- " Salsa : a
different manner to name Cuban music. Mambo, cha cha cha, son... all the Cuban rhythms
joined together by only one name ". (Celia Cruz).
But strictly speaking, salsa borns in New York at the end of
the 60ties, created by musicians of the barrios, the
poor Latino neighboroods.
The style grows rich quickly by a social dimension, through
the impulse of Willie Colón, who reveals the back side of the
American dream, while putting in words the harsh ghetto reality, where misery, violence
and hard drugs reign. His friend Rubén Blades imposes a
conscious, claiming and political salsa (salsa conciente).
International figures like Celia Cruz contribute to establish the
style durably. Thanks to its worldwide impact, which overflows the framework of Latin
audiences, salsa becomes a generic term : people will call salsa whole of Latin musics : boogaloo, mambo, old son, or recent latin-house.
Cuban musicians, estimating that the USA recycled and usurped their music, sulked the term
for a long time. But the word salsa (the sauce) seems
definitively adopted today. It is real that the term is perfect, seeing that it evokes at
the same time a mixture, a know-how, a heat, an excitation of the senses, and all that
give taste - and pepper ! - to the things.
This African string instrument, known in Cuba, consists of vegetable fibre or metal
strings, tended on a neck and on a calabash, which acts as resonance chamber.
Afro-Cuban religious system, resulting from a syncretism between religion of Yorubas (which constituted most of the slaves brought to Cuba)
and Catholicism. Santería is a topic frequently treated in
the lyrics of salsa.
Special article in forecast.
Two old frying pans fixed on a board by the tails ; suspend the board around your neck :
so, you can play while walking, and strike on your two stoves with two sticks. The stoves
are of different size, so you obtain two sounds, and you awake all the district ; anyway,
nobody sleeps, because its carnival.
Traditional formation in son as from 1927, and during the 30ties :
guitar, tres, double bass, bongos,
maracas, claves and trumpet
(and of course, voices).
Band composed of 6 musicians : guitar, tres, double bass (or marimbula), bongos, maracas and claves. Some of the
musicians are, of course, singers.
The sexteto is the typical formation of the son during the
20ties. From 1927, a trumpet is sometimes added , and so the formation becomes a septeto.
This traditional instrument, whose a variant
sounds in the West Africa chorists hands (like, for example, Oumou Sangare), is made
of a dried and hollowed calabash covered with a net ; pearls or large dry seeds (or, in
Africa, cauris) are fixed on its meshes, and sound when the instrument is agitated. The
sound is amplified by the calabash, which acts as resonance chamber.
Throughout the 19th century, in the rural Oriente in Cuba,
African musical elements mix with Hispanic ones, and with French musical things brought by
the winds come from the neighbouring Haiti.
About the end of the century, the emulsion is stabilized, and risks timidly its neck in
the streets of Santiago and Havana, thanks to its trovadores
: the son is born, and today, it is always alive. Some people
say that son is in Cuba what blues
is in USA : a very simple form, basis of all, with its two feet so planted in its original
cultures that it becomes without age and reaches the universality.
Indeed, with the Spanish melodies are mixed African rhythms, where the clave is sovereign. A characteristic anticipation of the tempo
breathe swing and elegance into it ; the alternation of verses and refrain in form of
question-answer between principal singer and chorus ; simple and short
texts speaking about the everyday life : the son is polished
by time and popular cultures, classic and eternal.
For one century that it travels, it visited all the world, introduced by ambassadors like
the unforgettable Sindo Garay, Nico Saquito,
Ignacio Pineiro, Sexteto Habanero,
Trio Matamoros - which, by bringing it closer to the bolero, generate the bolero-son
-... or today Vieja Trova Santiguera, Familia Valera Miranda, Compay Segundo,
international legend. It increased in professionalism, under the influence of these
But the son remains definitively marked by its country
childhood : still today, its natural sobriety prefers simple and portable instruments,
like guitars and light percussions. From its country love with the guajira, is born the son montuno,
slower than the son.
And even if it moves in fashionable circles and on the most prestigious stages, even if it
is the essence of musics which sell thousands of records - as its rebellious daughter, the
salsa - and whose interpreters are stars, its not enough to
turn its head ; forever, it prefers its native Oriente,
when the sun goes down behind the hills, the working day finished, at time to leave the machete
to take the guitar, and sing with some friends the sorrows and the joys of the men.
Originally, this term designates the son singer ; today the word is
extended to the salsa singer.
Rhythm invented in the 70ties by José Shine " Changuito "
Quintana, at this time percussionnist in the band Los Van
Afro-Cuban dance, in the 19th century.
This variant of the son is born in the Island of Pines (Cuba), at the
end of 19th century. The term applies at the same time to the musical style, to the dance,
and to the feast where it is practised.
By many aspects, the sucu-sucu have similarities to the son montuno : a soloist improvises, in response to a chorus which repeats
a fixed part, accompanied by the instruments.
The dance is practised in couples : " One of the arms of the man slips behind the
back of his partner; its other arm, stretched, wind round one of the arms of the woman...
... Like in the son, the shoulders and the hips do not move ".
(Maria Teresa Linares : El Sucu-sucu de Isla de Pinos, 1967).
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