The History of Salsa and Timba
Salsa is one of the most dynamic and important musical phenomena of the 1900’s. In many Hispanic communities, it remains today the most popular style of dance music. Salsa represents a mix of Latin musical genres, but its primary component is Cuban dance music. The roots of salsa originated in Eastern Cuba (Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo) from the Cuban Son (about 1920) and Afro-Cuban dance (like Afro-Cuban rumba). There, Spanish and Afro-Cuban musical elements were combined, both in terms of rhythm and the instruments used. By mid-century, this music came to Havana where foreign influences were absorbed, particularly American jazz and popular music heard on the radio.
By the end of the l950s, many Cuban and Puerto Rican people including musicians had settled in the U.S., especially in New York. This created the environment where salsa music completed its development. “El Barrio” (Spanish Harlem) was the main place where this occurred. Many bands were formed; immigrants continued to make Afro-Caribbean music, but they adapted the sound to their new world. They were influenced especially by American jazz. Gradually in the 50s and 60s, salsa as we know it today was emerging. The most famous musicians of that time were Tito Puente, called the King of Mambo, and Celia Cruz, known as the Queen of Salsa.
The rise of salsa music is also tied closely to Fania Records which was founded in 1964 by the musician Johnny Pacheco and an Italian-American divorce lawyer named Jerry Masucci. The two met at a party in a NY hotel. They struck a deal to launch what became the most influential record label in Latin music’s history. Fania was known as “the Latin Motown,” with one huge hit after another becoming popular all over Latin America. Many artists became very famous with the promotion they received from the record label “La Fania.” Fania Records remolded Cuban music into a sound more appropriate to Latin New York, and they called the sound “salsa.” By he l970s salsa was becoming so popular that Fania’s bands and artists were touring all over Latin America. This decade was the real “heyday” of salsa.
The type of salsa music that Fania promoted came to be referred to as “hard salsa.” Then in the 80s, another style of salsa which was softer and more romantic was born, with artists like Gilberto Santa Rosa. Around this time, Latin musicians began to have an impact on mainstream U.S. music. Latin music was becoming trendy here and beginning to intrigue the rest of the world as well.
Both types of salsa remain popular today and with the popularity of the music, came the popularity of the dance.
Every Salsa composition involves complex African percussion based around the Clave Rhythm (which has four types), though there can be moments when the clave is hidden for a while, often when quoting Charanga, Changüí and Bomba.
The key instrument that provides the core groove of a salsa song is the clave. It is often played with two wooden sticks (called clave) that are hit together. For salsa, there are four types of clave rhythms, the 3-2 and 2-3 Son claves being the most important, and the 3-2 and 2-3 Rumba claves. Most salsa music is played with one of the Son claves, though a Rumba clave is occasionally used, especially during Rumba sections of some songs.
There are other aspects outside of the Clave that help define Salsa rhythm: the cowbell, the Montuno rhythm and the Tumbao rhythm.
The cowbell is played on the core beats of Salsa, 1, 3, 5 and 7. The basic Salsa rhythm is quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow, in other words, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7, which are very similar to the beats of the cowbell. Recognizing the rhythm of the cowbell helps one stay on Salsa rhythm.
The Montuno rhythm is a rhythm that is often played with a piano. The Montuno rhythm loops over the 8 counts and is useful for finding the direction of the music. By listening to the same rhythm, that loops back to the beginning after eight counts, one can recognize which count is the first beat of the music.
Tumbao is a rhythm in salsa that is played with the conga drums. It sounds like: “cu, cum.. pa… cu, cum… pa”. Its most basic pattern is played on the beats 2,3,4,6,7, and 8. Tumbao rhythm is helpful for learning to dance contra-tiempo (“On2”).
Timba is a Cuban genre of music, sometimes referred as salsa cubana (‘Cuban salsa music’). However, the historical development of timba has been quite independent of the development of salsa in the United States and Puerto Rico and the music has its own trademark aspects due to the Cuban Embargo and strong Afro-Cuban heritage.
The word timba is part of a large family of ìmbî and ìngî words which made their way into Spanish from African languages. Among the hundreds of other examples are tumba, rumba, marÌmba, kalimba, mambo, conga, charanga, and bongo, with more being invented every year. At least as far back as 1943, the word timba was used in lyrics and song titles such as Casino de la Playa’s Timba timbero and Perez Prado’s Timba timba. It’s also the name of a neighborhood in Havana.
It came into use as a music genre name, first as timba brava, around 1989. Many, most famously NG La Banda’s leader Jose Luis “El Tosco” Cortes, claim credit for being the first to use it to describe the new musical phenomenon
The main precursors of timba are three bands: Los Van Van, Irakere (both in the 1970s) and NG La Banda (1980s), though many other bands (e.g. Son 14, Orquesta Original de Manzanillo, Ritmo Oriental, Orquesta Revé) were influential in setting new standards.
Reposted from SalsaGente Posting at http://salsagente.com/history-of-salsa-music-dance/#TheHistoryofSalsaandTimba