon.

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      hybrid musical form based on Afro-Cuban music but incorporating elements from other Latin American styles. It developed largely in New York City beginning in the 1940s and '50s, though it was not labeled salsa until the 1960s; it peaked in popularity in the 1970s in conjunction with the spread of Hispanic cultural identity.

      The roots of salsa (Spanish: “sauce”) are in the son. Combining elements of the Spanish guitar-playing tradition with the rhythmic complexity and call-and-response vocal tradition of African musical sources, the son originated in rural eastern Cuba and spread to Havana in the first decades of the 20th century. Highly syncopated, it employs an “anticipated” rhythm structure wherein the bass line precedes the downbeat by a half-beat, creating a distinctive pulse. Pioneered by bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez, the son became the framework on which was hung a wide variety of dance-oriented Afro-Cuban musical styles, from the bolero to the conga and from the rumba to the mambo.

      Afro-Cuban music spread throughout Latin America, notably to Mexico. However, New York City became the forge for its transformation into salsa, beginning in the 1940s with the contributions of the orchestra led by Cuban émigré Machito (Frank Grillo), which blended Afro-Cuban styles with jazz and big band approaches. Another Cuban émigré, Celia Cruz (Cruz, Celia), became the reigning diva of Afro-Cuban dance music in the 1960s, as it evolved into salsa with smaller ensembles comprising rhythm and horn sections and through huge contributions by a number of musicians of Puerto Rican heritage, most notably bandleaders Tito Rodríguez, Tito Puente (Puente, Tito) (a virtuoso timbale player and vibraphonist), and Eddie Palmieri (a pianist who brought progressive jazz influences into the mix). Frequently but not always up-tempo, or “hot,” salsa grew to incorporate increasingly diverse influences and performers—from Panamanian activist-singer-songwriter Rubén Blades to Mexican American rocker Carlos Santana (Santana). Although its international popularity crested in the 1970s, salsa retained an audience into the 21st century.

Additional Reading
Vernon W. Boggs, Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution of Salsa in New York City (1992); Frances R. Aparicio, Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures (1998); Charley Gerard and Marty Sheller, Salsa!: The Rhythm of Latin Music, new ed. (1998); Lise Waxer, Situating Salsa: Global Markets and Local Meanings in Latin Popular Music (2002); Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida Jáquez (eds.), Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in Latin/o America (2003).Susan V. Cashion

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Universalium. 2010.

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