Tag Archives: Salsa

Cuban Salsa grew from a fusion of other dance styles, no one is too old to dance it!

I decided to spend close to a month in Cuba, to learn to dance the Salsa in the country from which elements of it originated. It was an interesting experience, learning more about Cuban music, that Salsa is a ‘commercial’ overarching name for a dance incorporating steps from a number of other dance styles, and that I had to come to the conclusion that I do not like most Cuban Salsa music. I was told that Salsa has no age limit, one never being too old to dance, it even being used remedially with older persons. 

 

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An introduction to the Music of Cuba, Salsa in particular!

I naively arrived in Cuba with the idea that all Cuban music is based on Buena Vista Social Club, my benchmark of it, but it was described to me as ‘traditional’ music. I had to come to the sad realisation that I don’t much care for Salsa music, not having been to a Salsa dance class before arriving in Cuba. I also learnt that if I do not like the music, I cannot dance to it. 
 
 
 
I researched the history of Cuban music from the ‘Cuba’ Lonely Planet Guide, which describes it as ‘rich, vibrant, layered, and soulful’. Influenced by its proximity to Latin America, with some European and African rhythms too, as well as American, Haitian and Jamaican music influences, a number of dance styles evolved from the musical fusion, including Salsa of course, having its home in Cuba, son, rumba, mambo, cha-cha-chá, charanga, and danzón. Children can dance perfect Salsa steps at an early age already, and no one is self-conscious about dancing here. 
 
The dance style that was Cuba’s National Dance was the Danzón, in 1879, introduced in Matanzas. Dancers danced as couples rather than in groups, as was the fashion of the day before then, it was a slower dance, and the music was instrumental only. It grew in the addition of conga drums and vocalists. It evolved into charanga, more often danced by the ‘moneyed white society’. 
 
Slaves arriving in Cuba from Africa introduced rattles and basic batá drums, adding rhythm to religious music. It is described as being ‘rhythmic yet highly textured’. It evolved into rumba, in the 1890s, emanating from the Havana docks, where workers created beats on packing cases, adding vocals over time, becoming the ‘voice’ of Black Cubans. Three dance styles evolved out of the rumba, the ‘overtly sexual dance’ guaguancó, the slow dance yambú, and a fast and aggressive columbia dance. Over time the rumba styles merged with son, and that again into son montuno, the foundation of Salsa. By the 1930s the Son sextet of guitar, a three-set double string guitar tres, double bass, bongo, and two singers, expanded into the addition of a trumpet. Over the next two decades the bands expanded in size, with horn and percussion add-ons. Cha-cha-chá emerged in 1951, originally referred to as mambo-rumba. 
 
Salsa had its origin in ‘Latin New York’ in the Sixties, a blend of son, jazz, and rumba, ‘a new brassier sound’. Celia Cruz was referred to the ‘Queen of Salsa’, taking the music with her to ‘self-imposed exile’ in America, and therefore not being as well-known in her land of birth as elsewhere in the world. Los Van Van was one of the most influential salsa bands, formed by Juan Formell in 1969. I love sipping chilled pineapple juice in the trendy music bar VanVan in Old Havana, created in honour of this band. It is said to still perform around Cuba. It even won a Grammy in 2000, for its album ‘Llego Van Van’. In the past forty years modern Salsa has been influenced by hip-hop, reggae, and rap. 
 
Oddly, the Lonely Planet guide book does not mention Buena Vista Social Club, which put Cuban music on the (Western) map, if I am a sample of one. 
 
Right at the beginning of my stay I attended a ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ show at El Guajirito, a total tourist rip-off, at an entrance fee of 30 CUCs which included three drinks, with only one hint of a Buena Vista Social Club song right at the start of the show. The package at 60 CUCs comes with very poor Dinner, and the reader is highly advised to not support this tourist trap. Luckily I was advised to not book the Dinner part of the show. Walking up and down the most popular tourist pedestrian mall Obispo and around the Central Parque area, where bands spontaneously play at hotels, restaurants, and Bar venues.
 
I often heard the music of Buena Vista Social Club performed, by the band on the right, at the Opera Bar and Restaurant. It may cost one a drink at the venue, and a donation and/or the purchase of a CD at most to hear far better quality traditional Cuban music. 
 
Other instruments I saw in Cuban music bands in Havana were the violin and flute. 
 
The link between Cuban music and Salsa will be explored in a separate Blogpost. 
 
 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein

 
 

SA largest circulation publication Huisgenoot sensationally shares my transformation and romance journey!

My journey of transformation, in losing 45kg in weight over a period of a year in 2017, as well as spiritually in walking the Camino last year, with related changes, has been sensationally documented by Huisgenoot writer Pieter Van Zyl.  He wrote the story on the basis of my SwitchBitch Book 1, in which I documented my physical transformation, as well as a telephone interview. I met Van Zyl at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, of which he was an author panelist, last week. Continue reading →

Franschhoek Literary Festival 2019 brings writers to book!

I have spent the last three days in Franschhoek, attending its very successful Literary Festival, for the first time as a book writer myself. I found it insightful, and loved meeting some authors in person, their personalities shaping what they write, and the characters in their books. Continue reading →

SwitchBitch ‘Book-wetting’ blessed with rain and super support!

 

 

 

Last night I hosted another ‘SwitchBitch: My journey of transformation from Sour to Sweet!’ Book Launch celebration, at La Parada Constantia Nek. A light drizzle blessed the event, and we called it a Book-wetting, in celebration of our much-needed rain in Cape Town!  Continue reading →

2017: A year of finding my feet, both on and off the dance floor!

A year ago I posted here on my Blog that 2016 was the best year of my life. Looking back on 2017, I can echo this sentiment about 2017, surpassing what was already a fantastic 2016! The year was crowned by the publishing of my first book, and I plan to write two this year. I discovered my Self-Love, and now can truly stand on my own two feet!  Continue reading →

Taste of Cape Town 2015 offers a taste of the World’s 3rd Best Food City!

Taste of Cape Town logoCape Town has just been ranked third Best Food City in the World by Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards 2014.  Taste of Cape Town 2015, running at the Green Point Cricket Club until the end of today, gives locals and visitors a taste of what makes our city so special as a food destination.

Hosted for the eighth year in Cape Town, and run by food editor and stylist Justin Drake, Taste of Cape Town hasTaste of Cape Town Jutine Drake Whale Cottage settled in at the cricket club venue after venue changes in early years. Taste of Cape Town is a festive and fun way to eat and drink one’s way around one venue, showcasing not only restaurants and wine estates in Cape Town, but also those in the Winelands.

I was invited by Errieda du Toit PR to attend the Taste of Cape Town, and was joined by Continue reading →