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The musical essence of Salsa - page 3

Roots and history of Salsa - page 2       Salsa today - page 4

One of the similarities between the son and salsa is its composition. But they are also quite distinct in that the son is a very expressive song, while salsa is a montuno or estribillo with a faster rhythm. Salsa is comprised of two sections. The first of these salsa sections is called the body of the song while the second section is called the montuno, as it is in the son. During the montuno section the solo vocalist and chorus alternate phrases.

Percussion plays an extremely important role in a salsa composition. In the 'body' section the pace is usually slower to allow the vocalist freedom of expression as needed. In the montuno section the rhythm is somewhat more aggresive. A lot depends on the preference of the orchestra director.

The basic rhythm of the salsa is the  clave. The clave is the basis of all salsa music. In its African roots, it is fundementally different to the square rhythms dominating much European music.

Just as folk/rock musicians tap their feet on the 1st and 3rd of a 4 beat bar, jazz musicians on the 2nd and 4th, salsa musicians tap the clave, which is a syncopated rhythm across 2 bars in European 4/4 notation.

The clave consists of a "strong" measure containing three notes, also called the tresillo, and a "weak" measure containing two notes, resulting in patterns beginning with either measure, referrred to as "three-two" or two-three." There are two types of clave patterns associated with popular (secular) music: son clave and rumba clave. Another type of clave - 6/8 clave - originated in several styles of West African sacred music

Listen for this rhythm when you dance, and try and feel the distinctive second beat, called the bomba. Whether you mark this second beat or the third, depends on the regional style.

The rest of the music is built round the clave, adding complex rhythms on the congas, timbales, bass, güiro, bells, bongos, etc.

Roots and history of Salsa - page 2       Salsa today - page 4

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