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History of Latin Salsa Music
by Alex Cosper (12/15/12)

The roots of salsa music grew from Cuba and then spread throughout the world after being popularized in America by Xavier Cugat, who came from Cuba and mixed mambo, conga and cha cha in his hits of the 1930s. The instrumentation of today's salsa music was heavily influenced by American jazz artists. The term "salsa music" now reflects several subgenres such as mambo, bolero and merengue. Part of how salsa began to fuse with American styles such as R&B, funk and jazz involved the migration of Puerto Rican natives to New York in the 1970s, when the genre started becoming high profile, especially at discoteques. The term "salsa music" implies a spicy flavor with many ingredients, much like the food.

One of the tracks from the popular motion picture Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was called "Salsation" by David Shire, which showcased the Cuban beat and New York jazz influence. Another film that came out a few years later called Salsa: Latin Pop Music in Cities was released in 1979 and documented the rise of salsa as a fusion of Caribbean, African and New York musical influences. Salsa rhythm was further popularized around the globe by the Miami Sound Machine's mid-eighties hit "Conga."

The music is high energy and usually creates a vibrant atmosphere at dance clubs. In the early 1970s a New York TV dance show called Salsa was perhaps the first media outlet to promote the term on a regular basis. The show was hosted by Izzy Sanabria, who began to get noticed by national publications such as The New York Times, who reported on salsa music as a new phenomenon. That's how salsa music started becoming more popular outside of Cuba than in its homeland.

Artists who helped make salsa become an internationally recognized style were Arsenio Rodriguez, Johnny Pacheco, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri and Roberto Roena. Instrumentation usually includes piano and horns with rhythm sections encompassing cowbells, claves, congas and bongos. Modern salsa artists include Elvis Crespo, Oscar D'Leon and Grupo Niche. The impact of salsa music, especially in the 1990s, was felt in American hits by artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony and many others.

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