For all you people who think I am just a guitar maniac: I was listening to this song just now, by La India:
An artist I got introduced to by my friend Ramsy from the Dutch Antillies. I only got the album with this song on it (and on tape; damn, I’m going to order the album NOW!), but boy do I love salsa music.
I can’t even begin to understand were it comes from, but from very early on I’ve liked Spanish and/or Latin music. In summer I also look more mediterranean than your average pale/bright-red Dutch person, so perhaps it’s genetic. Anyway, as I said my friend Ramsy later introduced me to salsa, and I got to see his friend Leonard Reymound’s bands playing, a really great singer and percussionist. I got to understand the power and dynamics of horns, something I hadn’t liked at all before, being a symphonic rock fan.
But also, and more importantly, I got to understand that rhythm isn’t the strong point of main stream western music. We adopted the strong emphasis on rhythm through blues and jazz during the 1940’s and 1950’s, but in popular music it’s still very simple compared to what is done in salsa, which must be a mixture of African and Spanish rhythms, the Spanish also being influenced by the Moors from North Africa. Perhaps they also were influenced by flamenco, the music of the Spanish Gypsies. Who originally came from India, which is indeed another part of the world where they came up with some really intricate rhythmic patterns. Europe had strong rhythms as well in its folk music – Bulgarian folk music will have strange rhythms like 11/8 time – but somehow it’s mostly classical music that’s become the main European heritage (although at least part of British/Irish folk music has been preserved in bluegrass music, I think).
Salsa means sauce, and that’s indeed what it is. We Westerners are mostly masters of melody and harmony, that’s what we got down in Europe. That got mixed in with jazz and blues harmonies in the US, rooted in Africa as well, mind you, but anyway: combine jazz with the rhythmic inventions of Spain, Africa and India and you get amazing music, which is what salsa is.
There are brilliant people everywhere; just extract as many ideas from everywhere and you’ll come up with something great.