Precursors to our music we know today as Salsa.


With roots on the island of Cuba, Son is a style of music that became popular in the second half of the 19th century in the eastern province of Oriente. The earliest known son dates from the late 1500s (the oldest known son is "Son de la Má Teodora", from about the 1570s in Santiago de Cuba). It combines the structure and elements of Spanish canción and the Spanish guitar with African rhythms and percussion instruments of Bantu and Arara origin.

Son is derived from Spanish, African, French Creole and native musical influences, arising first in Oriente province, reaching Havana around the 1880s. The most influential group from this period was the Trio Oriental, who stabilized the sextet format that soon came to dominate son bands. In 1912, recording began with groups like Sexteto Habanero (a re-named Trio Oriental) and Sexteto Boloña, and popularization began in earnest with the arrival of radio broadcasting in 1922. A few years later, in the late 1920s, son sextets became septets and son's popularity continued to grow with artists like Septeto Nacional and its leader, Ignacio Piñeiro. Piñeiro experimented and by fusing son with other genres of music, formed guajira-son, bolero-son and guaracha-son.

While originally a Cuban music style, Son has also become a word used for rural traditional musical styles of Spanish speaking countries and apart from the Cuban variant called Son Cubano. Other Son traditions exist in Mexico where for example the Son Jarocho of Veracruz and the Son Huasteca of the Sierra Huasteca constitute distinct popular musical styles where the concept has been fusioned with indigenous musical styles.

Son Montuno

Cuban born Arsenio Rodríguez initially developed Son Montuno from son by adding instrumental solos called montunos. He also added guaguancó influence, increased the importance of the trumpets and tres, and added new instruments such as the congas and piano. Benny Moré (popularly known as "El Bárbaro del Ritmo", which translates roughly as "The Fantastic Man of Rhythm") further evolved the genre, adding guaracha, bolero and mambo influences, helping make him extraordinarily popular and is now cited as perhaps the greatest sonero.

Later, mambo was derived from son montuno and danzón by making the montuno sections the focus of songs.


Rumba is a generic term covering a variety of musical rhythms and associated dances. The rumba has its influences in the music brought to Cuba by Spanish colonizers as well as Africans brought to Cuba.

Rumba developed in the Cuban provinces of Havana and Matanzas in the late 19th century. As a sexually charged Afro-Cuban dance, Rumba was often suppressed and restricted because it was viewed as dangerous and lewd.

Afro-Cuban rumba is entirely different than ballroom rumba, or the African style of pop music called rumba. Rumba developed in rural Cuba, and is still danced in Havana, Mantanzas and other Cuban cities as well as rural areas, especially those with a significant or predominant black community, although now it is infused with influences from jazz and hip hop.

Rum ba Yambú

A Cuban Rumba song often begins with the soloist singing meaningless syllables, which is called 'diana(s)'. He then may proceed to improvise lyrics stating the reason for holding the present Rumba. Cuban Rumba can be broken down into three types: Yambú, Guaguancó and Columbia.

Rumba Columbia

Rumba Columbia (not "Colombia") is a fast and energetic Rumba, with a 6/8 feel, which is often accompanied by a 6/8 (Spanish 'seis por ocho') beat struck on a hoe or a bell. It is assumed that the Columbia originated in hamlets in the interior of Cuba rather than the suburbs of the larger cities from where other types of Cuban Rumba stem. Solo, traditionally male, dancers provoke the drummers, especially the player of the smallest drum (Quinto, here also soloist drum), to play complex rhythms that they imitate through their creative and sometimes acrobatic movements.

Rumba Columbia incorporates many movements derived from Congo dances as well as Spanish flamenco, and more recently dancers have incorporated breakdancing and hip hop moves.

According to Cuban percussionist, singer, composer and historian Gregorio 'el Goyo' Hernandez, who became widely accepted as a specialist in Cuban Rumba after his 2004 album "La Rumba Es Cubana: Su Historia", Cuban Rumba Columbia has its origins in the drum patterns and chants of religious Cuban Abakuá traditions.


Cuban Guaracha

Cuban Guaracha originated in Spain, yet evolved largely in Cuba. Traditionally, it was an early form of peasant street music with satirical lyric content somewhat in the Son rhythm style. In Cuba, it is now used as a loose term for a general, medium-tempo Son Montuno or a little brighter-style tune or groove.

Guaracha derived from the fusion of a vast cloud of rhythms during the mid 1950s in Cuba. It started as a descarga-like musicalization (in fact, called descarga) provided by various bands. But it was actually the Sonora Matancera orchestra who put a seal of perfection when Celia Cruz joined it. Because she was mainly a Santería (Afro Cuban) singer, she was able to integrate her style to further enrich this mixture of all Cuban rhythms. Following the Sonora Matancera, others, like Beny Moré, Roberto Faz, Pío Leyva, Riverside and Rumba Havana expanded it to exhibit Guaracha in New York, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and other countries.

In the mid 1960s, the Guaracha name started to fade away without losing its popularity. By the end of the 1960s, Guaracha had acquired a new name and style: Casino, what many people outside Cuba refer to as Salsa
as well.

Puerto Rican Guaracha

Originating in Spain, the old Spanish version Guaracha was a dance in two sections. One is the triple and the other double. It originally was played in 4/4 time. The Spanish guaracha came to Puerto Rico from Cuba in the 1850's, and developed into its current modern jazz, salsa style. Now it is generally played with a bolero section in 2/4 time and a clave section in either 6/8 or 3/4 time, although the order of these sections is sometimes reversed. The guaracha then ends with a rumba section.

Cortijo Y Su Combo, Ismael Rivera, Mirta Silva, a prime singer of La Sonora Matancera better known as "La Reina de la Guaracha" are great performers of Puerto Rican guaracheros.


Punto Guajiro (also called Punto Cubano), with its Andalucian origins, has been evolving in Cuba since the 1700s, is the country music from the Western and Central provinces of Cuba. This style began to become popular around the end of the 18th century. Lyrics are always in the form of a décima. The Punto is based on lyrics, rather than melody. The singers are known as poets, not singers, and a distinguishing feature is that the lyrics are often improvised.

Typically, the poets are accompanied by the Bandurria or Laud, Claves and Guiro. As the style evolved Bongos, Tres, Machetes and other instruments were added.

Guajira was refined and popularized by the Cuban singer-songwriter and guitarist Guillermo Portabales, whose elegant style had become known as guajira de salón ("salon guajira"). From the 1930s until his untimely death in a traffic accident in Puerto Rico in 1970, Portabales recorded and performed salon guajira throughout North and South America to tremendous popular acclaim.


Guaguancó is one sub-genre of Cuban rumba, a highly complex rhythmic music and dance style.

Some historians have suggested that the guaguanco may be derived from the "yuka", a secular dance of the Bantu people. It became distinct from other forms of rumba, such as yambu and columbia, in the mid-1800s.


Charanga is a genre of Cuban dance music made popular in the 1940s and consisting heavily of son-influenced material performed on European instruments such as violin and flute by a Charanga orchestra.

It is believed that the first charanga orchestra was formed at the turn of the twentieth century by Antonio María Romeu. These orchestras played lighter and faster versions of the danzón without a brass section and emphasizing flutes, violins, and piano. The movement climaxed in the 1930s with flautist Antonio Arcaño and his Las Maravillas orchestra of Havana.


Plena is a folkloric genre style of music native to Puerto Rico. Its creation was influenced by African and Spanish music.

The music's beat and rhythm are usually played using hand drums called panderetas or panderos and a quiro. Panderos resemble tambourines but without the cymbals. These are handheld drums with stretched animal skins covering a round wooden frame. There is disagreement on whether the panderetas typically used in Puerto Rico today are adapted from instruments known in Spain from the time of the Moors known as an "adufe", or from similar African instruments. An advantage of this percussion arrangement is its portability, contributing to the plena's spontaineous appearance at any social gathering. Other instruments commonly heard in plena music are the cuatro, the maracas, requinto, and accordions.

The fundamental melody of the plena (a dance difficult to classify), as in all regional Puerto Rican music, has a decided Spanish strain; it is marked in the resemblance between the plena Santa Maria and a song composed in the Middle Ages by Alfonso the Wise, King of Spain.

Plena quickly became a "singing newspaper" for the lower classes, and used to spread messages among people, similar to the corridos in Mexico. The traditional center of plena was probably San Antón, a barrio of Ponce, although the black neighborhood of Loíza aldea is also mentioned as the heartland for the genre. Its popularity peaked in the 1920s.

Plena is played throughout Puerto Rico especially during special occasions such as the Christmas season, and as the musical backdrop for civic protests, due to its traditional use as a vehicle for social commentary. Whenever plena is played the audience also joins in the singing, clapping, and dancing.

As a folk genre, there have been many good composers, some well known in their day and into the present. Perhaps one of the genre's most celebrated composers and performers was Manuel Jimenez, known as 'El Canario'. Certainly, there were many others, including such greats as Ismael Rivera, Mon Rivera (the Younger), Daniel Santos and Rafael Cortijo.


Bomba is one of Puerto Rico’s most famous musical styles. Although there is some controversy surrounding its origin, most agree that it is a largely African music. The rhythm and beat are played by a set of hand drums and a maraca.

Dance is an integral part of the music: the dancers move their bodies to every beat of the drum, making bomba a very wild and rich dance. Bomba is described to be a challenge between the drummer and the dancer. The dancer produces a series of gestures to which the primo drummer provides a synchronized beat. Thus, it is the drummer who attempts to follow the dancer and not the other way around.

The main instruments used in bomba style music are any number of low pitched hand drums used to create a base rhythm, and a higher pitch drum which accentuates the beat with improvised patterns. Other instruments used are the palitos or cuas, which are sticks that are struck against any, usually wooden, surface. A single large maraca usually completes the sound of bomba, though a güiro has commonly been used in orchestral arrangements. Both of these last two instruments have origins in the extinct Taino culture of the Caribbean

The basic music style was brought to Puerto Rico during the colonial slave trade. It originates in Ghana and Nigeria, West Africa, although the majority of slaves can be traced back to many different areas of West and Central Africa.

The traditional drums used in bomba are called "barriles", since they have long been built from the wood of barrels. The high pitch drum is called "subidor" or "primo", and the low pitch drums are called "buleador" and "segundo". There are several styles of bomba, and the popularity of these styles varies by region. The three most common rhythms are called "sica", "yuba" and "holandes", though it is believed there are more than 20.

So far, only Rafael Cortijo has been the only artist successful in taking bomba to the mainstream with his Combo in the 1950s and 1960's. Also, Celia Cruz recorded bomba occasionally, her most successful recording being a bomba version of Mon Rivera’s plena "A Papá Cuando Venga".


Mambo is a Cuban musical form and dance style. The word mambo (conversation with the gods) is the name of a priestess in Haitian Voodoo, derived from the language of the African slaves who were imported into the Caribbean.

The history of modern mambo begins in 1938, when a danzón called "Mambo" was written by Orestes and Cachao Lopez.

In the late 1940s, a musician named Perez Prado came up with the dance for the mambo and became the first person to market his music as "mambo". After Havana, Prado moved his music to Mexico, and then New York City. Along the way, his style became increasingly homogenized in order to appeal to mainstream American listeners.

By the mid-1950s, mambo mania had reached fever pitch. In New York, the mambo was played in a high-strung, sophisticated way that had the Palladium Ballroom, the famous Broadway dance-hall, jumping. The Ballroom soon proclaimed itself the "temple of mambo," for the city's best dancers--the Mambo Aces, "Killer Joe" Piro, Augie and Margo Rodriguez, Paulito and Lilon, Louie Maquina and Cuban Pete-gave mambo.


In 1951, Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrín introduced the cha-cha-chá to Cuban dance floors while playing with Orquesta América.

According to Jorrín, the sound made by the shoes of the dancers on the floor sounded like "cha-cha-cha", while they tried to follow the new rhythm that, at the beginning, was simply called "mambo-rumba". In 1953, his La Engañadora and Silver Star became recorded hits. In early days, this dance and its music were both known as "triple mambo" or "mambo with guiro rhythm".

The Cha-cha became hugely popular in the United States as did the mambo in the 1950s. Dancers began inventing new steps and turns to win competitions.


Pachanga is a type of Latin American music and dance originating from Cuba in the 1950s. The dance briefly replaced the cha-cha-cha in popularity, but ultimately was short lived. It still remains very popular, however, in Cali, Colombia, where the original hits of this genre can be heard any day of the week on various radio stations and, in the weekends, at dozens of dance clubs.


Boogaloo is a genre of Latin music and dance that was very popular in the United States in the late 1960s. Boogaloo originated in New York City among teenage Cubans and Puerto Ricans. The style was a fusion of popular African American R&B, rock and roll, and soul with mambo and son montuno.

In the 1950s and 60s, African Americans in the United States listened to a number of styles of music, including jump blues, R&B and doo wop. Puerto Ricans in New York City shared in these tastes, but also listened to genres like mambo or cha-cha-cha. There was much intermixing of Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans and Cubans, and African Americans, and clubs that catered to both groups tried to find musical common ground to attract both. Boogaloo was the result of this search, a marriage of many styles including Cuban son montuno and guarija, Puerto Rican/Cuban guaracha, mambo and most uniquely, American R&B/soul.

Boogaloo can be seen as "the first Nuyorican music", and has been called "the greatest potential that (Latinos) had to really cross over in terms of music" (Izzy Sanabria).

The older generation of Latin musicians have even been accused of initially using their influence to repress this youth-oriented movement. The term boogaloo was probably coined in about 1966 by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. Boogaloo also spread to Puerto Rico, where top band El Gran Combo released some material. Though the dance craze was over by the turn of the decade, boogaloo was popular enough that almost every major and minor Latin dance artist of the time recorded at least a few boogaloos on their albums.

Boogaloo remains extremely popular to this day in Cali, Colombia, where the genre is played extensively, along with salsa and pachanga and in various radio stations and hundreds of dance clubs.


Songo is a type of Cuban music, where there is a structuration of the musical phrase of the bass, drum/kick, and the congas for a more dynamic interaction of the rhythms section. It combines elements from the rumba, son Cubano, and other contemporary non-Latin styles like jazz and funk. It was developed by some percussionists and bands like, Changuito of Los Van Van, La Ritmo Oriental, Los Latinos, Los Reyes 73, Grupo Irakere, etc.

When playing a songo, the drummer always plays a basic foot pattern called the tumbao, and builds on top of with his/her hands. The tumbao is played with the bass drum on the fourth beat and the off-beat of the second beat of the 4/4 time. ~ Wikipedia