Salsa vs Mambo
The name "Salsa"
Salsa, Vallenato, and Cumbia
Bomba and Plena
Salsa: lit. means "sauce" and in my experience is used two ways. One, a general term to refer to all types of Latin music (which I find an abuse). In this usage people can call a merengue a salsa tune, for example, but I've even seen it used to refer to Gypsy rumbas... Two, salsa is used to refer to the style of mambo that was cultivated in N.Y. starting in the late 60s that, in general, went for more romantic lyrics and a softer horn sound, which has evolved to become the more predominant style of mambo today. Of course, there is a lot of middle ground here, and most people fall into that.
Vallenato: actually refers more to an orchestration than a specific rhythm. A traditional vallenato group consists of an accordion, a scraper called a guacharaca, and a hand drum called a caja vallenata. Vallenato groups traditionally play four rhythms called son, paseo, merengue(6/8), and puya. Check out the album Colombie:Le Vallenato off the Ocora Radio France label if you can find it. Great liner notes!!
Cumbia: the most popular dance rhythm of Colombia and the one that has been the most widely spread throughout Latin America. Now, to solve your confusion, cumbia is not a clave-based rhythm, but as with many rhythms can be played "in clave." If a band that plays salsa wants to arrange a cumbia, they will usually arrange it in clave, especially if they decide to put in a mambo section. What this means is that the horn parts and vocals will follow the "rules of clave" but the rhythm section will play cumbia. This is OK because cumbia is a one-bar rhythm that fits in nicely the clave's two bar structure. A must get is both volumes of "Cumbia cumbia" off of the Disco Fuentes label.
[Juan Eduardo Wolf Greve firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Salsa instructional dance videos
The Clave: Creole Cuban Instrument, by Rebeca Mauleón
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Last modified on: Saturday, October 9, 1999.