What’s salsa?


The connoisseurs agree on one thing: The term “salsa” is a commercial invention. In the early 1970s, when the record label “Fania” wanted to give its musicians a more distinctive profile, it needed a simple, apt term to identify the product immediately. In the past, terms such as “bembe, amor” (love), “sabor” (taste), “fuego” (fire) and other Latino colloquial terms were used to give Latino songs an emotional and rhythmic name. Well, they agreed on the term “Salsa”.

“Salsa” as a term for a certain musical style was already present in Caribbean music history at an early stage: musicologists assume that it first appeared at festivals of black slaves. This is not surprising, especially since music and dance have always been associated with social communication and eating in this part of the world.

When Ignacio Pineiro used the phrase “echale Salsita” (take a bit of sauce) in one of his songs in 1928, he hinted at the feast for the ears that arises from the harmonious coexistence of a multitude of instruments. It should be an exciting instrumental “Sose”, which helped to cope with hard reality and everyday life.


For most listeners a “Pachanga”, a “Son”, a “Rumba”, a “Plena” or a “Guaguanco” is all Salsa; the “ChaChaCha”, the “Guajira”, the “Mambo”, the “Bomba”, the “Bolero” and the “Boogaloo” are also Salsa. Sometimes even the Venezuelan “Gaita”, the “Merengue” from the Dominican Republic and the Colombian “Cumbia” are combined with Salsa.

Since the “Salsa” is a fusion of styles and a free and non-regulated music, it is able to spread everywhere. She should pay tribute to all the gods without subordinating herself to any one, since her only goal is eternal dance, a profane, wild pleasure. So Salsa offers something for every age and taste: Salsa for dancing alone (although ultimately you can dance to any piece); Salsa, which tells stories, gossips or rogue fairy tales; Salsa, which is romantic, sentimental, intimate, erotic; Salsa, which is rebellious, non-conformist, anti-authoritarian and anti-colonialist; experimental Salsa; religious, mystical Salsa, which is based on the “santeria”. Since Salsa unites all this under one roof and because of the emotions and energy it awakens, Salsa helps the poor to develop a sense of identity. In Panama City or Portobelo (Panama), in Caracas or Maracaibo (Venezuela), in Guayaquil (Ecuador) or in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). She is often heard and worshipped, be it in Cali or Barranquilla (Colombia), in San Juan, Santurce or Ponce (Puerto Rico), in Lima (Peru), in Miami or East Harlem. But not only in the cities, also in the countryside there are people who have dedicated themselves to Salsa. More than 80 million are probably already moving the black heritage at the smallest sound.