Spice it Up

Type of Music

Name: Salsa comes from the Spanish word meaning sauce. It carries connotations of spiciness and heat. It acquired musical association in the 20th century.

Where is salsa played, listened, and danced to? Salsa dance socials are held at night clubs, bars, ballrooms, restaurants, and outdoor festivals. Many different salsa festivals are held internationally. It is the music primarily played at Latin dance clubs.

Who is Associated with Salsa?

Salsa is predominantly associated with the Cuban and Puerto Rican people

The History of Salsa

Where did Salsa Originate?

Salsa began as a fusion of other genres of music

It is thought to have originated from meshing different types of music like Cuban son and Puerto Rican bomba. “Salsa” was orignially marketed in New York City during the 1970’s.

Musical Influneces

Salsa has influences from many genres such as Cuban Son, Guaracha, Chachacha, Mambo, Bolero, Bomba, R&B, and Funk. Tito Puente's Five Beat Mambo is an example of the Mambo music genre that influenced the formation of Salsa
Tito Puente - Five Beat Mambo

Characteristics of Salsa

Major Characteristics

Most Salsa music follows the son montuno model of a verse section followed by a call and response section in the chorus known as the montuno. The tempo may gradually increase during the montuno in order to build excitement. The montuno section can be divided into various sub-sections sometimes referred to as mambo, diablo, moña, andespecial. Salsa also features many instrumental breaks and jazzy solos.


Celia Cruz & Willie Colon - Usted Abuso by THELAVOZ

Main Instruments and Vocals

Main instruments used are the bongos, botijuela, claves, conga drums, cowbells, guiros, marimbulas, quijadas, and timbales. The chorus of the song tends to follow a call and response format. This is known as the montuno. tempo may gradually increase during song. Verses tend to be short but can be elongated.

Social and Cultural Events

It is not connected to any specific social events but is often played at Latin night clubs. It is also connected to many international Salsa festival.


There are no costumes directly associated with salsa music but salsa dancers wear flowing fabrics, glittering garments, and bold color costumes. Females tend to wear high heels while men wear jazz shoes.

Famous Salsa Musicians

Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, Willie Colón, Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente, Ruben Blades, Oscar D’Leon

Connection to Dance

Dances Associated With Salsa

Salsa is its own popular form of dance. It also has origins of other dances such as Cuban Son, Chachachá, and the mambo. Salsa dancing evolved from the earlier forms of dance. Salsa dancing also has elements of swing dancing incorporated in.

Characteristics of Salsa Dance

Salsa is danced by stepping on 3 consecutive beats, pausing for a beat then repeating. The dancer shifts weight by stepping causing their hips to move while keeping the upper body level. The lead dancer uses arms to signal the follower of which position to be in.

Cuban Salsa Dance Styling - Havana, Cuba

The Music of Today

Who, What, and Where

Today salsa music is associated with rising artist such as Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, and Tito Nieves. Producer Sergio George is also a large name in Salsa and helped revive its success in the 1990's by remixing salsa and more contemporary music. Salsa has had great success in America with crossover artists such as Gloria Estefan and Marc Anthony. It has also become a major part of Columbian music starting around the 1990's.

Projected Future

In recent years the popularity of salsa music has been on a decline. Billboard reported a 14% decrease in popularity from the beginning of the year. It is still unclear whether Salsa music will have another revival but many salsa musicians are hopeful that a new generation of young salsa musicians are emerging.