Essay on History of Rumba, Merengue and Salsa
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According to Holger Henke in his The West Indian Americans, Jamaican Rex Nettleford was correct when he said, “’dance was a primary instrument of survival’.” As such a vital part of cultural traditions, dance plays and integral role in the history culture. Three of the most influential styles of dance in the Caribbean are the Rumba, The Merengue, and the Salsa. The word Rumba is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “a ballroom dance of Haitian and Dominican origin in 2/4 time in which one foot is dragged on every step.” Here, however, Rumba is a collection of percussive rhythms, song and dance that originated in Cuba as a combination of the musical traditions of Africans brought to Cuba as slaves and Spanish colonizers. The term…show more content…
What we know today as Ballroom Rumba is basically son and not based on the authentic folk rumba.
The first serious attempt to introduce the rumba to the United States was in 1913 but real interest in Latin music began about 1929. In the late 1920's, Xavier Cugat formed an orchestra that specialized in Latin American music and opened at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and later played at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. By the end of the decade he was recognized as having the outstanding Latin orchestra of the day. Monsieur Pierre was London's leading teacher of the Rumba and in 1955 he and his partner, Doris Lavelle, introduced the true "Cuban Rumba" which was finally established after much argument, as the official recognized version in 1955.
During this time, the intellectual movement known as Afrocubanismo, a sort of mass relization of the value of African culture (especially in the Caribbean), gave roots to traditional rumba. When this afrocubanismo movement came along, it helped open the doors to African rooted dancing and ways of expression. Rumba became more accepted among Cubans and was a recognized cultural expression that identified as a part of the Cuban people. It also provided the means at that point of public expression for those without representation in the media, the Afro-Cubans.
Today, Rumba is most commonly performed informally and can be broken down into three types:
Sample Expository / Explanatory Essay on Salsa Music
Strange as it may sound, salsa music is named after the Spanish word for hot sauce. This is probably because of the zesty taste of the condiment that can be found in the tunes and moves of the music, but the familiarity does not end there. Just like salsa (the condiment) is made from various vegetables, so is the music a mixture of many different kinds of Latin dance forms (such as rhumba, mambo, and chacha), other Puerto-Rican, Dominican, and Afro-Cuban music strains, jazz, and rock music. The main instruments used in salsa include percussions, keyboards, brass, and guitars. Most of the time, salsa music is also accompanied by dance. Salsa was made popular in the 1970s mostly by clubs in New York. Later on, in the 1980s, this style of music also became popular in areas such as Miami, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Columbia. (The Columbia Encyclopedia 2007). Since then, salsa has evolved vigorously through the years and has emerged as a very significant and dynamic component of popular music scene, especially for the social identity of the Latinos.
The music that came to be called salsa developed out of Cuban dance genres, especially the son, guararba, and rumba, that had evolved into a cohesive set of commercial popular styles by the 1920s. By the 1940s, these genres, promoted primarily by RCA Victor (which monopolized the record industry in Cuba), enjoyed considerable international appeal, and Latino communities outside of Cuba had come to play an important role in the evolution of Cuban music. Puerto Ricans, who had eagerly adopted Cuban music for decades (especially since the introduction of radio in 1922), had come to regard such genres as their own, generally at the expense of indigenous genres like plena and bomba. Meanwhile, since the 1920s, New York City had become the scene of a lively blending and competition of diverse grass-roots -- and commercialized -- Latin American music. Together with Puerto Rican bandleaders like Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez, many Cuban musicians had based themselves in New York City, which they established as a center for the music that would eventually be labeled "salsa" by the record industry (Manuel 1991).
The growth of salsa as a vehicle of social identity was inseparable from its development as a commercial entity. Indeed, the more salsa flourished, the more it was subject to the pressures of the corporate music industry. Some of these pressures, toward standardization, stylistic conservatism, and absence of sociopolitical content, operated in direct opposition to the grass-roots attempt to use the genre as an expression of barrio identity. Thus, the development of salsa can be seen as an ongoing dialectic between, on the one hand, the Latino community's attempt to shape salsa as its own sub cultural expression and, on the other hand, the tendency of the commercial music industry to glamorize, decontextualize, and depoliticize the music as a bland and innocuous dance music (Manuel 1991).
So we see that salsa music has been dynamically evolving over the period of time not just as a musical genre but also as a means of cultural identity for Latinos. Even though the music started in New York, it has evolved to include the many different Latin American elements into its composition. This is not something unique to salsa music as we have seen other musical genres, such as hip-hop or rap, which have contributed to the other cultures. However, salsa is the most dynamic type of music that enjoys a lot of popularity in a diverse cultural plethora.
Manuel, Peter. (1991). “Latin Music in the United States: Salsa and the Mass Media,” Journal of Communication, 41, (1): 104.
The Columbia Encyclopedia. (2007). “Salsa,” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, New York: Columbia University Press