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Salsa today - page 4

The musical essence of Salsa - page 3       The spread of Salsa - page 5

Salsa today is really a broad term that refers to a vibrant and dynamic Puerto Rican dance music that blends African, Spanish, Cuban and Puerto Rican sounds of antecedent musical genres, sometimes with jazzy arrangements. The music can be played fast or slow and mellow. The bands or orchestras combine tight ensemble work with inspiring solos. Song styles include the son montuno, danzon," and guaguanco, but the main engine is the son. The salsa repertoire is varied and includes the Puerto Rican plena, the Dominican merengue, jazz fom USA, the Colombian cumbia, and especially the Cuban son.

Some interesting, and perhaps disquieting developments have recently emerged among salsa percussionists around the world. They have been mixing rhythms and experimenting with instruments not tradionally associated with, salsa music. Also, the latest Cuban influences have emerged as they have reentered the mainstream of music. They are contributing a new style of playing salsa that is different from the traditional Puerto Rican interpretation, which has been well defined and conserved for many years.

This new movement is very healthy for salsa percussionists since it forces the musician to stay on top of his form, both technically and from the creative point of view, particularly in the art of improvisation, which is so central to the salsa form. It has also given the freedom to a number of great percussionists to develop their own creativity and personal style with new ideas, rhythms and refreshing concepts. Among these are talents such as Anthony Carrillo, Charlie Sierra, Willito López, Tito de Gracia, Georgie Padilla, Edwin Clemente and especially Giovanni Hidalgo, who has been a source of great inspiration to others.

It is important to understand that to create a new rhythm or style, one must be well grounded and intimately familiar with the fundamentals of the art and with traditional rhythms of salsa. You must know the styles of the pioneers and study them in order to have credibility and faithfulness to the music form. Of course it also gives the musician confidence to be able to play with any group in any style, at any time.

Some ask "who is the best?" today. No one quite agrees about who is the king of salsa at the moment, but Willie Colón, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, and Hector Lavoe are on everyone's list as the dominant names in salsa. Many others would argue that the best are from the latest generation; artists such as Gilberto Santa Rosa or Marc Anthony. Perhaps, or better said, probably, the question is irrelevant to the enjoyment of the music, especially in view of so many talented practitioners. Hundreds of young salseros are waiting to take their throne as the popularity of the emerging salsa stars continues to climb.

The musical essence of Salsa - page 3       The spread of Salsa - page 5

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