Excerpt from "America's Latin Beat In Popular music, A BMA Primer on the syncopated Latin Music history of the US"
Here's a glossary of Latin Music terms we should know and teach our youth, from
"America's Latin Beat In Popular music, A BMA Primer on the syncopated Latin Music history of the US"
Contained here are fuller explanations and additional information about various terms used in the text. Although it is
impossible to render the exact pronunciation of Spanish and African terms phonetically, pronunciation aids are indicated
in brackets at the head of various descriptions. Stress syllables are indicated by capital letters as well as the double “rr”
ALL THOSE RHYTHMS
The basic meter of salsa is 4/4 commonly referred to as cut time that feels like 2/4, as organized by the five note, two-bar
clave pattern. The various forms listed here are complexes of rhythmic pulse, melodic phrases, speed, song form, etc., not
mere rhythms that can be tapped with a pencil.
BARRIO, EL (el BAH-rrio – w/a rolling double “r” effect)
The District. Latino dense towns are divided into districts or areas called barrios. When Latino immigrants settled in large
numbers in New York's East Harlem, it became the district. The name has stuck. Many major U.S. cities now have Latino
districts also called barrios.
The bolero was originally a mid-paced form for guitar groups in Spain. This became very popular throughout the
Caribbean in particular in Puerto Rico, usually in a slower, more emotionally evocative form. The modern bolero is a
lush, romantic, popular song form, quite distinct from salsa. Very few singers are equally good at both except for Ismael
Rivera and Hector LaVoe to name just two. Instrumental soloists like boleros because the chord changes give more scope
than the standard tonic/dominant seventh montuno changes.
In the past, Salsa groups normally included at least one bolero per album or dance set, but boleros are not suited to the
percussion-based salsa rhythm section however, after the advent of reggaetón’s perreo dance style that is literally
performed as a doggie styled bolero with the female bent over almost on all fours hence perreo meaning like a dog and
pronounced “PEH-rreo”, except for ballroom competition, the bolero has become a thing of the past. Bachata’s
accompanying dance is more of a three step bolero with a hop that’s not only more traditional but lately more popular than
Originating from Kongo and Bantú roots of West and Central African soil, bomba flowered in Puerto Rico as a drum and
dance form releasing enslaved Africans from the toil of daily life under another man's command. Through these rhythms,
tribal memories were passed on, surviving and becoming bomba. Bomba was brought to life in coastal communities of
Puerto Rico's Loíza Aldea, Santurce, Guayama and the southwestern coast bordering Mayagüez, considered the birthplace
Harmonious female voicings were the driving force behind bomba in the south, while the north favored drumming and
dancing dialogues infused with intense passion and social commentary. Dancing and drumming were improvised
reflections of a daily reality-not an isolated, disciplined demonstration of them. Bomba was a collective experience,
nourished by musical memories of dignity and pride, with dancers and drummers as two distinct polyrhythmic instruments
providing a deeper dimension to the songs of freedom.
Pirates, rebels and exiles of the 1791 Haitian revolution-many of whom jumped ship and escaped to Puerto Rico and
Cuba–influenced the development of bomba with its drumming and dancing handed down through collective memory of
African rites and music. Unique in its Island expression, bomba nonetheless shares roots throughout the Caribbean with
Guadeloupe and its Gwo ka and in Cuba La Tumba Francesa is its musical cousin.
Even in the dance band form that is a bomba cica (there are many other variants of bomba with the bomba yuba played in
6/8 time) introduced to the world by Rafael Cortijo in the mid 1950s, the bomba's melodies and rhythmic pulse are more
strongly African than most Afro-Latin forms leading Cortijo y Su Combo to rock the Palladium during their presentations
at the mambo mecca. Later don Rafael Cepeda, (1910-1996) one of the most prominent exponents of the genre, was
recognized as a Smithsonian National Heritage fellow from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. for his
preservation of the Island's native music, followed by a recording produced by Cepeda's grandnephew William Cepeda
celebrating the beats of another pioneering bomba family, La Familia Ayala.
A small double drum that is held resting on the calves of the seated musician. The heads are tuned a fourth apart. It is
widely used in Afro-Caribbean music of many sorts, especially quartets and sextets playing sones. Now considered one of
the Latin percussion instruments of the rhythm section, it was originally more widespread than either the conga or the
timbales until Arsenio Rodriguez changed the line up in the ‘40s creating the son montuno. In salsa, as in the earlier
string- based groups, the bongó playing tended to be more ad-libbed than the other drums however it is used to
accompany the singer inspiring him or her to improvisation the reason they are called “soneros” or “soneras.” It served to
provide a complex counterpoint to the main rhythmic pulse of a number. The basic toque (pattern) for the bongó, called
the martillo (hammer), can be rendered onomatopoeically as dicky-docky-dicky-ducky, sort of a tick tock simulation of a
BOSSA NOVA (BAH-sah NO-vah)
A Brazilian fusion of cool jazz elements with various native rhythms including the baiao, its core comes from the black
influenced samba of their barrio called the favela. Bossa Nova, however, is a sophisticated form with more harmonies
than percussion plucked primarily on a guitar. Its meaning has a lot in common with the popular term salsa as bossa is a
similar tag used to mean something done with a certain charm or flair with nova meaning new. It had a huge national $+*
following in the 1960s that bordered on the ridiculous with novelty cups, pens and ponchos bearing the tag: Bossa Nova.
However, this style contributed numerous standards to the jazz songbook of today. Guitarist Joao Gilberto and Antonio
Carlos Jobim were recording bossa novas since the ‘50s with the American version popularized by guitarist Charlie Bryd
and tenorist Stan Getz. The first bossa nova single to receive international acclaim was the Girl from Ipanema by Getz
and Gilberto as sung by Astrid Gilberto. Further, songstress Ellis Regina was an innovative singer of the form embracing
rock and jazz into half tone phrasing.
Named after the mid-1960s black rhythm and blues dance, the boogaloo, the Latin bugalu was a somewhat simplified and
more sharply accented cha cha cha with English lyrics and an r&b backbeat. The singing combined Cuban, Puerto Rican
and black inflections with the solos influenced by rhythm and blues. For close to ten years, the bugalu and a lesser-known
Puerto Rican rhythm called the jala jala were the staples of the Latin/soul movement. Joe Cuba broke the crossover
barrier with the bugalu hits: Bang Bang and El Pito.
A large hand-held cowbell played with a stick. It produces two notes, depending upon where it is struck. In Cuban music
and salsa it is usually played by the bongocero when the band goes into the "ride" or the montuno section after the main
vocal is rendered and the call and response begins. In good hands, it can drive an entire band with ever-increasing
excitement and power into second gear.
Some claim this is the second section of the danzon; others argue that it is a slower mambo. It was sometimes called a
double mambo in New York since its basic dance step was the mambo with a double step in the fourth-to-first beats . . .
chachacha! Influenced by the son, these danzon variants were developed, according to Helio Orovio, by the López
brothers, Orestes and Israel “Cachao”, when they were members of the band Arcaño y Sus Maravillas. Violinist Enrique
Jorrín created the actual cha-cha-chá at the end of the 1940s commenting: “I composed some danzones in which the
musicians would sing short choruses and, as that pleased the audience, I continued to develop it. I also asked
everyone…to sing in unison, so that the lyrics could be heard more clearly and strongly…” Today Latin music bands
rarely play the admirable original form from time to time except for the many charanga bands popular in the 21
A Cuban dance orchestra consisting of flute backed by two or three fiddles, piano, bass and timbales. Charangas tend to
play different dances from the Afro-Cuban conjuntos, the most characteristic being the danzon. Charangas might range
from large society units to small street bands. Modern charangas use the bongó and conga in the rhythm section and %+*
swing mightily in a light, precise way. It made its appearance in the early years of the twentieth century as a variation of
the typical dance or wind orchestration (scholars do argue the Haitian influence as the charanga bands appeared after the
Haitian revolution drove the majority of French slave owners, some with slaves in tow, to the Cuban Island nation) but
when the cha-cha-chá appeared in 1951, the new dance trend was an ideal vehicle for the charanga styled musical groups.
This is essentially a passage like a jazz break. The cierre can range from a two-note bongó phrase to a complicated pattern
for a full band, more like a bridge passage. Good cierres are fundamental to salsa structure, but they are so varied and
used in so many ways that more definition would be misleading.
An up-beat 3-2 or 2-3 five note rhythmic pattern over two bars, it is the basis of all Afro-Caribbean music into which the
elements of arrangement and improvisation should fit. It is a constantly repeating rhythmic pattern that serves as the
structural basis for the composition’s rhythms and melodies. Clave is a West African- derived notions of timeline pattern
with equivalents in other Afro-Latin music. Much western and central African music is organized within an eight beat
frame that is the basis for many clave-like patterns, providing the underpinning for polyrhythmic interplay. The common
3-2 clave varies in accent, according to the rhythm being played. Its basic feeling is conveyed by the familiar phrase,
SHAVE-and-a-HAIR-CUT, TWO BITS. Clave seems to be part of the inspiration for the two-bar bass patterns in modern
black music. The claves can be played on two sticks or strikers but today can also be performed on wood blocks, timbales,
metal bells and other objects. Orovio explains that the clave rhythms typically contrast a syncopated figure in one measure
against a relatively straight rhythm in the following measure. This alternation demands that the syncopated side of the
pattern be synchronized to an extent with the strong beats in the melodies and additional rhythms of the composition. If
such synchronization does not occur, the musicians will provoke a rhythmic error known as a “crossed clave” or “being
out of clave.” The rumba clave also has two sides: with the 2/3 clave the accent is on the upbeat of the second note and
with the 3/2 clave, rarely used today, it’s on the upbeat of the fourth.
With twin strikers of resonant wood, the clave player usually performs the basic clave pattern, and in many bands it is
performed on the timbal. Many variants of claves exist throughout Latin America.
A major instrument in the salsa rhythm section, the conga is literally the Congolese drum derived from, and used by, the
Afro-Cuban religious cults. Arsenio Rodriguez is responsible to have introduced it to the conjuntos, where it was used on
a regular basis. There are several types of congas: the small quinto, a solo improvising instrument; the mid- sized conga
and the large tumbadora. Played by an expert, the conga is capable of a great variety of sounds and tones. These are
achieved through different ways of striking or rubbing the head and by raising the instrument, held between the knees,
while playing it. The use of conga-stands affords more sound and flexibility.
The Cuban conga was originally a carnival dance-march from Santiago, Cuba, but the rhythm, with a heavy fourth beat, is
common to carnival music in many parts of the Americas. The conga rhythm is more easily simplified than most Cuban
rhythms, making it a natural for nightclub fun in the form of conga lines. It has never been important in mainstream Latin
music, though Machito began playing it in the mid-1940s and the Eddie Palmieri orchestra through its timbalero, the late
Manny Oquendo, introduced a modern version called the Mozambique to New York in the late 1960s.
In U.S. terms, this could be translated to mean "combo." The classic Cuban conjunto sprang from the carnival marching
bands and combined voices that also played guiro and maracas, trumpets, piano, bass, conga and bongó, “no timbales.”
Arsenio Rodríguez ran a seminal Cuban conjunto that used the smoky tone of the six stringed tres guitar to balance the
brass. Over the years, conjuntos began adding a trombone and, in New York, substituting trombones for trumpets.
Variations aside, the basic conjunto sound is brassy and upbeat.
The 17th-18th-Century dance of French origin from which many Latin-American ballroom dances derive, mainly via
Spain. Included are the danzón and danza that are Spanish mispronunciation of “country dance.”
The "chorus." In salsa, the two or three-voice refrains of two or four bars sung during montunos. The lead singer
improvises against the refrains. Coros are used in various ways in arrangements: as reprises or, by an alteration of the
refrain, to establish a change of mood. Good coro singers are highly skilled and in New York most coros for recording
work are drawn from a pool of hardly more than a dozen individuals. Among the most noted of coristas were the late
Yayo, el Indio, Marcelino Guerra and Nancy O’Neil among many.'+*
A small, ten-stringed guitar, the cuatro is one of the many guitar variants to be found in Spain and Latin America. The
cuatro is a major instrument in Puerto Rican jibaro or country music and much like its Cuban cousin, the tres is used as a
melodic solo instrument. Cuatrista Yomo Toro is instrumental for introducing the cuatro into salsa music taking the
national instrument of Puerto Rico around the world.
A Cuban ballroom dance derived from the contradanza in the late 1870s. It was regularly played by flute-and-fiddle
charangas until the early 1950s. The danzon bears the mark of Europe and its first section was usually a promenade or the
paseo where couples stroll. Though strongly redolent of potted palms and white gloves, the danzon's charm is not merely
nostalgic. Its melodies echo from time to time in modern salsa.
The word means "discharge" and is the slang of Latin musicians, meaning jam session. Descargas were popular in the
early and mid-1960s among jazz-minded Latin musicians. Descargas occupy a position midway between salsa and
Latin/jazz, since they tend to preserve the Cuban structures yet contain far more jazz soloing than does salsa. Given their
jazz content, it is ironic that the inspiration for them came from Cuba. It was in 1956 that the Panart Record Company
issued three albums edited from a 16-hour studio jam that combined most of Havana's best musicians. This was later
replicated in New York through Al Santiago’s Alegre All-Stars, followed by Grupo Folklorico Experimental
Nuevayorkino and later Caiman Records’ Super All-Stars recording.
GUAGUANCO (gwah-gwan-COH or wah-wahn-COH)
The mid-paced guaguanco has deep African roots and was originally a drum form related to the rumba. Though it is often
played 4/4, it has a strong 6/8 feel. The basic rhythm is traditionally carried by three conga drums in the Matanzas style
where there is one player for each instrument as the respective drums have separate rudimental patterns. The Havana style
features two congas with one congüero playing the guaguanco pattern and usually includes a good deal of solo drumming
in both styles through the quinto smaller drum. The theme of a modern guaguanco is a somewhat loose yet distinctive
A riff in the charanga style especially for violin or piano. Functionally, piano and fiddle guajeos tie the melodic and
rhythmic elements of a number together, acting as a sort of trampoline for flute and other solos. They are melodic patterns
firmly based on the basic clave and tumbao.
The slow and poignant guajira came originally from the Spanish-Cuban music of the guajiros, a term that not only
describes the music but the Cuban peasants themselves. Much of its feeling comes from Latino melodies and guajeos.
These were originally, and often still are, played on the tres by a tresero. It is similar to the slow son montuno but is more
delicate and less driving. Guajira lyrics frequently deal with rural nostalgia.
The Spanish-derived music of the Cuban farmers. The main instruments are the tres, guitar and rhythm and the main form
includes the decima, a ten-line verse from 17th-Century Spain.
The history of the guaracha is a checkered one, similar to that of most popular dances. The original Cuban guaracha was
a topical song form for chorus and solo voice, with improvisation in the solo. It was presented in 3/4 and 6/8 or 2/4 time
signature. The guaracha developed a second section, employed for much improvisation, as in the son montuno. It
appeared to have almost died out in Cuba by the late 1930s, yet it is now one of the forms commonly used by salsa
groups; a fast, cheerful rhythm with a basic chicha-chicka pulse. Its last section is credited by some musicians as the
source of the instrumental mambo. The guaracha is said to have originated in 18th-Century maisons d'assignation and
its lyrics are still often racy and satirical.
GUAYO (GWAH-yo) see GÜIRO
Basically, a güiro is a scraper. The Cuban and Puerto Rican güiro, often called guayo or güicharo in Puerto Rico, is made
from a notched gourd and played with a stick or a spiked, metal, vertical comb akin to the Afro pick. Amateur players
produce a steady ratchet-like sound. Skilled ones provide endless, crisp counter rhythms against the rest of the percussion
section. The güiro, like the maracas, is usually played by a singer. In the Dominican Republic, the güiro, also called the
güira, is made of metal and played with a kind of metallic fork. The instrument's harsh sound adds a zest to country
merengue playing but it is rarely used in salsa however it has made a comeback in bachata.
A Cuban dance of Spanish origin, it was most popular in the Americas around the time of the Spanish-American War. It
provided the rhythmic basis for the modern tango.
The "inspiración," is an improvised phrase by an instrumentalist band member or usually by the lead singer as he or she
improvises verses called soneos within the call and response section of the song. For example, you can see bandleader /coproducer Larry Harlow asking Cheo Feliciano in Spanish over the movie “Our Latin Thing,” to repeat “la ultima
inspiración,” or the last phrase.
JIBARO MUSIC (HEE-bah-doh)
The jibaros are the mountain farmers of Puerto Rico and their music is part of the island's oldest folk tradition rooted in
Spanish couplets and villancicos. Mostly string-based, jibaro music uses many Spanish-derived forms, including the
ten-line decima poetry verses, which a good singer must be able to improvise. A Puerto Rican güicharo and later a bongó
were added to the accompaniment. A prominent instrument and the national musical symbol of the Island is the small, tenstringed cuatro guitar. At the center of the jibaro genres is the seis, a music and dance form found in every town and
province of Puerto Rico each with its own distinct style and interpretation of the seis, i.e. seis chorreao, seis bombeao,
seis fajardeño, cagüeño, cayeyano, mayagüezano, etc. Its roots are also found in Arab ruled cultural corners of Iberia
before it was Spain when noontime towers rang out with chants to Allah. Its remnants are echoed today through the
familiar secular jibaro chants of “A Le Lo Lei, Le Lo Lei.”
The jibaro tradition survives strong in New York in particular around Christmas when displaced Puerto Ricans recall the
musical Epiphany customs of the island’s Three Kings Day celebrations (followed by eight more days of festivities known
as the octavitas). A featured part of the festivities is the carol-like aguinaldos (literally means “gift”) that form the basis
of parrandas a type of traveling carnival with musicians, singers and friends going house to house, a ritual also shared
with Trinidad and Tobago known as parrand.
New York is home for many fine jibaro musicians, including singers Odilio Gonzalez, Paquitín Soto and Yomo Toro now
known as the King of the Cuatro. Various Puerto Rican salsa singers had used occasional jibaro inflections, but Hector
LaVoe brought the style into salsa when producer Johnny Pacheco hired Toro for a Christmas album in 1972 and the two
jibaros crossed generations bonding in a tradition centuries old. Legends such as the late Ramito, La Calandria and
Chuito de Bayamon were inspirations to LaVoe and were at the core of his unique style of blending Cuban and Puerto +**
Rican vocal verses and phrasing. Another recorded milestone in this type of music was Puerto Rico’s Tavin Pulmarejo; a
singer who’s 1984 Merengues Jibaros with Conjunto Quisqueya also crossed borders uniting provinces in a shared
Today jazz has crossed over into the jibaro mix beginning with Pedro Guzman’s Jibaro Jazz Recording Live at the Blue
Note; Saxophonist Miguel Zenon’s renditions of jibaro jazz alongside other pioneering jibaros such as José Lugo and
trombonist William Cepeda who’s mix is more Afro-Boricua jibaro with plena and bomba. Another example is
trombonist Papo Vasquez and his Pirates and Troubadours.
A hybrid of jazz and Latin music examples range all the way from a Cuban number with a few Louis Armstrong phrases
to a straight jazz number with a conga drum. It is most usefully confined, as a descriptive, to crosses with a more or less
full Latin rhythm section, or those combining several jazz and Latin elements and an instrumental frontline. An example
would be Stan Kenton’s Cuban Fire an innovative jazz recording with Latino elements.
The jazz/bossa was an important second stream development. Internationally acclaimed bossa and samba jazz exponents
Airto and Flora Purim, a percussionist/vocalist, husband and wife team best known for their “Return to Forever”
collaboration with Chick Corea on the tune 500 Miles High, have produced some of the more ground-breaking and cutting
edge forms of this fusion. The late Hilton Ruiz, first known for his early work as pianist with reed master Rahsaan Roland
Kirk, is a jazz as well as Latin jazz master. Pianist Arturo O’Farrill continues to arrange, blending jazz with elements of
Latino, African and New Orleans Creole into a unique big band setting giving way for one seamless expression that
communicates the language & swing of three distinct cultures that share basic roots.
However, it is Chucho Valdes’ Irakere the most influential and complete ensemble of its kind to combine jazz, r&b, disco,
funk, Latino, African traditions as well as classical genres. Lest we forget Mongo Santamaria’s concoction of jazz with
r&b and funk, his was the first to create a Harlem/Latin soul Afro-Cuban urban sound followed by Pucho and his Latin
Soul Brothers, Willie Bobo and Poncho Sanchez. NEA Jazz Master the late Ray Barretto however was the first to
introduce the conga to modern jazz inspired by his predecessor Chano Pozo who introduced the conga to the be-bop big
band of Dizzy Gillespie. Included at the top of this Latin jazz list is also the late Tito Puente’s alliance with trombonist
and bandleader Buddy Morrow where their respective big bands were recorded over RCA, one playing jazz the other
playing Latin and at times, both bands playing both genres together, the only recording of its kind, live in one studio
A hybrid of rock and Latin elements generally, though not always, rock-oriented guitar and keyboard solos are played
over salsa-derived rhythms Rock and salsa rhythms, however, are often blended. Leading 1970’s bands like Santana and
his brother Jorge as well as the New York rock ensemble Seguida may use sections with a salsa coro and build rock solos
out of a Latin guajeo. Later, Rock en Español emerges out of Latin America and the Caribbean eliminating the AfroLatino syncopation, while replacing English rock lyrics for those in Spanish. However many point to Richie Valens 1958
recording of “La Bamba,” a Mexican folk tune he recorded to rock ‘n’ roll, as the first to belt out Rock en Español.
A hybrid from the late 1950s combining salsa and rhythm and blues elements. Latin/soul was based mostly on the
bugalu. It grew up among East Harlem and Bronx teenagers who used both Spanish and English lyrics for a style that was
a distinct third stream, but somewhat more Latin than black. The Harptones’ 1954 Mambo Boogie was probably one of
the first experimental Latin doo-wop pre-bugalu recording that was already predicting the future.
In the Yoruba language it means friends, but when enslaved Africans got to Cuba they called each other Lucumi. The
Yoruba were the last to arrive so their presence remains the strongest. This is Cuba's most widespread African-derived
religion. Its theology is based on the faith of the Nigerian and Dohomeyan Yoruba people. Yorumba is the language of the
Lucumi, one of many faiths of African derivation, is practiced in Puerto Rico and sometimes referred to as espiritismo.
Spaniards, who thought their enslaved Africans were actually worshipping Catholic saints not realizing that their loyalties
laid behind the church statutes in an African belief system known as God’s Rule “Regla de Ocha,” laughingly referred to
their fervent devotion in the pejorative calling it santeria. The secret all male society known as Abakua comes from the
Dohomeyan tribes that lay adjacent to Yoruba kingdom. The Congolese were tied to the palo mayombe African religion.
The famous song "Babalu" should really be called "Babalu-Aye," after the Yoruba patron of the sick. Like all Afro-Cuban
religions, Ocha lent important elements to modern salsa, including a great deal of its rhythmic basis, several standard
songs and much African melodic flavor. Many modern salsa musicians, especially in New York, are adherents of Ocha,
or Santeria. Tito Puente and Larry Harlow both experimented with the use of Yoruba and Cuban sacred bata drums in
Mambo is the Congolese word meaning prayer, an improvised conversation with the gods. In music, however, the mambo
is an Afro-Cuban form that has its basis in the Congolese religious cults. Though Perez Prado once claimed to have
created it in 1943, the argument that Arsenio Rodríguez or bassist Cachao Lopez brought it into the dance halls seems
more plausible. Actually, its growth is not attributable to any single musician. The big band mambo of the 1940s and
1950s developed contrasting brass-and-sax riffs, which many musicians regard as stemming from the last section of the
guaracha. In the eastern United States, mambo, in the hands of musicians like Tito Puente, preserved more of the overall
Cuban structure and feeling in a powerful big band setting albeit Puente changed the format of the band instrumentation
placing the timbales drum up front and center with the rest of the percussion section. Perez Prado's mambo versions
tended to be brassy and exciting, but somewhat simplified, and Prado also made many frankly commercial sub-mambos.
Mambos are rarely played in New York salsa clubs today although outside of New York and around the world the mambo
is still very popular. The former musicians that made up the Tito Puente orchestra are continuing the legacy of the mambo
in the capable hands of José Madera with the Mambo Legends Orchestra. "**
The mambo section of an arrangement adds to the excitement and crescendo of the piece. A section of contrasting riffs for
salsa frontline instruments, balancing trumpets against saxes or trombones for example. The section may also feature an
instrumental solo. Said to be derived from the guaracha, it got its name when it became a main part of the mambo during
the late 1940s and early 1950s.
A tuned pair of rattles made from gourds filled with pebbles or seeds. It is one of a wide range of Amerindian-derived
rattles. A skilled artist like Machito or Roberto Roena’s trombonist known as Ralfi “maracas” play a subtle role in the
An old Brazilian dance derived from the lundu, an even older one, but heavily influenced by the early 20th Century tango.
It was briefly popular in the U.S. around World War I, but never caught on to any lasting extent.
Though dances of this name are found in many countries, the merengue is said to be originally from the Dominican
Republic where it dates back to at least the early 19th Century however others argue that the merengue has Haitian
roots. The modern merengue has a brisk and snappy 2/4 rhythm and a flavor quite different from the more flowing Cuban
and jaunty Puerto Rican dances. The merengue has crested and ebbed in New York Latin music, and made a huge
comeback in the 1980s and ‘90s. The country form, for accordion, tambora drum, metal scraper and voice, is heard
everywhere in the Dominican Republic.
MONTUNO SECTION (mon-TOON-oh)#**
A vehicle for improvisation in Cuban and salsa numbers. It is based on a two or three-chord pattern repeated ad-lib under
the instrumental or vocal improvisations. The piano often maintains a repeated vamp of guajeos, rather like the role of the
coro. The vamp is known as montuneando. The montuno section of an arrangement is the repeated guajeo vamp of the
piano and bass (within their respective rhythmic patterns and chord structure) in conjunction with the call and response of
the coro and the sonero’s inspiraciónes.
The pachanga was a rage among New York Latin teenagers around 1961, as played by the then hugely popular charanga
bands. There is some dispute as to its origins as the Cuban Eduardo Davidson took credit for composing a song called La
Pachanga that was more a merengue than the dance craze that had bandleader and multi-instrumentalist and composer
Johnny Pacheco lead hundreds of dancers every night with their white handkerchiefs twirling in the air as they hopped and
stepped to the lively charanga beat. It seems to be Cuban, but it never reached the popularity there that it enjoyed in the
eastern U.S. It had a fast, syncopated ta-tum ta-tum pulse. The dance arising from pachanga died out because it proved to
be too energetic for most.
An Afro-Puerto Rican urban topical song form said to have emerged at the turn of the twentieth century. The plena has
four or six-line verses, with a refrain steeped in African and Arabic roots. Instrumentation has ranged from percussion
through accordion, clarinet or guitar-led groups to various dance band formats. Owing to its mobile nature where
musicians called pleneros would play three hand drums of varying sizes going from town to town providing songs of
social and political commentary while also being witty, coy, humorous or satirical. Its most famous composer and
exponent was Manuel Jimenez, known as Canario. Bandleader Cesar Concepcion brought the plena into the dance halls
in the 1940s. It has been a minor influence on salsa ever since, through the work of Rafael Cortijo in the late 1950s and
Mon Rivera and Marcial Reyes in the 1960s and 1970s.
A phonetic spelling of the word rhythm.
Most of what Americans called rumbas were forms of the son that swept Cuba in the 1930s.$**
The Cuban rumba is a secular drum form with three primary variants, including the guaguanco, yambú and the colúmbia,
all featuring separate rhythms and accompanying dance to each form. A highly African percussion-and-voice form, its
descendent variations are to be heard in New York parks any summer weekend played in groups called rumbas or
By analogy, a percussion section of a salsa number, or a percussion-only jam session, is sometimes called a rumba or
A popular and convenient term embracing an eclectic away of Afro-Caribbean and New York genres that give rise to the
hot, up-tempo, creative Latin music that literally means "gravy" or "sauce" and figuratively means playing with flavor.
Originally, it was used to describe moving music as "swinging" or "funky." The origins of the current usage can be traced
to Cuba as early as the 1950s, but it began to proliferate in popularity in New York in the late 1960s. The style now has
many other elements with salsa a more precise definition than the earlier term, "Latin" a misnomer really since there
really is nothing “Latin” about the music except for the Spanish language rooted in the roman tongue.
An Afro-Brazilian dance with several variations in different parts of Brazil. The best-known are the urban sambas, said to
derive from the maxixe and the highly percussive sambas of the carnival "schools" of Rio. The characteristically fast,
shuffling 2/4 rhythm has been used in a million ways and, fused with jazz, was at the core of the bossa nova wave.
SEPTETO or SEXTETO (sep-TET-oh or sess-TET-oh) sextet or septet ensembles
The septetos and sextetos of the 1930s played mostly sones and boleros. They were trumpet-led string groups, usually
with tres, guitar, maraccas, bass and bongó with no more than six or seven players hence the categories of sextetes or
septets. Septeto Nacional and the Sexteto Habanero are the most known of these ensembles. The music they played fell
somewhere between the guajiro string groups and the brassier conjuntos. The Septeto trumpet style is singularly
lyrical, moving between 19th Century brass band cornet and jazz in its inspiration. The septeto style as a whole is subtle,
crisp and charming. Currently working in New York is a fine exponent of the septeto trumpet, Alfredo "Chocolate"
Armenteros. Many recordings of Cuban septetos have been reissued and are available in Latin record stores.
An African-derived rattle made of a large gourd with beads in a net-like pattern on the outside. It is just one version of a
rattle common in Africa and Afro-Latin America and works on the opposite principle from maracas.
The son is perhaps the oldest and certainly the classic Afro-Cuban form. Some authorities date it back to the 18th Century
and place it in Oriente province. It is an almost perfect balance of African and Latino elements in Cuban music. It
surfaced in Havana around World War I and became a popular urban music played by string-and-percussion quartets and
septetos. Almost all the numbers Americans called rumbas were, in fact, sones, including "El Manicero" ("The Peanut
Vendor"). Technically, the song was a form of son derived from the street cries of Havana and called a pregon. The
rhythm of the son is strongly syncopated, with a basic chicka-CHUNG pulse.
SON MONTUNO (sohn mon-TOON-oh)
A (2-3) clave form, usually mid-paced or slow, with a pronounced CHUNG-chicka feel. The son montuno developed as a
separate form from the general son tradition. Its rhythmic pulse is almost the exact reverse of a son. It was, like the
guaracha, one of the first forms to include a second, improvised section, the montuno. Though it is not fast, the
Afro-Cuban son montuno has an intense, relentless quality highly suitable to the salsa format.
In the strict sense, a man who sings or plays the Afro-Cuban son, but the word is now used for the improvising lead singer
in the salsa style. A good sonero improvises rhythmically, melodically and verbally against the refrain of the coro. The
improvised phrases are known as inspiraciónes or, sometimes, soneos. Since the guaracha was also improvised, the
word guarachero is a synonym, though less used.
Probably the world's best-known dance after the waltz, the modern tango developed in Argentina at the beginning of the
20th Century. It took its rhythm from the Cuban habanera and an older Argentinean dance called the milonga. Its name
probably came from the Spanish tango andaluz. Not only was the tango a staple on New World dance floors from before
World War I until the early 1940s, but also it has infiltrated music from Greece to Malaya, across the world in Asia.&**
The timbales descended from the tympani drums played during the classical danzón music era. A percussion set-up
consisting of two small metal drums on a stand with two tuned cowbells, often a cymbal and other additions, the more
mobile timbales replaced the larger and clumsier tympani. Their use was originally confined to the charangas, to which
they imparted a distinctive, jaunty, march-like rhythm. During the 1940s, the timbales came into wider use, as did the
Afro-Cuban drums, adapted by the charangas of the time. The timbales are played with sticks, with the player striking
heads, rims and, especially in the bolero, the sides of the metal drums. All this plus cymbal and cowbells make for a
varied instrument. A standard timbales beat, the abanico, is a rimshot-roll-rimshot combination.
An imprecise but extremely important concept in modern salsa, “tipico” literally means "typical" or "authentic," but it is
more generally used to identify the traditional rural styles of the Latino country sides. Thus, the Cuban tipico music that
became so important in New York in the 1960s and 1970s was basically conjunto and charanga music. But the septetos
are also tipico, since the music they play is simple and popular rather than bourgeois. Specifically, an orquesta tipica in
Cuba originally contained a flute and two clarinets with danzones often played by such groups. Just as the danzon was
taken over by the Cuban charangas, New York charangas took over this description, calling themselves the Tipica
A "beat," but essentially a standard rhythmic phrase for percussion. Many toques derive from African religious
drumming in which particular rhythmic patterns are used to summon individual spirit gods to possess the worshippers.
A Latin percussionist is judged not only by his energy level, but by his knowledge and use of standard toques and
variations in his improvisations and in support of the band.
A six-stringed Cuban guitar; the tres is a mainstay of guajiro music and of the Afro-Cuban septetos. Featuring three
double rows of strings, the tres was established as an important part of the Cuban conjunto by Arsenío Rodríguez, himself
a fine player. The instrument came into New York salsa during the Cuban tipico revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s.'**
The tumbao is a repeated rhythmic pattern for bass, piano or conga drum. Based on the fundamental clave, the bassist's
tumbaos provides the scaffolding for the constant rhythmic counterpoint of the percussionists as well as playing the root
note for the core structures of a salsa arrangement. It is the basic foundation for a Latin music rhythmic pulse.