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Introduction to Salsa Music

Salsa music, which originated in Cuba, is the mixture of several different types of music, including pop, R&B, jazz, and rock. It is commonly known for its corresponding dances, and has been known for its popularity in Latin America and North America. It has just recently become heavily popular in Latin America, being played mainly in the form of Latin Jazz.

Webster’s defines Salsa as “a lively, vigorous type of contemporary Latin American popular music, blending predominantly Cuban rhythms with elements of jazz, rock, and soul music.” It’s known for its up-tempo beats and quick rhythm. Many communities use it as a dance tool at festivals and shows, and many entertainers in Latin America feature Salsa music as the background to their dancers.

There are nine different types of instruments used when creating Salsa music. First are the bongos. Bongos are a pair of round drums held in the knees and struck with the hand. They were invented in Cuba, and are typically two small drums attached to each other. They are usually the main tempo setting tool in Salsa music, and really create a unique sound.

The next instrument used is the botijuela, which is basically just a bottle filled with oil, and can commonly be recreated at home. It’s used as a bass instrument, and has the deep soulful sound you would expect from such. Another rhythm inducing instrument is the claves. Whiles the claves don’t produce a lot of musical sound, they guide the dancer’s feet and keep the rhythm, working alongside the bongos.

Another instrument, similar to the bongos, is the conga drum. The main difference is that it is usually one large drum, as opposed to two, and is played with the palm of the hands as opposed to the fingertips or thumbs. One very unique sounding instrument is the cowbell, which replicates the sounds of bells being rung. It’s the shape of a large bell, and is usually hit with some sort of stick.

The guiro is a percussion instrument with notches cut into one side. It is played by rubbing a stick along these notches, and producing a ratchet sound. It is typically made by dried, hollowed out gourd. The marimbula is a small piano, originally brought to Cuba by slaves from Santo Domingo. It produces very beautiful music.

The timbales are yet another pair of drums, but these are played differently. While the congas and bongos are played with your hands, the timbales are played with sticks. Like the bongos though, they are a pair, connected in the middle. Lastly we have the quijada, which is very primitive. It is basically just a rattler, but is made from the jawbones of several different types of animals.

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