Salsa > How do we identify Salsa music?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by squirrel, Nov 26, 2004.

  1. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    By basic rhythm form of jazz I mean that it isn't written on top of a clave rhythm. Which means that as changing as it is, it will be a 1,2,3,4... Just as son, however in son the 1,2,3,4 are molded to emphasize the clave...

    Just a thought...
    There were a number of Jazz composers who tried to composed for salseros, however they never really made it because their Jazz composing skills never added the clave and backbone of the music...

    God I forget what Willie Colon's song in specific is the best example of this, but it is a very popular one. When it was first written by, at the time, one of the most famous Jazz composers (which scapes me the name), well, everyone loved the arraingement but it had to be handed back to Louie Ramirez to re-make with a salsa beat. For his Jazz approach as appealing as it was to a Jazz like tune, didn't make it a salsa but a straight up 1,2,3,4 feel, which salsa hasn't.

    You have defintely put it rather nicely when expressing the different of the mixture of both rhythms. I do still feel that a latin-Jazz and a Jazz sound differently, but I mean it not as a bad thing.

    I actually love latin jazz, yet I can't stand any other form of Jazz, unless is very percussive.
  2. ElSereno

    ElSereno New Member

    But what I'm saying is that there isn't a "basic rhythm" for jazz at all. It can be in 4/4 time, 3/4, 5/5 (like "Take 5") -- anything. So, only Latin jazz is written on a clave rhythm; other kinds of jazz are written to many other rhythms.

    And of course someone steeped in the clave will better at giving music a genuine Latin feel than someone who maybe has studied lots of other rhythms, but maybe none of them in such depth.

    To me, jazz in essence is perhaps more of an approach to melody and harmony, whereas heart of the Latin sideis more towards the rhythm. Not to say that either tradition was ignorant of either of these skills, just each concentrated more on one side.

    But the combination! Wow! :)
  3. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Fair enough... I did not know of this. :D Thank you. I just can't get over the Jazzy feel of music that makes a jazz melody even when written in different timings. For a Jazz tune is unmistakable even if written in different timings with a latin-Jazz tune. The feel is really more what I mean when speaking of basic structure that non-latin emptyness, like in salsa it is a feel that the music has over a timing.

    One of my friends when he first heard Salsa said, "what the heck is this. It feels like a 4 on top of 3 but then changes to 2 on top of four". I then asked him to clap the feel and he clapped the clave, even the changes from 2-3 to 3-2. WOW! Yet, when he counted out loud he counted 1,2,3,4. But, acknowledge that the music didn't feel as it was counted. I think that is what I might mean by basic structure, some kind of projected feeling by the music. See, I'm not even sure what I mean.

    This is the times where more knowledge in music would help me say what I feel. I think it really isn't the timing but rather a missing something that makes a Jazz melody feel foreign to me. Since I've learned more about Jazz there isn't one Jazz tune that I would mistake as Latin-Jazz or anything else than Jazz.

    I really think is the addition of the clave that gives latin jazz the feel I deem absent to my liking. The wierd thing is that before I even noticed the difference between latin and straight up jazz, I never liked non-latin Jazz, but did so Latin-Jazz. Note that I still have virgin ears to many sounds, which is to say that what I feel today might not be so tomorrow...

    Perhaps that is what makes it for me, the rhythm surroudning the clave.. I don't even think is so much that it is jazz or not, but music that doesn't have a clave feel, I do not like. To me, jazz without the latin element feels empty, as if someone wanted to tell me something but failed to deliver message.

    One of my best friends is a professional Jazz musician, he plays the sax (same as above)... He screws with my mind all the time, he is the one that teaches me about music, and he knows I can't stand all non-latin Jazz, even avant garde Jazz... so he plays it for me and laughs at my changes in reaction from song to song... The only ones I react positively to are the latin based Jazz tunes, the ones with a heavy backbone in percussion and clave feel.

    I'm sure the more I learn about music the more my ideas will change, but as of now I just can't get away from non-latin Jazz feeling empty.
  4. peachexploration

    peachexploration New Member

    Excellent thread. Love it!!! :banana:
  5. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    And this is why, if I have to describe it to someone who doesn't know Son Montuno from Guaguanco from Bolero from Guaracha, I call it jazz. At least that gets their head to wrap around it on a basic level. Personally, I hate labeling music. It's been an issue that's bugged me my entire adult life. Just seems most people have to have a label for something to be able to relate to it. When it comes to music I know what moves me...and that's really the only label I need.
  6. tacad

    tacad New Member

    I don't know. When I think jazz and salsa I think two completly different things. Even in latin jazz you can identify the jazz elements and the latin elements. Also just to complicate things many people now perceive jazz to be smooth jazz which is certainly a far cry from salsa. And to further complicate matters they are mixing in pop songs on smooth jazz stations. Like that smooth jazz group (I'm joking here) Duran Duran. So when I say I like jazz and someone else says I like jazz too, I don't know what we are talking about. Someone may think that you are salsa dancing to the smooth sounds of Kenny G.
  7. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    :lol: That's why it's easier no to explain it, and just have them listen to it.
  8. Sorry I haven't read the rest of this thread, but--Victor Manuelle certainly does use clave!

    I think the rhythm is the most important test in deciding whether or not something is salsa.
  9. Incidentally, bringing jazz into this in order to get some clarity about what salsa is may be a big mistake. (Youngsta's solution to the salsa question does get an A for elegance though.) Even though I'm not a big fan of jazz--I like a very small subset of it--I have spent a lot of time reading jazz boards and newsgroups. There are constant battles over what jazz is.

    There are roughly two main groups: those who say that jazz is primarily defined by a particular rhythmic swing and another group that gives more of a circular definition, saying that jazz is what has come to be called jazz by jazz artists and fans. (There are also usually some people who see improvisation as the defining element, but there are far too many traditions that make use of improvisation that have nothing to do with jazz.) I tend to opt for the latter, even though it may not seem very helpful. I think the emphasis should be on history and on how the word gets used, rather than on finding some sort of TRUE ESSENCE of jazz out there in the timeless realm of Platonic ideas.

    While the meaning of "jazz" has widened over time, the meaning of "salsa," as borikensalsero has pointed out (on this thread and elsewhere), has tended to narrow.
  10. But to come back to a more practical level. . .

    Squirrel, I think one way to deal with your problem is to think about what sort of music your students will be hearing when they go out dancing, and help them get a handle on identifying salsa vs. those particular other forms they are likely to hear. Can they really not hear a difference between salsa and house? How about salsa and merengue?
  11. youngsta

    youngsta Active Member

    I understand where you're coming from. We used to have these same arguments/discussions about House music when I was heavily into the scene. That is where my original distaste for labeling music came from. House went from being this fairly broad category covering all electronic music to being some generic term that almost means nothing. Now there are literally over 20 subgenres. All the pigeon holing bugs me.

    You know the more I think about it the more I think describing it as Jazz wouldn't be the best way. Sometimes it's really hard to think of a way to explain it to people that have never been exposed to it.
  12. ElSereno

    ElSereno New Member

    Well how about a circular description of salsa music then?

    Salsa music is music you can dance salsa to :)
  13. I can't stop puzzling over the initial questions posed by squirrel, not the abstract philosophical side of them, but the practical dance-oriented side of them. I think your students need to immerse themselves in salsa and if there are some songs on "salsa" albums that don't feel like salsa to them, then they should be encouraged to ask you about them, and you can talk about why (assuming you can handle whatever they are asking about). Maybe (for instance) it's because there is a plena or cumbia rhythm laid overtop a salsa clave structure? Maybe it's because there are a lot of strings in it and nothing actually playing the clave (and that confuses them).

    Are your students willing to buy a few salsa CDs and spend time listening to them (or listen online, or something)? I think it's really crucial that they listen outside of class and outside of clubs or dance events.
  14. A lot of times the timbales are tapping out almost a stylized clave, if that helps.


    I put on Victor Manuelle's "Asi es la Mujer" to try to figure out what's going on. Two things happen: first, I am immediately drawn into the song (the feeling is what hits me immediately). Second, it's too complicated for me to explain. I don't have that sort of understanding of it.


    I don't know. . . I remember my teachers using Victor Manuelle and Frankie Ruiz a lot to teach beginner lessons in clubs.
  15. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    Well... some cannot tell the difference between Salsa and Merengue... :) I couldn't when I first started Salsa 4 years ago... and I have to confess I couldn't for a long time... I am a bad listener... :).

    I try to explain Salsa music as far as my knowledge of it goes... :). I am not a musician and my students are neither... most of them don't even care about Salsa and Cumbia... if they like the song and they can Salsa to it... it's fine by them...

    But there are some who do ask... be it 'cause they are interested, be it 'cause they want to understand the beat which they cannot hear...

    Yesterday I tried to explain the beat to a beginner... I clapped my hands for him on the 1,3,5,7 beats... I explained about how the music goes... :( He didn't understand anything... :(
  16. Jazz0

    Jazz0 New Member

    I agree with these above. To me Salsa music is nothing more than a mainly Afro-Cuban derived rhythm section combined with the vocabulary of Big Band Swing Jazz in the brass/sax section. For the record, "Latin Jazz and Salsa" are not seperate. They have the same roots but it's just Salsa is more for dancing while Latin Jazz is more of a cerebral listening experience. In Jazz that would be like comparing Swing (dance music) to Bebop (listening experience). Salsa, like Big Band Swing was, is also more arranged/orchestrated than post Swing Jazz/Latin Jazz. As the latin musician says in this article..

    "There's a fine line, he explains. "The difference between Latin jazz and salsa is that with salsa, there is going to be lyrics and a lot of vocals; Latin jazz is much the same but it is mostly instrumental. And the emphasis of salsa is for people to dance to it, while Latin jazz is more of a listening experience, though you can do both. For instance, Poncho Sanchez is a very famous Latin jazz act but people go check them out and on one tune they're going to be dancing salsa because it's a very rhythmic, danceable feel, and the next minute the band is going to play a jazz standard in 6/8, which is not danceable, so they listen. It's hard to put in a box.",1065875.html
  17. Jazz0

    Jazz0 New Member

    Where is my post?
  18. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    You don't have any posts yet, so you can't post a long post with a link--it's a spam protection feature, but I approved your post so you're good to go, sorry for the confusion.
  19. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


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