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The Book of Salsa

The Book of Salsa: A Chronicle of Urban Music from the Caribbean to New York City

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  • Book Info
    The Book of Salsa
    Book Description:

    Salsa is one of the most popular types of music listened to and danced to in the United States. Until now, the single comprehensive history of the music--and the industry that grew up around it, including musicians, performances, styles, movements, and production--was available only in Spanish. This lively translation provides for English-reading and music-loving fans the chance to enjoy Cesar Miguel Rondon's celebratedEl libro de la salsa.Rondon tells the engaging story of salsa's roots in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, and of its emergence and development in the 1960s as a distinct musical movement in New York. Rondon presents salsa as a truly pan-Caribbean phenomenon, emerging in the migrations and interactions, the celebrations and conflicts that marked the region. Although salsa is rooted in urban culture, Rondon explains, it is also a commercial product produced and shaped by professional musicians, record producers, and the music industry. For this first English-language edition, Rondon has added a new chapter to bring the story of salsa up to the present.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0380-3
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-10)

    Though located on Broadway and Fifty-third Street, an area famous for music and theater, the Palladium, an immense ballroom capable of holding a thousand couples on its dance floor, was in decline by 1947. It seldom filled to capacity as fewer and fewer white couples went there to dance the fox-trot, tango, and some of the old swing, the popular swaying rhythm that was easy on the feet and ears of its audience. At that time the Palladium’s manager, a man named Moore, faced the challenge of turning the situation around and attracting dancers back to the ballroom. He contacted...

  5. TWO: THE 1960S
    (pp. 11-16)

    Two important factors of the Cuban revolution shaped the development of Caribbean popular music. First, the blockade imposed by the United States and the Organization of American States closed the doors to an island that had long served as an ideal site for the convergence of all of the region’s musical tendencies. From then on, this music had to function outside Cuba. Secondly, the migrations of many Cuban musicians, especially to New York, considerably changed the way that musical forms had been handled. The Sonora Matancera left with Celia Cruz, and the same happened with Fajardo, although most of his...

    (pp. 17-27)

    For most of the renowned and prestigious Caribbean musicians of the 1950s there was no such thing as salsa. To them, it was merely old Cuban music played with some innovative touches. To the Cubans particularly, who by the second half of the 1970s had reestablished contact with the larger Caribbean community, the onslaught of salsa was seen at the least as a gimmick and at the worst an outright attack. To them, salsa was a sham. But the ultimate insult to salsa was that many of the musicians who depended on it for their survival denied its value as...

    (pp. 28-40)

    One of the greatest assets of the Cuban son is its permeability. Its form is open to enrichment and to absorbing diverse types of popular music while remaining solidly well defined. The young New York musicians quickly recognized this. They realized that the invasion of (international) pop music had to be integrated into their own expressive style and that the son was the best tool to make that fusion happen. Thus, from pop to the son, the boogaloo emerged as the first hybrid that marked the difference between the old Caribbean music and the new barrio style. Already by 1966,...

    (pp. 41-61)

    The Cheetah was more like an enormous barn than a ballroom. While it had a great location on Fifty-second Street—the area featuring the most famous clubs of the golden age of jazz in the 1950s—it was set up in the most rudimentary way for dancers and spectators alike. Apparently, the Cheetah had been used previously for a variety of activities, from warehouse to gym, from roller-skating rink to arena for dance marathons and contests. Since the mid-1960s, however, it had become a regular spot for Latin dancing, offering wild parties where, for one small price, the average music...

    (pp. 62-91)

    Much has been said about the peculiar fact that New York City was the birthplace of the sound and style that came to define salsa. As many have noted, other Caribbean cities were home to as many or more Latinos than this U.S. city, so it is hard to understand the incredible proliferation of orchestras in New York. It is even more remarkable that those orchestras were able to survive, record albums, and make a name for themselves especially when dependency on New York had desperate overtones for the Latinos who lived there. Yet, that situation explains only the characteristics...

    (pp. 92-237)

    In the fall of 1973, the Fania All Stars gave the largest salsa concert ever in New York, so large it was held at Yankee Stadium. The audience still had memories of the Cheetah event, and the four albums that came from it had become part of their personal celebrations and streetcorner gatherings. Those songs were played over many radio stations throughout the city, and the filmNuestra cosa latinawas being shown throughout the Caribbean to great applause by fans everywhere. Now it seemed that Fania was back to create another landmark with even higher aspirations to carry salsa...

    (pp. 238-282)

    In 1974, a group of young musicians in the Bronx formed a band that came to be called Conjunto Anabacoa. Amid the regular work that salsa required, their idea was to do nothing but get together and jam, to develop freely the music that they were most excited about. They had no pretensions to record, not even to have an audience, given how small the crowds were that turned out to listen to them. This was a private project, one of those groups that arose from the exclusive pleasure of the musicians themselves. Eventually, however, they were invited by Wesleyan...

    (pp. 283-308)

    In 1979 another salsa album by a singer without any special talent or connections was produced in New York. I did not buy the album but looked at the cover. There was the singer, dressed elegantly in the style of a model advertising men’s cologne, getting out of a luxurious Rolls Royce as a chauffeur in an impeccable uniform held the door open for him. A friend of mine who knew this singer laughed with a mixture of pity and dismay, saying, “But this guy is dirt poor, and now he wants us to think that he’s a millionaire. ....

    (pp. 309-312)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 313-340)