Situating Salsa

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Situating Salsa: Global Markets and Local Meaning in Latin Popular Music

Lise Waxer (Ed) (2002)

Routledge

This 335 page (inc. preface, short glossary, 9 photos and 17 musical examples (inc. a 9 page score) book is an edited collection of writing that considers the impact of salsa in a global context. Most chapters are well referenced and some also feature discography’s of artists mentioned. Sadly, Toronto born Lise Waxer, scholar, musician, author, activist, died at the age of just 37 in 2003. You can read an obituary here.

Why you might buy it:

Lots to recommend here, a good purchase for those wanting well written articles on a variety of salsa related areas – this book would be a good platform for exploring in further detail many of the aspects covered. The book, in turn, amuses, informs and questions much about ‘just what is salsa?’. Whilst Waxer has tried hard to make this feel like a whole entity, it is what it is, a book that places a wide range of chapters together, some originally written for different purposes, not all of which flow on from one another. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, each chapter stands alone and you could start anywhere and still enjoy it.

Why you might leave it:

Some chapters are tough going if you are not musically inclined, others suffer from, I believe, some over-thinking and over-stating on the part of the authors. There are occasions when, after a re-read, you realise that the author is referring to a spade and not the metal flat surfaced ground maintenance tool that is most commonly accompanied by a long handle for the purposes of dexterous manipulation by the operator.

Contents:

Part 1: Locating Salsa

1. Situating Salsa: Latin Music at the Crossroads (Lise Waxer)

2. Is Salsa a Musical Genre? (Marisol Berrios-Miranda)

3. Salsa and Socialism: Dance Music in Cuba, 1959-99 (Robin Moore)

4. “Cha Cha Cha With a Backbeat”: Songs and Stories of Latin Boogaloo (Juan Flores)

5. Salsa Romantica: An Analysis of Style (Christopher Washburn)

Part 2: Personalising Salsa

6. La Lupe, La India and Celia: Toward a Feminist Genealogy of Salsa Music (Frances R Aparico)

7. El Hombre Que Respira Debajo del Agua: Trans-Boricua Memories, Identities and Nationalisms Performed Through the Death of Hector Lavoe (Wilson A Valentin Escobar)

8. Memoirs of a Life in Salsa (Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso)

9. Poncho Sanchez, Latin Jazz and the Cuban Son: A Stylistic and Social Analysis (Steven Loza)

Part 3: Relocating Salsa

10. Llego la Salsa: The Rise of Salsa in Venezuela and Colombia (Lise Waxer)

11. Se Prohibe Escuchar “Salsa y Control”: When Salsa Arrived in Buenaventura, Colombia (Merdardo Arias Satizabal)

12. The Making of a Salsa Music Scene in London (Patria Roman- Velazquez)

13. Salsa No Tiene Fronteras: Orquesta de la Luz and the Globalization of Popular Music (Shuhei Hosokawa)

Selected extracts (with commentary):

Situating Salsa: Latin Music at the Crossroads (Lise Waxer):

“Despite the strong presence of industry mechanisms at virtually every stage of salsa’s history, however, the spread of salsa to different parts of the globe has not necessarily been conducted with its direct administration”. ABSTRACTO: This is essentially a scene setting chapter in which Waxer discusses recurring themes of the book, namely that of global markets and national identities and their relation to salsa.

Is Salsa a Musical Genre? (Marisol Berrios-Miranda):

“Salsa is a rhythm, is a reality …. That the root is from the Cuban Son, it is true, that the clave is important and one has to keep it, is true. But salsa is salsa. El Gran Combo plays salsa. Let’s be clear. Eddie Palmieri plays salsa. Ray Barretto plays salsa. Richie Ray, Joe Cuba play salsa. Machito plays mambo, plays mambo jazz. Each thing in its place. Machito does not play salsa. Isee it that way because of its harmonic and rhythmic structures. Cubans cannot play salsa. There is not a Cuban salsa group, it does not exist” (quote by Gerardo Rosales). ABSTRACTO: So begins this chapter in which consideration is given to uses of the term rhythm, genre, quality of the rhythmic ensemble (including nice interview snippets with Ismael Riveras son), national salsa styles, clave, the importance of breaks, fuerza and authenticity. The upshot of this? Salsa is not like other sorts of music but is it a genre?

Salsa and Socialism: Dance Music in Cuba, 1959-99 (Robin Moore):

“ The government faced a dilemma related to its policy towards the large cabarets. On the one hand, they were for the most part institutions catering to the middle classes and wealthy foreigners. They were often racially segregated, and the entertainment they provided was apolitical in the extreme and viewed as escapist. For all of these reasons, party officials considered them to be undesirable. On the other hand, the Cuban public loved music and dancing, was enamored of its performing and had come to expect television shows, specialized magazines, and other forms of media that featured them. Severe policies that threatened the entire entertainment industry could potentially anger the public and foster a negative image of the revolution”. ABSTRACTO: The context in which Cuban music developed during this period is examined with both drawbacks and benefits identified by musicians discussed.

“Cha Cha Cha With a Backbeat”: Songs and Stories of Latin Boogaloo (Juan Flores):

“Eddie Palmieri was the headliner,” recalls Benny Bonilla, the timbalero for Pete Rodríguez y Su Conjunto. “They needed a cheap band to open up for him, so they heard about us. So the booking agents, I remember it was two West Indian guys, came to hear us at one of our gigs, and they liked us. So they asked us for a short recording to help promote the dance on the radio. We looked at each other and said, `Recording ? We ain’t got no recording.’ And they said, no problem, we’ll book a studio, just do a short spot, one minute, and we’ll use that.” Pete Rodríguez and his bandmembers started groping around for something to play, and couldn’t come up with anything. Then Benny Bonilla remembers Tony Pabón, the group’s trumpeter, vocalist and composer, saying “Let’s try this.” He taught Pete how to do that piano vamp, and started ad-libbing : “Uh, ah, I like it like that.” The spot was played on the radio and, according to Benny, “the phone at the station started ringing off the hook.” “I Like It Like That” was recorded in 1966, in a full studio session for Alegre, and the Pete Rodríguez orchestra became an overnight sensation in El Barrio and around the city. ABSTRACTO: Entertaining chapter that originally appeared in The Journal of Black Renaissance (1999) and is here in a shortened version form Flores’s book “Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity (2000)

Salsa Romantica: An Analysis of Style (Christopher Washburn):

ABSTRACTO: Examined principally through analysis of the score to the song “Me Calculaste” and includes complete score and lyrics.

La Lupe, La India and Celia: Toward a Feminist Genealogy of Salsa Music (Frances R Aparico):

“….despite the strong historical tradition of Latin women as singers and interpreters of romantic ballads, very few women, with the exception of Celia Cruz, have been associated with the development of salsa and with the music industry that produces it”. ABSTRACTO: Mainly an assessment of the machismo of salsa dura and its subsequent concentration on male performers compared with salsa monga and its ideologically better suited nature for the promotion of women performers.

El Hombre Que Respira Debajo del Agua: Trans-Boricua Memories, Identities and Nationalisms Performed Through the Death of Hector Lavoe (Wilson A Valentin Escobar):

“Transmigrant imaginations incorporate diasporic narratives into the traditional inscriptions of the nation, entangling and deterritorializing bounded historiographies that encompass the various embodied forms, practices and collective mentalities that migrate across national and diaspora communities produced through Lavoe and that also reconstitute him before and after his death”. ABSTRACTO: This chapter, basically, outlines why Lavoe was not just a singer and that his life and death have far wider implications for those who identify with Boricua culture.

Memoirs of a Life in Salsa (Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso):

“I stayed back, observing his (Ruben Blades) triumph. Every bit a great artist! Suddenly I thought about the labyrinths of Latin American politics, where vendettas rule. And where to this day there’s always been an inflamed rivalry that usually doesn’t hold back, attacking, injuring and even fatally eliminating the opposition”. ABSTRACTO: Five autobiographical vignettes translated by Waxer, from the book La Vida Misma (1985).

Poncho Sanchez, Latin Jazz and the Cuban Son: A Stylistic and Social Analysis (Steven Loza):

“Since its inception in Cuba, the innovative quality of the son has been its unique use of anticipation. For this reason it has not dissipated as a tradition; it has constantly conformed to the offbeat rhythms common to the wide array of Afro-Cuban genres and has proved to be a Cuban expression of musical, poetic and social innovation”. ABSTRACTO: An analysis of the use of the son and Jazz in the compositions of Poncho Sanchez, with lyrical and musical notations.

Llego la Salsa: The Rise of Salsa in Venezuela and Colombia (Lise Waxer):

“The fall of the Cali cartel in 1995 spurred a striking revival of the old 1960’s/1970’s record-centred dance scene”. ABSTRACTO: This chapter, considered through time periods, does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.

Se Prohibe Escuchar “Salsa y Control”: When Salsa Arrived in Buenaventura, Colombia (Merdardo Arias Satizabal):

“When Landa brought Eddie Palmieri to Buenaventura for the first time, around 1978, the inhabitants of the city didn’t believe this event was actually happening, since sailors had spread the news that Palmieri played only in New York and Puerto Rico, and that besides it was ‘expensive to bring him, since he had a gold piano’. At the time, I was a writer for the daily newspaper El Pais, in Cali, and I travelled to the port to cover the concert. Seeing that it was already 8 o’clock at night and the Coliseum was empty, I recommended to Landa that he hire one of the engines from the Fire Brigade to go around the city with the musicians, so that people could see for themselves that it was true, Palmieri and his boys were there. They did this, and in the photo, now historic, in a truck designed for putting out blazes, up front appear Ismael Quintana, and Alfredo ‘Chocolate’ Armenteros, with his trumpet held high. The Fireman who drove the engine put the siren on full blast, and this pulled the Buenaventurians out into the street. In minutes, the Coliseum was packed full to bursting, and Eddie tapped his shoe to count off ‘Bilongo’…” ABSTRACTO: An anecdotal account (translated by Waxer) of the development of salsa in the Colombian port of Buenaventura.

The Making of a Salsa Music Scene in London (Patria Roman-Velazquez):

“Sol y Sombra was organized by a Colombian in 1982 and burned down in 1986. The cause of the fire was not clear, but Dave Hucker, the disk jockey of the club, said that it could have been a deliberate incident”. ABSTRACTO: Salsa development in London, considered within the contexts of social processes and cultural practices.

Salsa No Tiene Fronteras: Orquesta de la Luz and the Globalization of Popular Music (Shuhei Hosokawa):

“It is likely that the first question that a non-Japanese would ask about Orquesta de la Luz is simply, why does it play salsa? The question belies an assumption about the relationship between salsa and locale. No one would wonder why a Chinese plays Bach or why a Dane plays bebop”. ABSTRACTO: An analysis of just how, or not, Japan fits into the international picture of salsa.

[end of extracts]

Other reviews

Latin Beat Magazine by Rudy Mangual (2002)
Situating Salsa is a collection of 13 new essays specifically commissioned for the purpose of this book. Edited by Lise Waxer, an Assistant Professor of Music at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, this book represents the first comprehensive consideration of salsa music and its social impact from a transnational perspective. Divided into three parts – Part I: Locating Salsa, Part II: Personalizing Salsa, and Part III: Relocating Salsa- -the book explores salsa music from its Caribbean origins to the present day. Waxer and a dozen leading scholars, experts and musicians, contributed interviews, field research, memoirs, and musical analyses to trace the paths by which salsa music has moved beyond its Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican roots to become ah international music commodity. In other words, it describes and analyzes the global impact that salsa music is currently enjoying. Some of the essays shed new light on current and provocative debates on race and ethnicity, class hierarchy, gender and the generation gap, as well as the relationship between salsa and socialism in Cuba, the rise of salsa music in Colombia and Venezuela, and salsa’s local meaning. Heading the list of contributors to this book are Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso (the legendary, revered salsa composer from Borinquen), Frances R. Aparicio (author and director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at the University of Illinois), Medardo Arias Satizábal (Colombian writer and journalist), Juan Flores (professor in the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City), Steve Loza (Associate Professor of Music at UCLA), and Christopher Washburne-Assistant Professor at Columbia University in New York City, bandleader, and one of the leading trombonists in salsa music.

Descarga.com by Bruce Polin (2004)
Highly Recommended. A very insightful compendium of essays and interviews about the cultural impact of salsa, and the marketing of its virtues. “With contributions from a dozen leading scholars, experts, and musicians, including a piece by revered salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso, this book traces the myriad ways in which salsa music has moved beyond its Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican roots to become an international musical commodity.” From the liners. The late Lise Waxer was Assistant Professor of Music at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She has wrote extensively on salsa music, its roots, and its international diffusion. She also wrote ‘The City of Musical Memory’, a social history of salsa in Cali, Colombia.

Publishers Description
This collection represents the first comprehensive consideration of salsa music and its social impact from a transnational perspective. Consisting of 13 essays, this volume explores the diffusion of this popular sound from its Hispanic Caribbean origins to audiences around the world. With contributions from a dozen leading scholars, experts, and musicians, including a piece by revered salsa composer Tite Curet Alonso, this book traces the myriad ways in which salsa music has moved beyond its Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican roots to become an international musical commodity. SITUATING SALSA will prove to be the definitive guide for students, scholars, and anyone who would understand salsa’s global impact.

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