salsa origins

Hello everyone,

Since falling in love with salsa, I decided to choose the "origins of salsa" as the topic of a paper I am writing for an English writing course I am taking. From materials I have found in the library and online, would the experts here at salsa forums agree that these are the places where these dances originated from?

Salsa: Cuba, Spain, Puerto Rico, USA
Samba: Brazil, USA
Cha Cha Cha: Cuba, England, USA
Mambo: Cuba, USA
Rumba: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Spain, Congo, USA, Madagascar
Tango: Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, France, England, Spain

I have listed more then one country for each of the dances because depending on the source, these were the countries that lay claim to having founded these dances. Are there any countries I missed out on or any interesting pieces of information about the origins that I should know about?

In my essay, I am not going to say country A or country B is the rightfully origin of a certain type of dance, I am just going to document what books, websites and other historical documents say.
Very informative posting!

Since you are seeking interesting stories to tell about the roots of salsa, let me share with you what my dance instructor showed us in handouts on the first day of my first salsa class.

There is documentation that states that Mambo came from Cuba (although that is contested by Haiti, USA & several west African countries) in the 1930s by Cachao. Prior to this dance' introduction to the casinos and hotels of Cuba in the 1930s, it was said that the African immigrants to Cuba brought this dance with them from west Africa. The precursor to the Mambo was a dance the voodoo high priestess, always female, would lead for certain ceremonies. The title of 'mambo' is given to the highest ranking voodoo priestess of a clergy.

Thus you can say in your essay that mambo had its origins in a voodoo dance that slowly evolved through multiple iterations to the social dance it is today :cheers:
CUBA AND ITS MUSIC by NED SUBLETTE and incrediblbly detailed and well researched book on cuba,beginning with spain and its african slaves,influenced what cuban music and soooo much of what we have today.salsa"s roots being the cuban SON,for example.santeria,palo mayombe,abakua and other african religions and their beats,rituals,etc are examined and we see how so much of salsa music comes from here too.great book and very easy to read.goes from spain/africa all the way to the mambo,rumba, cha cha scene of the 50's.....
after that THE BOOK OF SALSA by CESAR MIGUEL RONDON covers post castro cuba to new york mambo into fania 70's salsa...with these 2 books you cant go me your music library will really grow after reading these books.
I am very glad I posted this on this forum! Terence, you really have some interesting articles on your Cuban Salsa United Kingdom website. I can see you really have some indepth knowledge on this subject to have written those articles.

Kerry, I researched your posting as well linking modern day mambo to ancient day voodoo rituals. I will add your insights into my paper as that morsel of information is something that really gets people thinking.

Biggah, sources of information are very valuable and two whole books full of information on the subject will help me greatly. Thank you. I will seek those books when next I visit a library.

From what I have researched so far, what stands out for me the most is that most of the salsa family of dances has its roots through either Cuba or USA.
celia cruz and tito puente always argued that salsa is just a word for her cuban guaracha music.thank fidel castro for completely shutting down and closing cuba's musical doors to the world.the music that was out at the time was soon enuf metamorphasized into modern salsa in new york...being cuban you grow up in a cuban household hating the whole communist regime and castro's deeds(even musically) but thankfully out of all that madness somehow somewhere salsa as we know it today was born
Out of curiosity, does anybody have any links videos or movies that show Cubans dancing son, mambo or cha cha chá in the 1940s or 50s?

I think the question of where a dance originates from is a little different from where its ultimate roots lie. As for the latter, as with the music, it depends on how far back you want to go. We could probably at least say that the place a dance originates from is the place where those roots come together to create the product we are talking about.

Even with that simple definition, the question of where salsa as a dance originates from is mighty complicated. I think we can safely say that Cuba was one of the primary nexuses for its African and European music and dance traditions to come together. The US obviously played a very big role in taking what the Cubans created and evolving it into the form we know it as today.

I don't really know as much about the history of the dance as I do the music, so I hesitate in stating anything more confidently. I'd love to see videos of Cubans dancing to this music in the "old" days, if for no other reason than to figure out how different it really was from the way we dance now, and in what ways. Is salsa the way we dance it now different enough from mambo of the 50s, to be considered a different dance? Is the way Americans in the 50s danced mambo different enough from the way Cubans danced it to be considered a different dance?
Salsa doesn't originate from Spain, or is there something I missed? More like Cuba (and Africa) and the US.
Hmm I guess at a push you could say spanish influences came through changui into son and hence into salsa...?
According to Ned Sublette's book, the decima is from Spain. Its the rhythmic verse that eventually became the structure of the lead vocals. I don't know if they actually sing it that way in salsa songs anymore, a musician would have to confirm.

The horn sections in the music were from Spain, specifically from the military bands.
Later on the major horn influence came from New York Jazz musicians like Dizzie Gillespie and many others from that amazing era.

Ned Sublette is oddly silent on the subject of changui and I loaned my Helio Orovo book "Cuban Music from A to Z" to a friend (who hasn't returned it, note to self: get it back) so cannot comment.
I'm a little curious about the references used for many of the dances on that original list. I think to say that England could be considered an origin of cha cha chá for example, is a statement that needs some explaining.
I wasn't stating my question as a critique. In my mind I have no doubt that Madagascar has no connection to anything latin. It was a French colony inhabited by East Indians with Senegalese colonial soldiers. There is likely more latin cultural influence in England than in Madagascar, after all England conquered numerous Spanish colonies along with the inhabitants and their culture. What intrigues me is that someone had any (albeit incorrect) info about Madagascan culture.
Out of curiosity, does anybody have any links videos or movies that show Cubans dancing son, mambo or cha cha chá in the 1940s or 50s?

I'd love to see videos of Cubans dancing to this music in the "old" days, if for no other reason than to figure out how different it really was from the way we dance now, and in what ways.

Is the way Americans in the 50s danced mambo different enough from the way Cubans danced it to be considered a different dance?
First there was no Cha in the 40s.. only Guajira.. and for a good e.g. of that eras dance style, get a copy of Cachaos last DVD.. a couple is dancing Son in one of the songs .

The Cha cha that emerged in the States was in many ways different than the version the English adapted from the same rhythm.The English were more inclined to use "Pop" songs for their teaching and dance pleasure ( it STILL goes on today in Rumba and Cha ! )

The differences for many dancers,(in the 50s) was primarily the "opening up " of the more closed contact style. We needed to adapt many of the variations that were being added from the various rhythms dances we taught, as they were more suitable to an open stance in many ( not all ) cases..

I still teach ( to my advanced students ) old time Cuban style Mambo/ Salsa in a closed position.. it limits the variety , but opens up a whole new vista for them.

We seldom, if ever, taught, or danced closed position ( even in the smooth ballroom dances ) . The U.K. had a different take on the subject.. their dances were styled in closed position ,and the Rumba that I learned ( and taught ) back then was Cuban style , danced in a Square ( like the chain schools .. and I.. still teach socially) .

Even today, one may see some of the older Cubans in Tampa, dancing in the older closed style..
First there was no Cha in the 40s..
I know -- I said son, mambo or cha cha chá.

Interesting information, though I'd like to see videos of course to get a better visual of what you are saying.

I'll definitely hunt for that DVD, though I'd also to see old videos of dancers in Cuba, at that time. Particularly mambo. YouTube still doesn't seem to have too much in this area.

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