The African Roots of Salsa Music and Dance

Posted in Salsa

African woman dancing

African woman dancing

The African Roots of Salsa Music and Dance

To many of us, salsa is the definitive “Latin” music. However, the roots of its sounds and the movements of its dances can be traced back much further than Cuba or Puerto Rico. In fact, you will find that many of the building blocks for salsa come all the way from Africa!

Salsa is renowned throughout music and dance communities for its powerful rhythm. In fact, a strong beat is really the backbone that drives any good salsa track. The rhythmic style of salsa music did not simply develop in the 1960s, however. That classic rhythm that just screams “salsa”? It’s been around for hundreds of years and it developed far across the Atlantic Ocean on the continent of Africa.

African music has always been focused on rhythm. The concept of “polyrhythm” developed first in Africa, and this polyrhythm is part of what makes salsa sound like salsa! Simply put, a polyrhythm occurs when two or more rhythms that conflict in some way are played at the same time. Salsa music utilizes this trick all the time, and it’s what gives depth to a good, danceable salsa beat.

More than just the music can be traced back to Africa, however. Aspects of salsa dance also have roots in African culture. The dance steps associated with salsa evolved from a classic dance style called “contradanza”. The moves of contradanza were danced all around the world, from Haiti to Cuba and even to Spain, but one thing’s for sure—the style originated in Africa and was spread as Africans were moved all around the world, mostly due to the slave trade. Without this contradanza style, salsa dancing never could have developed the way it did.

One of the many things that makes salsa so fun is its global appeal. Salsa is danced in the Caribbean, in North America, and even in Europe, but it’s clear that we must not discount the importance of the African roots of salsa music and dance.

History of Salsa From Africa to Newyork 1 of 3

History of Salsa From Africa to Newyork part 2 of 3

History of Salsa From Africa to Newyork part 3 of 3


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    1 Comment

  1. It is amazing things like this can be traced here or there throughout history. I did not know that much before reading your website here. I also think that global appeal is very important here.

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