true Salsa history
A condensed version
collaboration with Williams Careaga (Salsamania Luzern),
Cheo Feliciano and Ismael Miranda (Fania All Stars)
music we call Salsa is actually nothing different than Afro-Cuban or Afro-Antillean
music. The Caribbean Islands are the birthplace of rhythms like Guaracha,
Guaguanco, Son Montuno, Rumba, Plena, Bomba etc. All these rhythms have
been mixed and combined under the name of Salsa. In other words, Salsa
is a combination of different Caribbean music styles.
Of course, there is a story about how this has happened...
music genre nowadays known as Salsa was created in the early nineteen
seventies in the Latin-American immigrant neighbourhoods of New York.
But let’s start right from the beginning: In the fifties and sixties,
people from all nations immigrated to the United States, many of them
also from Latin America. The immigrants brought their own culture and,
therefore, their own music to the new home.
So, in the mid-sixties, there was a huge number of Latin-American orchestras
in New York, which all played Afro-Caribbean rhythms. There were numerous
dance clubs and on a weekend you could easily find twenty or even thirty
dances, and at each of them two or three orchestras played. This situation
persuaded more and more young Latin-American musicians, most of them from
Puerto Rico, to immigrate to New York, where they had a better chance
to find a job as a musician. As a consequence, the Puerto Rican music
scene in New York became bigger and bigger.
Cheo Feliciano, of Fania All Stars, says: „At this time, they mostly
played Afro-Cuban rhythms. So, the music was mainly from Cuba, but the
musicians were mainly Puerto Ricans. The orchestras in New York consisted
almost a hundred percent of Puerto Ricans, although, there were some musicians
from other countries and as well from Cuba. And also the people who danced
in New York were mostly Puerto Ricans.“
Ismael Miranda (Fania All Stars) also remembers. „Salsa is nothing
else than Afro-Antillean music. We, the Puerto Ricans who lived in New
York and other cities, took care that this Afro-Antillean music lived
on outside its origin countries and did not die. Because, it was very
nice music; music with a deep culture and very beautiful.“
The young musicians from Puerto Rico played in different orchestras. They
started mixing the rhythms and styles and creating a new rhythm, which
united the ‘flavour’ of all the Caribbean rhythms. They created
a new music mix, which was a lot faster than other, already well-known
Afro-Caribbean rhythms – Salsa was born.
businessman, Jerry Masucci, and a musician, Johnny Pacheco, noticed the
talent of the many Puerto Rican musicians. In 1968, Masucci and Pacheco
had the brilliant idea to unite the best musicians, singers and directors
of the different orchestras in one group. This was the birth of the biggest
Salsa orchestra ever: Fania All Stars.
August 1971, Fania All Stars performed with a great presentation in the
Cheetah Club in New York. The concert was such a big success that in the
following year, the movie Our Latin Thing came out, a movie that included
parts of the concert and told about the life in the Latin-American neighbourhoods
of New York. The movie led to a new concert, new records and to a new
film with the Fania All Stars. This time, the title had consequences that
hold on until today. The movie was named Salsa (1976).
After that, everything speeded up. The group became famous; there were
concerts in America and Europe. The Salsa fever had started.
All Stars were responsible for exporting Salsa – the term, the expression
and, above all, the feeling of Salsa –from the Latin-American quarters
of New York to the whole world.
there is a photo of Fania All Stars. Twenty of the members are Puerto
Ricans. On the picture, there are also Celia Cruz and Rubén Blades,
who joined the group a couple of years after the foundation.
the name Salsa
SSalsa means sauce, in other words, a
mixture of different ingredients and spices that ads flavour to the food.
This original sauce was associated with the new music mix. The Salsa music
was, actually, a mixture of different Afro-Caribbean rhythms, precisely
a sauce – Salsa.
However, the choice
of the term Salsa has also another background.
Cheo Feliciano tells: „One of the reasons why the term Salsa was
introduced is, because it was easier for people who didn’t speak
Spanish. For non-Spanish speakers, it was, for example, difficult to pronounce
„Montuno“, „Guaracha“ and so many other terms
for all the rhythms. To unite all these names under the term ‘Salsa’
was much easier. Therefore, Masucci chose the name ‘Salsa’
as a definition for all the rhythms we played in New York. That was brilliant,
because it was a commercial idea, able to sell the project, the rhythms
and everything else.“
greatest Salsa composer
important person, maybe the most important person, in the history of Salsa
is Tite Curet Alonso. He was the greatest songwriter for Fania All Stars
and composer of numerous Salsa hits, which, until today, should be part
of every Salsa collection.
Tite Curet Alonso
me, Tite Curet symbolizes Salsa“ Cheo Feliciano
„The best composer of our music
was from the seventies on Tite Curet. He was the person who gave us more
music than everybody else. Thousands of songs, thousands of hits. And
besides, he is a glory of Puerto Rico“ Ismael Miranda
“Tite is a memorable person, a dear
friend and a great artist“ Williams Careaga
'Tite' Curet Alonso was born on 26 February, 1926 in Guayama (Puerto Rico).
wrote more than 2000 compositions, 900 of them were recorded by artists
from all over America, like by Cheo Feliciano, Celia Cruz, Lupe Victoria
Yoli „La Lupe“, Willie Colón, Tito Rodríguez,
Olga Guillot, Héctor Lavoe, Ray Barreto and Rubén Blades.
people surely know Puro teatro, a song of the Almodóvar film Women
on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, sung by "La Lupe" as well
as La tirana and Carcajada final; and Anacaona from Cheo Feliciano; Isadora
Duncan sung by Celia Cruz; La Cura from Frankie Ruiz; Plantación
adentro from Rubén Blades; Periódico de ayer and Juanito
Alimaña from Héctor Lavoe. Or as well Tiemblas and Don Fulano
from Tito Rodríguez; Las caras lindas and Mi negrita me espera
from Ismael Rivera; and many, many more.
can’t think about Salsa without thinking of Tite Curet Alonso. This
fact is also confirmed by Cheo Feliciano: „Tite Curet is the most
important person, mainly in the seventies, eighties and nineties, but
also as early as in the sixties. He wrote melodies for so many of us,
and they all became successes. The hits of all artists and orchestras
were from Tite Curet Alonso. In other words, Tite Curet Alonso coined
four generations of music for all of us.
All artists of Fania are famous today thanks to Don Tite. Because, we
were a lot of good musicians and singers, but it was Tite who wrote the
hits that made us famous.“
Thanks to Tite, Masucci, Pacheco and Fania All Stars, today, we can dance
and enjoy Salsa all over the world.
Copyright Salsa Luzern. All rights reserved.
Text and English translation Samantha Ziegler