Tak! Tak!, Tak! Tak! Tak! That is the sound of the claves striking against each other as the music begins to play. This sound fills the air in many Hispanic neighborhoods around the country. The music produced sends people into a small frenzy and the party truly begins. Salsa is a music that some describe as magical and others as a representation of an entire culture. For many it is only a form of music that they can dance to, however to others it is a reminder of all that they left behind.
Salsa can trace its origins directly to the migratory patterns enacted by European colonialism. In their rush for sugar and tobacco; the Europeans pursued colonies in the newly discovered world. To that end they also needed a cheap source of labor that would tend to the newly discovered cash crop. This spurned the forced migration of many Africans to the colonies in the Caribbean. With this forced transplantation, pieces of their culture were also brought over. An active expression of this was the music that was a constant reminder of home.
The roots of salsa are varied and for the most part lost to time. However, we can begin this journey to find the source of Salsa by looking at the African styles of music. The progenitor of Salsa is found in Cuba, it is a style of music known as Son. Son is derived from Spanish, African, French Creole and native musical influences, arising first in Cuba’s Oriente province, reaching Havana around the 1880s. (Leymarie 2003) The most influential group from this period was the Trio Oriental, who stabilized the sextet format that soon came to dominate the basic structure of Son bands.
Son managed to take root in New York City around the 1940’s, and became the catalyst for the spread of Latin music of this type into other areas such as Mexico; where a burgeoning film industry attracted Latin musicians. This spurned the creation of Cuban-style big bands, which included Puerto Ricans such as Perez Prado, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez. New York began developing its own Cuban-derived sound, spurred by large-scale Latino immigration. Thus, this created the new exciting sound of Mambo. Mambo is a very jazz-influenced form of music that came into existence in New York City via influence of the Harlem Renaissance.
Come back tomorrow for part 2 of this 3 part series. Here is a little snippet of what Salsa would eventually become, enjoy!