2018: A Year In Food
In 2018, my gym coach assigned me to keep a food blog so he could track my meals. Through developing healthy eating habits to satisfy all of my nutritional needs and a rigorous exercise programme, I lost the 21 kg between January-August 2018 I'd gained on anti-depressants.
I wanted it to be somewhere more private rather than being shoved down people's throats (literally) through Instagram/WhatsApp. Hence I've posted my culinary creations here.
Being vegetarian and/or vegan always presents a challenge in terms of hitting the protein target so this was particularly the most interesting challenge for me.
I made a conscious decision to stop food blogging in 2019 (due to time restraints), but it's useful to have a year's diet documented as a reference and a source of inspiration!
In his Library of Congress recordings, American jazz musician Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton mentioned the importance of what he called the ‘Spanish tinge’ in jazz, in reference to the belief that a Latin American touch offered an effective method of spicing up the conventional four-square rhythms so commonly found in contemporary jazz and popular music.
Essentially, what Jelly Roll Morton was describing as the ‘Spanish’ influence did not refer to those cultural elements that derived specifically from Spain; the ‘Spanish’ influence he described was actually an Afro-Caribbean influence. Jelly Roll Morton was in fact referring to an entire Spanish-speaking culture incorporating elements derived from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic), and other Latin American nations colonised by Spain, such as Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. However, all these nations have in common their African heritage, a legacy that began with the introduction of African slaves into the Americas. In citing the importance of the ‘Spanish tinge’ in jazz, Jelly Roll Morton was making the conscious referral to a cultural movement that has permeated world music markets since the 1960s and gradually pervaded the global consciousness through live performance, the recording industry and the clubbing scene.
Hence, the ‘Latin’ term does not explain enough either, since it encompasses such a wide range of influences, and in order to fullyunderstand the music and reproduce it to some degree of authenticity, one must be able to assimilate aspects of its culture; speak the language, know the customs, understand the history and philosophy and comprehend the joys and sorrows of the people and their music. This music is truly ‘a music of the Americas’ – the end-product of a whole melting pot of cultural influences, incorporating African, European, Indian, Caribbean, Latin and North American – which has progressed from its ‘authentic’ indigenous roots towards increasing Americanisation and commercialisation. In this project, I attempt to re define the notion of the ‘Spanish tinge’ in music, and assess its significance within
the context of popular culture, through focusing primarily on Afro Cuban music, its fusions with other Afro-Caribbean styles, its fusions with American jazz, and subsequently, its global dissemination. I will be asking three questions along the way:
In Chapter 1, I will identify the genetic characteristics of African music, polyrhythm, call-and-response and integration of music into everyday life, examining how these were later manifested in Afro-Cuban music. Subsequently, I will be analysing how the modern musical instruments compare to their ancestors.
In Chapter 2, I will be analysing the fusions of Afro Cuban music and American jazz, through case studies on individual musicians. Throughout these case studies, I will be addressing the distinction between Cuban, Puerto Rican, NuYorican and American ethnicities, speculating how these ethnicities engendered the mediation between Afro Caribbean and American musical elements in the development of salsa and Latin jazz, within the context of an evolving socio-political relationship between Latin America and the United States.
Chapter 3 is in two parts. Firstly, I will be exploring the cultural appropriations of Afro-Cuban elements into foreign localities, and its fusions with other indigenous traditions to create hybrid styles, addressing how these trends contribute to the constant globalisation and localisation of Afro-Cuban music around the world. Secondly, I will look at the ways in which Afro-Cuban music has ‘returned to its roots’ – both in Cuba and in Africa – speculating whether Afro-Cuban music stays true to its inherent characteristics.
Chapter 2 serves as a microcosm for Chapter 3, since it deals with the directions taken by individual musicians, whereas Chapter 3 takes into consideration the overall trends, and how these contribute to the significance of the Afro-Cuban musical aesthetic at large.
Africa and the Caribbean
Sandunga is a Spanish word meaning ‘elegance’ or ‘grace’ and best expresses the hybrid quality of Afro-Cuban music. Fernando Ortiz explained that the word sandunga is an amalgamation of sa, the white salt of Andalusia, and ndungu, the black pepper of Africa – an analogy consistent with gastronomic metaphors that illustrate how deeply ‘Latin’ music is integrated with life. Ethnomusicologists have agreed that the roots of the Afro-Cuban musical influence derive from the combination of African and Spanish traditions; the drums and rhythms of Sub-Saharan West and Central Africa, married with the guitars and harmonies of Spain. Since the modern recognisable ‘Latin’ sound was created from the interaction between these two cultures within the Spanish speaking Caribbean, and subsequently through the process of syncretism and diffusion of Afro-Caribbean elements into the United States, the term ‘Latin-Caribbean’ is more appropriate. Indeed, the Latin-Caribbean idiom absorbed many indigenous Caribbean Indian influences along the way. Nevertheless, the three most noticeable ‘African’ ingredients that constitute the Latin Caribbean sound are polyrhythm (including the pitch-rhythm-timbre complex, and the principle of clave), call and response vocal style and the integration of music into social functions (usually of a religious nature, but in many cases, for catharsis and courtship). These three ingredients may be linked together through their immanently dialectic nature. In this chapter, I will first establish how these three ingredients are hereditary characteristics of African and African-derived styles, and then explain how these characteristics might have been carried across into Latin Caribbean styles, with relation to the socio-political and economic conditions in the Caribbean. I will then discuss the parallels between Latin Caribbean musical instruments with their ancestors as a result of these tendencies.
Like many other cultures, African culture is based on the dynamic interplay between two modes; an outward mode that sustains the continuation of the physical life, and an inward mode that transcends the material world and nurtures spiritual thought, or concepts beyond reason or intelligence. African music is a dynamic force that creates alternation and correlation between these two modes and maintains an ongoing polarisation of balance. African society, as one of the few societies where tradition has not completely given way to modernity, maintains a mutual dialogue between these two modes as integrated – rather than segregated – expressions of the same human force. This reciprocal relationship is latent within African and Afro Caribbean music, as well as other musical styles where Sub-Saharan musical influences have diffused. Broadly speaking, it is ‘a music of contrasts’ – a pattern that can be identified throughout its entire dissemination, right from the bi-measure clave pattern, the distinction between the call and response (between the improvisatory element and the chorus refrain, and, correspondingly, between the individual and the collective), the functional nature of the relationship between music and society, to the male and female heads of the batá drum, the fluctuation between two notes in a montuno chord, and the alternating steps taken insalsa dance.
The term salsa has come to refer to a particular genre of popular music, or a cultural concept. In this project, the concept is used interchangeably with Latin jazz to denote an Afro Hispanic or Latin Caribbean genre, but also to stipulate whether the same music is intended for dancing or for listening. Latin Caribbean rhythms, at a purely musical level, are linked together through the clave – a universal framework that originated in Africa. In Africa, rhythm lies at the heart of the music, and to some extent, African rhythm itself corresponds to this duality. Rhythm is the dynamic force the aesthetic parameter that distinguishes between sacred and secular human modes. Polyrhythm, the simultaneous sounding of two or more different rhythms starting at different points, is a technique that has occasionally been employed in Western music, yet within Africa itself, the technique has been developed to such an extent that it forms the fundamental basis of rhythm. African polyrhythm is rooted in the pitch-rhythm-timbre complex. Traditionally, three drums, pitched and sized differently, produce the effect where polyrhythm integrates itself among the immanent melodic and timbral qualities of individual note values as a unitary complex, rather than the note values being fixed by separate parameters of temporal, spatial or timbral disposition. Additionally, all rhythmic parts are played in relation to the clave pattern. African polyrhythm maintains the character of each individual part whilst simultaneously allowing each part to contribute to an overall integrated texture. In addition, music is almost always intended for dance or as accompaniment to the repetitive motions of daily work; as such, rhythm inevitably originates from the movements of the human body. It is here that emerges the intrinsically dialectic nature of African rhythm. In contrast to Western music, where we have become used to the melodic (leading) concept as being distinct from the harmonic (supporting) concept, in the African ensemble, melodic and harmonic functions are assimilated within complex polyrhythms. Composite patterns are heard in integration rather than isolated units of sound. The individual parts in dialogue to one another evoke the sense of call and response – a feature that has become integral to the Latin Caribbean rhythm ensemble too.
African rhythm is usually characterised by a basic timeline, which is almost always in four beats, against which is projected a cyclic ‘bell pattern’ that generates a sense of momentum, a propulsive nature, due to the synchronous effect of tension and release caused by the syncopation.
Traditionally, the African rhythm ensemble is hierarchical in structure, in much the same way as African cosmogonies. Taking this basic three-part model, the foundation layer (tumba) provides the basic pulse, the upbeat being qualitatively differentiated from the others so that the musicians and dancers have a signal by which they can keep in time. The bell pattern also provides the metronomic point of reference allowing individual musicians to confirm their own rhythmic orientation with respect to the main cycle. Together, these outline the rhythmic space in which the upper parts can add improvisation. The middle layer (segundo) usually consists of variants of the bell pattern repeated in a cycle – as individual parts in dialogue with one another – although there is more room for individual improvisation to further articulate the musical architecture of a composition. The most advanced drummer (quinto), possessed with an intimate working knowledge of the individual parts and how they all relate to one another, plays off rhythmic ideas heard within the lower parts to introduce new musical ideas that develop the polyrhythmic potential latent within the musical structure – transforming the rhythmic strata of the composition. Hence, the process of musical composition is a cycle; composition is driven both by the free, spontaneous improvisation from above, and the fixed, repeated patterns from below, each one informing the other. One bell pattern demands special examination. The pattern and its variants have been so widely used throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas too where African traditions have diffused, that it is known to ethnomusicologists as the ‘Standard Bell Pattern’ (see Fig. 01).
In his article Drum is the Ear of God, Richard Hodges cites an analogy between the rhythmic distribution of the strokes, and the intervals found in the Western harmonic system.
‘It is of some interest that the pattern between strokes in this bell pattern is the same as that of the whole and half-steps in the diatonic major scale. Here we are comparing patterns in time and pitch, which might be considered apples-to-oranges, but it illustrates the idea that African music is projected upon a richly interconnected rhythmic organization that repeats indefinitely in the dimension of time, analogous to the organization of tonal music in the dimension of pitch, with tonal pitch conceived as repeating in octaves.’
This ‘rhythmic organization’ is the basis of African rhythm, and it implies that this African bell pattern forms the basis of all Latin-Caribbean rhythms. Furthermore, the technique of shifting the bell pattern so that it starts at different points in the bar to create an interlocking mesh of rhythms corresponds to that of moving the tonic to different degrees of the diatonic major scale to create modes in Western harmony. There is a clear parallel between the patterns of duality found in African rhythm, and Western harmony – and in this context, Spanish harmony – respectively. This shape is thought to be the survival of an ancient metaphysical symbol that represents the proportionate structure of processes in nature. The structure – in this case, the repeated cycle – is divided into a ‘longer’ and a ‘shorter’ part. Each section is in turn divided by long and short intervals. The short intervals represent the point at which a process changes direction, or a new influence enters.
The inner coherence in the Standard Bell Pattern, with its social origins, immanently reflects the inwards and outwards modes in society – analogous, perhaps, to the notion of inward and outward breath. The abundance of musical traditions in the Caribbean demonstrates how well African rhythm adapted to Western harmony. Significantly, this relationship has been explored by American jazz musicians too. The jazz standard Afro Blue, composed by Cuban conga player Mongo Santamaría, is inspired by African polyrhythms. John Coltrane combined these polyrhythms with principles of modal harmony, in doing so, highlighting the parallels between African rhythm and Western harmony.
This metaphysical symbol found in nature corresponds approximately to the proportionate 2-3 / 3-2 structure of the clave. As a rhythmic principle, the clave is an extension of the African theme of duality. When the slaves were transported to the Caribbean, they brought along with them their syncopated rhythms such as the bell pattern above. These rhythms were then adapted to the conventional four-square European march music from Spain. This process can be illustrated in the diagram below.
The practices of syncopation and polyrhythm have since become recognised as an African principle on otherwise duple rhythm. An illustration of this process can be found in a rhythmic cell called thecinquillo [(2+1)+(2+1)+2] division of an eight-quaver subdivided bar. This rhythm was brought to Cuba during the 1791 Haitian Revolution where vast numbers of French colonists and their West African slaves (mainly of Bantu origin) fled Santo Domingo, Haiti, and settled in parts of Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa and Guantánamo Bay.
The cinquillo [(2+1)+(2+1)+2] is thought to have been simplified and evolved into the tresillo division of the bar [3+3+2] which, in turn, was an important building block in the creation of the clave pattern. The following image shows the 3/2 and 2/3 clave variants, and illustrates how thecinquillo and tresillo rhythmic cells formed the foundation of the clave.
The ‘Standard Bell Pattern’ and the cinquillo pattern appear to originate from the same source, linked through the principles of syncopation and polyrhythm. Together, these laid the foundations for the clave pattern. Theclave pattern might be seen to have a ‘front end’ and a ‘back end’ so if theclave is reversed, the rhythmic axis is completely transformed, and all parts must line up accordingly if the clave is to be maintained. Appendix 1 contains sample Latin Caribbean rhythm section notations, illustrating how the instruments adhere to the son clave, rumba clave and the ‘Standard [Ternary] Bell Pattern’ in their own way.
The clave is thus an African principle of rhythmic organisation that lies at the heart of Latin-Caribbean music. In Spanish, the clave translates as ‘key’ – analogous to the key used to unlock the door to rhythmic cognition – adopting the same function as that of the key signature in Western harmony. Therefore, the role of the clave is both symbolic and functional. Not only does the clave refer to specific rhythmic patterns, but it also prescribes the underlying rules upon which these patterns are projected. Steve Cornelius proposed the analogy of a ‘keystone, the wedge shaped stone placed at the top of an arch which locks all the other stones in place’ to describe its functional aspect. However, a passage printed on the inside front cover of the first edition of Clave magazine, published in New York throughout the 1970s, suggests that the clave embraces a wider significance:
‘Clave…To us the word goes beyond explanations and definitions. It means life, salsa, the food of our leisure time, the motion of intense rhythm, the emotion of 20,000 people simultaneously grooving to the natural sounds of life. It’s being played in the beat, on key, on clave…It means to be on top of things, to be playing it right…Clave is history, it’s culture. African drums from far off places like Nigeria, Dahomey and Ghana married the Spanish guitar to bring us clave. The seeds were planted in the Caribbean and now their grandchild is Salsa.’
The clave concept is evocative of the African trinity – food-love-African religion – life’s vital sources of sustenance (food being physical, love emotional, and religion spiritual nourishment) – that are the cornerstones of Latin-Caribbean music. The clave is thus more a question of feeling than calculation. Depending on the style of music and the musicians involved, the clave can either function as a rhythmic decoration to underline the rhythms being played, or it can take on a subtle presence – manifesting itself as an elaborate structural framework to which the rest of the music must metrically relate.
Latin Caribbean rhythm ensembles may not overtly state the clave at all. Instead, they will internalise it, and the clave will remain implicit throughout, realising itself through a sophisticated system of interlocking rhythmic patterns that adhere to the clave in their own way, yet overlap one another in a dense, polyrhythmic textural web.
This principle of duality, demonstrated in the internal dialogue between rhythmic cells, also reveals itself in the dialectic nature of the call and response style found within the montuno sections of son and rumba. Themontuno consists of the antiphonal exchange between the fixed, recurringcoro (chorus refrain) and the free, improvising pregon (solo passage) during which the singer might scat, praise the audience, compliment the band and comment on topical affairs. This is reminiscent of the griot traditions, found in the Mande Empire in West Africa, whereby musicians are literally paid to ‘sing the praises’ of the paying delegate. They are required to memorize a rich musical repertory, demonstrating aptitude for preserving tradition whilst simultaneously extemporising on current events through song – a skill that demands a broad knowledge and a quick tongue. Since many slaves were exported via the port of Dakar, Senegal, it was inevitable that many griot singers retained their improvisational song styles, which involved ‘singing their way through life’ and drawing on music’s connections with history, philosophy, politics and society to interpret the present. In Africa itself, the griots maintained a high status in society as the storytellers and guardians of an age-old tradition, yet in the Caribbean, the African slaves were marginalised to the social underclass. Music was an important medium for tying together and preserving those aspects of culture that would have otherwise been lost. Praise-singing was thus both an incentive and a product of cultural preservation. Improvisation within a fixed medium developed from the dialectic principle that preserved the links between music and its culture.
Cachao’s Güiro is a modern reconstruction of the typical African hereditary characteristics in Afro-Cuban music. Polyrhythm is articulated through the bell pattern, and the 6/8 cross-rhythms, later developed through improvisation. The call-and-response style is evident at the beginning and end. The song fulfils a sacred function; the voices are actually praising Obatala king of the Yoruba gods.
Hence, African religion was an important asset for musical preservation. The music that was developing in the Caribbean was the collective expression of black ethnic minorities, mainly Lukumí, Congo and Carabalí, resulting from their forced assimilation to the new lifestyles of the Spanish colonial regime. These groups had already established their own systems of worship, hierarchies and ancient lineages, but due to the nature of their transportation, these cosmogonies were heavily distorted and many traditions were lost. Slave masters even divided up slaves from the same tribes, so that no two members from the same tribe could live side by side, effectively diluting cultural elements that were traditionally associated with a particular group. Hence, the musical styles developing in the Caribbean were, for the most part, a synthesis of the ethnic groups from which they emerged. The African slaves had to recreate their systems of worship and adapt them to new circumstances, because they were forbidden to practise their native religion and they were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism. However, unlike slaves in North America who had to surrender their drums and cultural objects, slaves in the Caribbean were permitted to ‘beat the drum’ at the weekends and certain religious holidays. Music functioned as a vehicle through which slaves could practise their native religion freely without the fear of persecution from the colonial regimes operating in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The assimilation of the ancient religions of West Africa – particularly Yoruba, Bantu and Abakuá – with Roman Catholicism resulted in the development of a syncretic religious cult, santería, which fused elements from both belief systems. Africans could worship their own orichas (deities) based on the parallels between innate qualities shared by a coupling of deities. By their nature, African cosmogonies are open meaning that that they could be freely combined with other art forms such as music, dance and poetry without losing their theoretical basis. As such, they could adapt to new circumstances and their inherent values could be expressed in extra religious spheres of thought and activity. Such values were combined symbolically with possession as a medium of communication with the gods, animal sacrifice and the practices of drumming and dance. The significance of the clave extended beyond rhythm to embrace ‘life, salsa, the food of our leisure time’ – hence, the rhythms played on the drums were part of a wider language, orally transmitted and embedded within the social functions of their culture. The messages of the gods were encoded within the patterns of strokes played on the drums. During a bembé or agüiro an individual is nominated to ‘dance for’ an oricha, or, to manifest himself as and play the part of that oricha. There are specific rhythms associated with each oricha and each dance must correspond to that rhythm, in the same way that the colour, mood, sentiment and facial expressions must match. Once the dancer is possessed, onlookers might respond by singing songs that are appropriate for that oricha, which encourages the development of a constant spiritual flux between drummers, dancers and singers. In African aesthetics, the practices of music, dance and religion were seen as one integrated unit – contrary to the Western distinction that treated art and religion as two separate aesthetic mediums. This explains why it was so easy for the African musical traditions to survive the effects of transculturation, yet evolve in ways that transcended religious spheres – a process that would never have occurred in Africa alone.
The similarities and differences between Latin-Caribbean musical instruments and their African and European ancestors are a measure to the effects of transculturation. The first African slaves, who co-existed alongside the native Amerindian population that survived until the sixteenth century, inherited instruments such as the maracas, a calabash gourd filled with seeds, and the güiro, a hollowed-out, serrated wooden log scraped with a small stick. Since the Caribbean islands experienced a similar tropical climate to Africa, these early instruments would have been made out of similar natural materials that were readily available to the sociological and ceremonial demands of the African slave population. It is widely understood that, like African rhythm, drums are the quintessentially African ingredient in Latin Caribbean music. There are obvious similarities between the conga drums found in the Cuban comparsa (carnival parade) and the bomba drums found in Puerto Rico, which are shorter and more barrel-shaped. However, they are clearly descendents of the same musical family; the Yoruba drums of West Africa. However, as well as the drum, harmony instruments such as the marímbula that preceded the double-bass in son music derived from the mbira or sanza thumb pianos found throughout Africa. The son was considered a marginal musical genre, yet it was soon admitted into the higher bourgeois sphere. When Sexteto Habañero was hired to play for a ball in 1923, they had to wear respectable stage dress and replace the marímbula with a ‘nobler instrument’ – the double bass, taking away the African presence. The initial censorship of African elements in music provided impetus for African musicians to combine their music with other styles in order to preserve it. This is what facilitated the combination of African and Western elements in Latin Caribbean music.
The harmony instruments brought over from Europe to the Caribbean are largely the result of Spanish colonisation. The most Spanish addition to Cuban and Puerto Rican ensembles is the guitar, adopted by country dwellers that creolised the Spanish styles to suit their Caribbean lives. The Cuban tres is a hybrid of the Spanish guitar and traditional European lute. It was developed by Juan de Marcos González who formed the Afro-Cuban All-Stars – a key figure behind the Buena Vista Social Club project. Its three pairs of strings are designed to be plucked rather than strummed in order to supply the montuno textures in son and rumba music. Hence, the Cuban tres is both a rhythm instrument and a harmony instrument. In Cuba, the tres constituted the fusion of Creole rhythms with Spanishdecima (ten-line) folk verse. Although the harmonic element did originate from Spain, in this case, harmonies were adapted to a playing tradition that clearly outlined the African trademark syncopations, alongside the tumbaobass line and clave pattern. Similarly, the Puerto Rican cuatro, a chordophone built with four or five strings, is associated with the bombaand the plena, indigenous Afro-Puerto Rican rural dance styles, which developed simultaneously alongside son and rumba in Cuba. Amor de Entre Semana – a modern example of a rumba – illustrates how the chordophone provides the basic harmony yet integrates itself with the rhythmic patterns played by the Latin-Caribbean rhythm ensemble. These rhythms were combined with the charanga instrumentation.
This instrumentation, often called the tumba francesca (French influence), derived from the incorporation of the classical French trio (flute, violin, piano) into the Cuban danzón through the Haitian revolution. The timbales, originating from European opera companies arriving in Cuba, were adopted into the military bands of the Cuban army, and subsequently, the charanga.
Their crisp, metallic tone provided the perfect contrast against the sweeter flute and violin melodies that characterised the tumba francesca. Isora Clubis an example of this style, where the flute is the focal point and soars over the violins and percussion. The style was also recently adapted into recordings by Juan de Marcos González and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars;Habana del Este and Varaciones Sobre Un Tema Desconocido exemplify this style. The piano increasingly replaced the tres and cuatro, and it adopted a similar syncopated montuno figuration demonstrated by Eddie Palmieri, Chucho Valdés and Michel Camilo in salsa.
Thus, the African influence in Latin-Caribbean music was syncretised rather than imposed, and it is characterised by an inherent dialectic nature; from the internal dialogue in drumming ensembles, the call and response vocal styles and the integration of music into social functions, to the way that music adapted itself to interactions among black slaves and white colonialists. Hence, two forces were at work; firstly, the syncretic tendency to combine African and Western musical elements as a means of preservation; secondly, the reinstitution of African traditions as a hereditary characteristic of Afro Caribbean culture and ideology. As such, the music originated from people and society. Subsequently, the simultaneous processes of preservation and commercialisation were a constant source of re-creation, and innately reflected the social developments occurring in the Spanish speaking Caribbean and North America.
Syncretism and Ideology
Latin America and the United States
¡Échale Salsita! is a song by Ignacio Piñiero and Septeto Nacionale, written in 1937. It is about a man who goes out, intending to have a good time, and discovers a man selling hotdogs, who he asks to ‘put a little sauce on it.’
It is first reference to the term salsa; a gastronomic metaphor that represents the ‘Latin’ essence in music as much as soul represents the Afro American essence in jazz. During the formative years of salsa, two motivations characterised the Latin-Caribbean musical idiom; firstly, the ‘return to roots’ emphasising the reification and cultivation of African heritage, and secondly, the absorption of American or ‘Western’ ingredients – particularly jazz.
The antinomy between African and Western elements in salsa manifests itself in the sound palettes of individual artists, each originating from different backgrounds and taking on different perspectives of the Latin Caribbean idiom as a whole. Firstly, it must be emphasised that Latin Caribbean music and Afro-American jazz were parallel, although disconnected, traditions. Frank “Machito” Grillo frequently maintained that American jazz and Cuban rumbas shared the same African roots – demonstrating that although the two musical traditions originated from Africa, they grew apart and took on different aesthetic meanings. Secondly, Latin Caribbean music is characterised by the process of syncretisation. Afro Cuban music, in itself, is a syncretic genre, and its popularity throughout the United States during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s occurred simultaneously with its fusion with other popular Afro Caribbean rhythms.
Thirdly, the innate difference between the African and the Western aesthetic conception of music lies in the notion of whether music occupies a purely artistic medium separate from existence, or whether music integrates itself fully into its social context. The cross-absorption of Latin-Caribbean styles into American music resulted in music’s emancipation from the ritualistic sphere into a public domain in which the music evoked the sense of a foreign locality – usually evident through the decontextualisation and exoticisation of Caribbean elements. In relation to the African/Western dichotomy, I wish to superimpose a distinction between ‘music for dance’ and ‘music for listening’ – since, broadly speaking, the diffusion of Cuban music into the United States branched into salsa (music for dance) and Latin jazz (music for listening). These are two terms I use interchangeably to denote genetically similar musical styles. On the one hand, Afro Caribbean musicians integrated their own music into dance to preserve their cultural traditions, but also to cultivate awareness of their styles abroad. On the other hand, American jazz musicians, conditioned by the listening culture, drew inspiration from a wide scope of Afro Cuban styles for their aesthetic listening value rather than for their dance marketability. The antinomy between African and Western elements in music is thus mediated by the ways in which dance culture and listening culture engender the cultivation of a personal style. In this chapter, I aim to explore how individual artists reconciled Afro-Cuban and American elements in music in relation to their ethnic backgrounds, within the context of an evolving socio political antagonism between Latin America and the United States. Subsequently, I will be linking these tendencies to their international careers and their defining impact on the history of salsa and Latin jazz.
Like any other musical concept, the formative origins of salsa are widely contested. On the one hand, there is the belief that salsa is based exclusively on the Cuban son instead of indigenous Puerto Rican dance forms. On the other hand, there is also the conception that salsa is an amalgamation of all the Afro Caribbean styles brought together through solidarity and cultural appropriation. To some extent, both these interpretations are true.
Unlike most Latin American nations, Cuba and Puerto Rico were virtually identical in terms of their ethno hetero-genetic makeup due to their relatively equal proportions of African and Spanish peoples, and their music inexorably developed along similar lines. In addition, Cuba has a well documented history of migrants – including Africans, Spaniards, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Haitians, Jamaicans and other Caribbean peoples – an important cultural mix that initially laid the foundations for the Cuban son, long before the Cuban son gained international recognition. The son is thus an archetypal Caribbean popular form, which has its equivalents in the calypso of Trinidad, the Dominican merengue and, most significantly, the Puerto Rican plena.
Cuba and Puerto Rico, being the last two remaining Spanish colonies after the rest of Latin America gained independence during the nineteenth century, enjoyed a special affinity – reinforced by the constant exchange of agricultural workers, a gradual increase in military, industrial and commercial interaction between the two nations, and the unified goals of anti-colonial movements – creating a common socio-political bond out of which the cultural appropriation of Cuban music by Puerto Rican migrants living in New York grew naturally.
Cultural borrowings are evident throughout Puerto Rican history. For example, the Puerto Rican plena and bomba might be regarded as approximate counterparts to the Cuban son and rumba, the Puerto Ricandanza was adapted from the Cuban danzón (a style which shared common roots in Haiti) and the Puerto Rican seis derived from Cuban campesino(country) music. These cultural borrowings reaffirm the belief that Cuba and Puerto Rico were ‘wings of the same bird’ once caged by Spain – developments that foreshadow the positive reception of Cuban music into the United States during the mambo craze of the 1950s.
Furthermore, the dissemination of Afro-Caribbean popular song forms – in particular, the Cuban son – to the United States, was aided by several historical circumstances, relating to Latin America and its economic dependency on the United States, and the consequences; the mass migration of Puerto Rican agricultural workers to New York and the Cuban Revolution. The American invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico resulted in the decline of crop plantations and the reinstatement of Puerto Rico as an official American Commonwealth State. The overriding concern for Puerto Ricans was to retain their Caribbean ideological values within the context of migration and the consciousness of the dangers that it posed for Puerto Rican identity at large. The Cuban son was adopted as a symbol by Puerto Rican nationalists who opposed the neo-colonial subordination of their country to the United States. It constituted a strong cultural asset that they could appropriate for purposes of identity formation.
The migrations of Cubans to the United States also had a massive impact on the geographical displacement of its music to the United States. The French (1718-1764 then 1800-1803) and Spanish (1764-1800) occupation of New Orleans already provided a backdrop for its ethnic diversity and its cosmopolitan flavour. Mutual trade routes, established between the ports of Havana and New Orleans, were an important cultural melting pot between Afro-Caribbean and American musicians. The decade that preceded the Cuban Revolution was seen as the ‘golden age’ of Cuban music whereby shipping routes – both commercial and industrial – cultivated a mutual influx of foreign tourism. The descarga bands, influenced by American jazz, proliferated throughout the United States, and united popular Cuban styles – son, rumba, santería, danzón, boleroand trova – with big band textures. These served as an important point of departure whereby notable figures in Afro Cuban music from diverse line-ups – including orquestas, conjuntos, charangas and folkloric groups – improvised together on a common ground. Formerly a simple pleasure to be shared among friends, the descarga format allowed musicians the creative liberty to freely experiment with and assimilate different genres of Cuban music for artistic, rather than functional, purposes. The descargaacted as both a conservation of tradition through syncretisation, and a source of inspiration for American musicians.
The 1959 Cuban Revolution resulted in successive waves of Cubans, generally from middle-class or more privileged backgrounds – migrating to Miami and further afield in order to escape the Socialist regime. In New York, exiled Cubans were reconciled with Puerto Rican and Dominican migrants and their common language and combined Caribbean ideologies subsequently gave rise to a new movement of Latin musicians and music emerging in the city. The American embargo on Cuba and censorship of Cuban music in the United States created the need to blend Cuban rhythms with other Latin American musical forms in order to conserve a combined Caribbean ideology. Hence, although Cuban music was the primary influence in salsa, its historical genesis is characterised by a syncretic tendency in Latin popular music, accredited not only to Cubans; but also to Puerto Ricans (Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri), Dominicans (Johnny Pacheco, Michel Camilo), Panamanians (Rubén Blades), Colombians (Grupo Niche) and Venezuelans (Oscar D’León).
This syncretic tendency, both in the encounters among Latin American ethnic minorities in New York, and in the encounters between American jazz musicians and their Cuban counterparts – has often resulted in the most significant developments in the marriage of Cuban music with American jazz.
During the period 1929-1944, Puerto Rican trombonist Juan Tizol introduced Latin colours into Duke Ellington’s orchestra with compositions such as Caravan and Perdido, set to a tumbao rhythm. However, these musicians simply orchestrated Afro Cuban rhythms within jazz frameworks. Mario Bauzá, with his dual American citizenship and Cuban ethnicity, introduced Latin Caribbean flavours into arrangements for the Cab Calloway Orchestra. Both Mario Bauzá and Cuban vocalist Frank “Machito” Grillo integrated sophisticated jazz harmonies and complex horn arrangements within Afro Cuban structures, thereby approaching jazz from a Latin perspective. They did this by retaining the mambo and the Afro Cuban rhythm section, thereby cultivating the African practices of polyrhythm and call-and-response. To some extent, this constituted a distillation of American jazz elements within the Latin-Caribbean song form.
Dizzy Gillespie was a key figure in the Afro-Cuban jazz or Cubop trend during the 1940s. Unlike for most jazz musicians, Afro-Cuban music came naturally to Dizzy Gillespie. Cuban flute player Alberto Socarras, with whom Dizzy Gillespie worked and learned the rudiments of Cuban music, commented that ‘[w]e played Cuban music first, like bolero and things like that, and he phrased his solos marvellously. Then we played rhumbas, fast numbers, and his style was very Cuban. To him it was easy as American music was to me.’ The composition A Night in Tunisia, written in 1942, already revealed his fondness for Cuban rhythms, with its syncopatedtumbao bass lines. When Dizzy Gillespie hired Chano Pozo into his band in 1947, their partnership resulted in a cross-integration between jazz and Latin music. Chano Pozo instilled the clave into Dizzy Gillespie whilst he adapted himself to jazz phrasing, with compositions such as Manteca andTin Tin Deo. Manteca fully integrated Cuban rhythms with American jazz harmonies. Chano Pozo created the thematic motif of Manteca out of a conga tumbao (bars 5-12) while Dizzy Gillespie and Walter “Gil” Fuller composed the more jazz influenced modulating sixteen-bar bridge passage (bars 13-28).
In this sense, Manteca was a true collaboration, since it retained themontuno within a standard AABA American song form. Jerry González observed that ‘the main synthesis of Latin and jazz is in the improvisation’ . By integrating the spontaneity of the montuno and the antiphonal nature of polyrhythms, Dizzy Gillespie reconciled Latin music and jazz through the principle of improvisation – a characteristic common to all African derived musical styles. Dizzy Gillespie later formed his United Nations Orchestra in 1989, characterised by a predominantly Latin American line-up of musicians, reflecting the fact that Latin-Caribbean slaves – unlike their North American counterparts – were allowed to play their native instruments, and therefore possessed a closer tie to their African ancestry. Hence, as a North American jazz musician, Dizzy Gillespie cultivated his own African roots through collaborations with musicians and musical styles that were considered part of an unbroken tradition. After the 1989 debut, Dizzy Gillespie reportedly exclaimed ‘[t]alk about music as an international language – man, this is IT!’ – illustrating that music was, for them, a shared language that began in Africa. Thus, Dizzy Gillespie not only managed to reconcile Latin and jazz elements in his music, but his music was informed by the dialectic between contemporary jazz and African traditions. As such, Wynton Marsalis noted;
‘He [Gillespie] didn’t just represent what’s modern either – the greatest artists have a dialogue with the entire history of the form, not just with those aspects that are prevalent in their particular time. That’s the point of the entertaining he presented: Dizzy was trying to consolidate aspects of the jazz tradition…It’s like the Latin music he was into – that’s always been in jazz, that’s what Jelly Roll called “the Spanish Tinge.” Dizzy opened up another audience for jazz by exploring it though, and he opened up jazz to something else.’
His music consolidated aspects of the jazz tradition – Latin-Caribbean influences, and ultimately, African traditions – that had always been present within jazz. His music, however, was geared towards a ‘listening’ culture, marketed through Cuban dance rhythms.
Two musicians – Israel “Cachao” López and Tito Puente – may be juxtaposed for their contrasting ethnicities, as Cuban and NuYoricanrespectively, but they are also distinguished by their ability to move between dance and listening cultures. Israel “Cachao” López was a Cuban musician, and relocated to the United States later in his career. Thus, his prime motivation was to preserve existing Caribbean traditions by combining them with popular American styles, whilst at the same time, making these traditions marketable for audiences abroad. His recordings index just about every popular music style of Latin-Caribbean origin. As such, Raul A. Fernandez refers to Cachao as ‘[a] living encyclopaedia of traditional Caribbean forms’ – and his two-volume anthology of previously issued descarga recordings, Master Sessions (1993), testifies this, since it catalogues a multitude of styles ranging from traditional African son andrumba, the upper-class, Europeanised charanga styles (danzón andhabañera), romantic bolero, santería batá drumming and chant, to his own invention – the mambo. Although the descarga was common practice in Havana by the early 1950s, marketing restraints limited records to the standard two or three minute sides.
Thanks to advances in technology, Cachao popularised the descargaformat in the United States, and Descargas in Miniature (1957) influenced many Cuban musicians to put together their own descarga recordings within weeks of its release, preserving rhythms within their own forms in the dissemination of Cuban music abroad. Simultaneously, as a formal interpreter of the danzón,
Cachao also incorporated into the dance his own African-accented syncopated bass tumbao patterns, layered underneath the danzón rhythm, which laid the foundation for the mambo. This led bandleader Antonio Arcaño to expand the traditional charanga instrumentation by adding extra strings – violins, violas and cellos – to the line-up, and bringing the flute into prominence. The percussionist Ulpiano Diaz introduced timbales and cowbell to the rhythm section, and pianist Jess López completed the overall effect with syncopated piano improvisations. Although developments taking place within the danzón were largely the result of a period of stylistic experimentation during the 1940s, it was Cachao and hisdescarga recordings that introduced the montuno section from traditionalson into the danzón, thereby opening up the danzón for improvisation – and hence, its connection with jazz. Subsequently, his melody for thedanzón, Chanchullo, was orchestrated for big band by Perez Prado – and later adapted by Tito Puente to become known as the popular standard dance anthem Oye Como Va.
NuYorican Andy González cited Cachao as a role model, commenting that ‘One half of the genius of his great bass playing is as a totally schooled classical musician; the other is he’s the funkiest street bass player around.’ Thus, his impact on American music is twofold; primarily, Cachao popularised the descarga format that allowed Cuban music to take on a listening approach – one that anticipated the development of Latin jazz; but also, Cachao increased the popularity of Cuban music abroad through the mambo. Nevertheless, his musical innovations, in terms of instrumentation and style, remained true to its African roots.
Like Cachao, Cuban drummer Ramón “Mongo” Santamaría experimented with contemporary jazz, R&B and Latin fusions, yet he strongly cultivated his African heritage. This is suggested by acceptance of the given pseudonym “Mongo” – the name of an ethnic group in the Congo, West Africa, and his preference for album titles evocative of his indigenous African roots; Afro Roots, Yambú [a type of rumba], Mongo Santamaría y sus Ritmos Afrocubanos, Afro-American Latin, Up From the Roots andConga Blue. Mongo Santamaría was a direct descendent of a Bantu slave, his grandfather, and from him, he was taught the ancestral rhythms. He developed his skills through rumbas, comparsas, Abakuá bembé rituals and descargas – traditions closely connected with African religion and cultural practices. Subsequently, he expanded the scope of Latin jazz repertoire through introducing deep-rooted folkloric influences into his music – his most famous composition being Afro Blue, inspired by thebembé rhythms of West African drumming traditions. Nevertheless, the cultivation of African rhythms prescribed the need to emulate African aesthetics within a highly commercialised dance music culture. Although Mongo Santamaría started out by playing in the Tropicana, Havana, and later with Tito Puente in New York, his defection to the San Francisco and the West Coast jazz scene to explore the developing Latin jazz movement through recordings with Cal Tjader suggests that his musical interests moved away from the commercialised dance music of the state towards the Latin jazz movement and the freedom that it offered. Like Cachao, although Mongo Santamaría made less commercial impact on the global market, his compositions made a massive musical impact that influenced future jazz musicians including John Coltrane to draw on a wider variety of rhythms within the Latin jazz idiom.
Tito Puente was NuYorican, and is more notorious in the global context, since through his popularisation of the mambo in the New York dance halls such as the Palladium, Latin jazz grew out of a distillation of isolated Latin Caribbean elements within the American jazz tradition, as opposed to the outward marketing of Cuban dance styles abroad. In effect, Latin Caribbean elements were the subject rather than the object of his music, which fused together innovations made by Cachao and his contemporaries to exploit the Latin-Caribbean idiom. In essence, the music of a culture originates from, and reflects, its material and spiritual circumstances.
Whereas in Havana, dance styles comprised the dominant musical formation, in New York, music grew out of an immigrant community, an ethnic minority that competed for popularity among other genres. As such, Tito Puente utilised a style that recreated the urban life in New York – a faster, brassier, more agitated sound, which signified a departure from traditional Cuban forms.
Even though Tito Puente ‘continued the Machito formula of swing orchestrations heavy on the brass, braced by a structure that preserved the Cuban coro and montunos, and a complete Afro-Cuban rhythm section’ – Cuban styles could not be emulated in New York, since they were remodelled to reflect their new urban circumstances. This is the key to his popularity.
Puerto Ricans, such as Tito Puente, were becoming increasingly prominent within the New York Latin scene. This trend became even more significant following the US embargo on Cuba and the severing of diplomatic ties between the two nations. The Puerto Rican connection constituted the link between Cuban (Africanised) and American (Westernised) elements in music. Tito Puente was already a legal US citizen, and both his American citizenship and Puerto Rican ethnicity acted as a dual passport through which he cultivated both an African and a Western perspective – and could thus reconcile the ethnic minority with the mainstream, effectively translating Latin Caribbean ideologies and identities to a non-Latin audience. Subsequently, the success of his music could be attributed more to a cultural appropriation of Cuban music as a symbol – for its evocations of Latin Caribbean attitudes and lifestyles – rather than an aesthetic appreciation of the music, as dance forms rooted within a cultural context, in themselves.
Nevertheless, Tito Puente was a virtuosic timbalero, and his music retains aesthetic listening value – from explorations of Yoruba music in compositions such as Ochún – to his collaborations with prominent New York jazz musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, Charlie Parker, Kai Winding, Lionel Hampton, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon and Cal Tjader. Tito Puente thus not only made Afro-Cuban music more familiar to American audiences, but reunited ‘listening’ and ‘dancing’ audiences within the same music.
Tito Rodríguez, like Tito Puente, was also NuYorican, and started out with the Jose Curbelo band, yet he had a Cuban mother and Dominican father who both died when he was very young. As a vocalist, he was highly influenced by older Cuban traditions such as bolero and trova – an influence that is revealed in smoother, more romantic songs such as En La Obscuridad. His blend of ‘Cuban-oriented numbers and tight, solo-filled instrumentals’ illustrates that, as NuYorican, he strived to innovate tradition in the same way as Tito Puente did by drawing on older Cuban styles and combining them with jazz textures, whilst still appealing to a largely commercialised market.
As we have seen, there is a correlation between Cuban and NuYoricanethnicities and their impact on the global market. Cubans strongly feel the need to cultivate their African roots, yet this sometimes comes at the cost of their commercial marketability. NuYoricans, on the other hand, have succumbed to American styles and have thus become more commercialised. However, collaborations between American and Cuban musicians have often resulted in the most integrated syntheses of Afro-Cuban and jazz elements.
In the same way as Cachao López and Mongo Santamaría before her, Celia Cruz has cultivated her African roots through folkloric influences. Although Celia Cruz frequently insisted that she was not a follower ofsantería, her music throughout her career is interspersed with santeríareferences. During the 1940s, she began her career by singing Yoruba chants over national radio – a development that foreshadows her 1960s recordings with Tito Puente in which she sang ‘soul-stirring tributes to the Afro-Cuban saints’ . Afro-Cuban musicians, including Celia Cruz, often encoded toque rhythms within music to link a song to an Afro-Cubanoricha through cognitive association. The 1994 compilation by Celia Cruz,Homenaje A Los Santos (Homage to the Saints) highlights the tributes she made throughout her career. These tributes she felt enabled her to liberally express her African roots through the association with Yoruba religion as an important cultural asset. Celia Cruz also cultivated her African roots through traditional influences, such as son and rumba;
‘Of all the non-religious dances and music performed in Cuba today, rumba is closest to the slaves’ legacy. When Celia Cruz waves a white handkerchief, hikes up her skirt, and dips and swoops like a bird; when her song dissolves into an Afro-skat, she is recreating something deeply encoded, almost genetic. Such references can unite a crowd as they did when music and dance first brought together dispersed slaves and freed Africans. [emphasis mine]’
Her music replicates the genetic, hereditary characteristics of African music synonymous with African culture and ideology. Simultaneously, Celia Cruz still enjoyed a comparably renowned public status to that of Tito Puente, evident by the fact that she had ‘an honorary degree from Yale, the freedom of most major US cities, and her handprints in the Hollywood Walk of Fame’ . During the post-revolutionary Communist period, Cuban music was suppressed in the United States, yet nationalised and institutionalised in Cuba. Celia Cruz was caught between the limitations of the post-revolutionary Cuban style with its conservationist approach to traditional musical genres, and a pan Latin context where women were marginalised to the role of mere sexual objects within society – a patriarchal, male-dominated perspective that was largely reflected in Latin popular music too. Celia Cruz, as a female, used her African heritage as a protagonist tool to guard herself. She became regarded as a national emblem for Cuban female musicians, such as La Lupe and Gloria Estefan. Even non-Cuban female musicians, such as La India (NuYorican), have built their careers on a similar impetus.
The Fania All-Stars played an important role in promoting Afro-Cuban music in New York during the 1960s. Johnny Pacheco and Jerry Masucci used the term salsa as a commercial marketing slogan to promote the genre. This was a catchy alternative to ‘recycled Cuban dance music’ or son/mambo/rumba complex’ – one which obscured the politically inconvenient Cuban origins of the genre. Ironically, virtually all its members (not including Celia Cruz and Mongo Santamaría) were not Cuban at all – with the vast majority being Puerto Rican and NuYorican. These artists were Ray Barretto, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Héctor Lavoe and Willie Colón.
Ray Barretto and Eddie Palmieri blended Latin-Caribbean elements with jazz. They both grew up in an urban environment dominated by thecharanga style, yet listened to the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Their arrangements preserved the Latin Caribbean characteristics of polyrhythm and call-and-response, but these characteristics were represented in different ways. Ray Barretto found that Latin jazz provided greater freedom for him to combine Latin-Caribbean rhythms with other styles. Eddie Palmieri adapted the syncopated figuration from the tres and cuatro to the piano, resulting in the recognisable montuno texture that is associated with salsa. Héctor Lavoe and Willie Colón brought the syncopations out with elaborate horn lines, and the trombone became an important part of the salsa instrumentation.
Rubén Blades was Panamanian, and unlike most salsa lyrics that dealt with topics of love and leisure, he embraced a variety of social themes relating to the self-consciousness of Latin Americans living in the New York barrio; politics, disarmament, the environment and even the critical personifications of fictional characters in songs such as Juan Pachangaand Pedro Navaja. Rubén Blades sought to innovate salsa by combining it with other styles, including reggae, calypso, merengue and rock, and also to reach English speaking audiences by recording in English as well as Spanish. Consequently, he is the only salsa artist to break into the world-beat market whilst maintaining a pre-eminence in the salsa genre. Both Rubén Blades and Puerto Rican trombonist Willie Colón were politically aligned and simultaneously pursued political careers alongside their musical careers; Willie Colón stood for Democratic Congressional elections and Rubén Blades ran for president in Panama. Their lyrics show how much salsa and ‘Latin’ music had become propaganda for socially conscious artists wishing to make a statement.
Hence, the salsa concept became synonymous with the term ‘Latin’ during the 1960s, yet the concept denoted music of a predominantly Afro Cuban stylistic basis rather than styles that originated from Latin America in general. However, it takes on many different meanings for musicians depending on their ethnic backgrounds and individual frames of reference. For Cuban musicians, salsa is simply a cultural reaffirmation of Afro Cuban syncretic values, imparted through their music. Mario Bauzá, Machito, Cachao and Mongo Santamaría preserved Afro-Caribbean rhythms within their established genres (son, rumba, danzón, bembé and bolero). However, Afro Caribbean rhythms were used as the basis for improvisation rather than improvisation being part of the inherent musical aesthetic. Cuban musicians, with the exception of Celia Cruz, were thus more engaged with the jazz listening culture. For Puerto Rican, NuYoricans and other Latin American ethnic minorities in the United States, salsa has come to embody a pan-Latin identity, from the processes of communication between Cuba, Puerto Rico, New York, and later, Colombia and Venezuela. Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez and the NuYoricans that constituted the majority of the Fania All-Stars retained the original social functions of Afro Caribbean music (for dance). However, it achieved this end through a decontextualisation and exoticisation of Caribbean musical elements through the juxtaposition of the son rhythm with the montuno section from the danzón, and brassy jazz textures. Conversely, for many non-Latino musicians, salsa is a seasoning that articulates a particular lifestyle or attitude imparted through a specific type of instrumentation or performance. The ambiguity of the salsa concept thus reflects its ‘transnational character' , its prevailing cosmopolitan appeal and the fact that it has become a nationalistic symbol that embraces and reunites all Latin American strains – Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Haitian, Panamanian, Colombian, Venezuelan or any other Latin American identity – within a continually unfolding pan-American context of modernisation, urbanisation and social reform. It must be emphasised that Afro-Cuban music evolved from being a specific geographically located idiom to one that has multiple sites of articulation – that different musicians had different conceptions of what makes music ‘Latin’ and this determined the stylistic scope of their influences.
Globalisation and Re-Localisation
Afro-Cubanisms in the Global Market
As cultural exports of a pan-Latin identity, anchored in the nexus between Cuba, Puerto Rico and New York, salsa and Latin jazz have undergone processes of globalisation and re-localisation to become genres that have multiple sites of articulation and transcend national and cultural boundaries. Along the way, Latin-Caribbean music has, in practice, become an article for commercial consumption – a development that sometimes betrays its authentic roots through dilution of its particular cultural constituents or its hierarchical displacement within other genres, where the Latin Caribbean element functions musically as a subsidiary enhancement to the overall sound. The African hereditary characteristics of polyrhythm (including clave, and the pitch-rhythm-timbre complex), call and-response, improvisation and the integration of music into social functions, are embedded within the musical aesthetic to such an extent that they have become almost culturally transparent. This notion has resulted in widespread debates regarding the precise ontological significance of the Latin Caribbean idiom within music itself. As musicians, as Americans, as NuYoricans and Latinos, and for many, as socially and politically conscious individuals, Latin Caribbean music provides a range of musical tools with which one might express a sense of self, a philosophy or an ideology within the wider context of a collective consciousness. Being a syncretic musical expression, Latin Caribbean music also discloses much about the relation between tradition and modernity. Musicians cultivate an awareness of their potential impact on tradition, and they engage with tradition in a dialectic involvement where tradition is characterised both by a preservation of traditional elements and by processes of exploration, experimentation and innovation that perpetuate tradition. The usage of Latin Caribbean music in the reconstruction of a pan-Latin identity is characterised by the conscious mediation between preserving tradition and innovating tradition in the struggle for self determination in a collective consciousness. In the first part of this chapter, I will be exploring the ways in which Latin-Caribbean elements have become absorbed into other styles to create hybrid fusions, informed by the interactions between local and global frames of reference and the cultural appropriations of Latin-Caribbean elements into foreign localities. Finally, during the second part of this chapter, I will be examining how Latin Caribbean music has ‘gone back to its roots’ – both in Africa and Spain, and with the Buena Vista Social Club revival project in Cuba – speculating how this impacts the status of the Latin Caribbean idiom as a genre in the ‘world music’ market.
Part 1) Globalisation
The boogaloo trend of the late 1960s demonstrates how Latin Caribbean rhythms reached Anglo-American audiences in New York. The Latin clubs throughout the barrio attracted mainly a Puerto Rican clientele – a generation who grew up listening to mambo, cha-cha-chá and pachangaalongside the vernacular blues, gospel, soul and R&B of Afro-American popular music. The boogaloo was a response to the cultural and economical conditions in New York, characterised by increasing collaborations between Latino and black-American musicians and a new generation of bicultural Latinos reared in the New York barrio. It freely blended the musical language of mambo, cha-cha-chá and Cuban son with the musical sentiment of the blues, soul and R&B, exemplified by acts including the Joe Cuba Sextet (their song Bang Bang is considered to be the first example of boogaloo), Johnny Colón (Boogaloo Blues), Pete Rodriguez (I Like It Like That) and Hectór Rivera (At The Party). The most noticeable Latin Caribbean features are the scraping sound of the güirofrom the ¬cha-cha-chá rhythm, montuno style syncopated piano figurations adapted from the Cuban son adapted to the charangainstrumentation – developed by Eddie Palmieri during the 1960s – and the prominent use of brassy textures from the mambo. The idiomatic characteristics and structural principles of Afro-Cuban forms were defeated by their conjoining with qualities from R&B and soul traditions – hence, Latin-Caribbean idioms were consistently exploited in their engagement with popular music markets and consumer culture to the extent that it removed these idioms from their original, contextualised functions. Nevertheless, boogaloo broadened the publicity for Latin-Caribbean music beyond Spanish speaking audiences.
The 1957 Cuban Revolution resulted in a wave of experimentalism, both within jazz (music for ‘listening’) and Cuban dance music, exemplified by Juan Formell & Los Van Van, and Jesús “Chucho” Valdés & Irakere. In Cuba, the institutionalisation and nationalisation of music as a propaganda tool obliged musicians to express Socialist concerns, and in turn, rewarded those in support of revolutionary ideals and endeavours. This mechanised itself in state controlled nightclubs, cabarets and performance spaces, and a gradual censorship of dance music within formal education and training. In 1968, nightclubs and cabarets were shut down as the government put all its money towards political and economical matters – namely the declining crop industry. After 1968, without much local repertoire to listen to, aspiring dance band musicians turned their attention abroad, listening to foreign influences from jazz, rock and funk heard on incoming radio broadcasts from Miami.
Cuban bass player Juan Formell established Los Van Van in 1969. Their name (The Go-Go’s) is a dismissive reference to the television slogan advertising that Cuba would achieve its objective of producing ten million tons of sugar in the harvest of 1970, that ‘”los diez millones van, senores, van…”’ . Juan Formell took the charanga instrumentation (flute, violin and piano), making changes through the addition of three trombones from New York salsa, and the electrification of drums, bass, guitar and violins. American instruments were mixed with Afro-Cuban timbales, tumbaopatterns and topical santería, to create a hybrid of Cuban son – songo. This appealed to Cuban audiences, and reveals a reverse tendency; here, American characteristics were exploited to make the Afro-Cuban structures more marketable. The interesting juxtaposition of hip-hop culture through the lens of santería parallels with rap; their lyrics were crude, often containing double entendres, sexual innuendos and subversive political references. Their song La Habana No Aguanta Más (Havana Can’t Take Any More) is against the overcrowded living conditions in Havana. Topical affairs throughout Cuba were reported through lyrics. These formed the basis of nueva timba, a style popularised by acts including Jose Luis Cortes and N.G. (Nueva Generación) La Banda, Issac Delgado, Adalberto Alvarez and Son 14, “Paulito” F.G. (Fernando Gallo) y su Elite, David Calzado, Charanga Habañera and Bamboleo – alongside Los Van Van. Increasingly, music became an important part of tourism and the exploitation of Latin Caribbean culture, and ultimately, important for the economy. Therefore, the radical experimentalism that characterised Cuban dance music resulted in the gradual commodification of music.
Cuban pianist, Jesus “Chucho” Valdés, was taught to play traditional Cuban dance forms by his father, Bebo Valdés, yet he was classically trained at the Havana Conservatory where there were no classes in jazz or improvisation. Consequently, he had to conduct his own extensive research into Afro-Cuban folkloric music, an influence that permeates his compositions alongside other influences from both classical and traditional repertoires. Chucho Valdés was part of a progressive movement in Cuban jazz, one that assimilated indigenous Latin-Caribbean instruments and playing techniques with modern electronic drums and synthesizers. Unlike other Cuban musicians who attempted to preserve existing styles through syncretisation, his motivation was to ‘modernize the country’s rhythms by injecting jazz and other musical elements into them’ thus the dilution of Latin-Caribbean idioms within American jazz was considered a positive thing. His group, Irakere, formed in 1973, epitomises the tendency towards creative experimentation, characterised by the contemporary jazz of the Socialist period in Cuba. Irakere is a Yoruba word meaning ‘jungle’ or ‘lush place’ and loosely denotes the sacred part of the forest where holy drummers play. Irakere combined Afro Cuban repertoire with influences from contemporary jazz, rock, funk,santería liturgical melodies, classical music and other diverse sources. Despite their creative innovations, Irakere struggled to achieve critical acclaim. Before 1977, it was difficult for Irakere to even record as they received little institutional support due to the abundance of foreign, especially American influences in their music, and the fact that not all of its members held strong socialist convictions. In order to receive support from the government, Chucho Valdés and Irakere were pressurised into composing music dedicated to the efforts of the Revolution. The defection of two of its core members to the United States – Paquito D’Rivera in 1980 and Arturo Sandoval in 1990, due to the restricted ties to the outside world and poor government wages illustrated that it was easier for Cuban musicians to establish careers abroad. Chucho Valdés and Irakere, due to lack of funding, were confined to performing in Cuba, and had to compromise their innovation with dance music in the hope that it would broaden its audience.
Original members of Irakere – Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval – have, on the other hand, established successful careers outside Cuba, alongside other Latin musicians who began their careers with the Soundscape sessions directed by Andy and Jerry González in New York, during the 1980s. Saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera explored fusions of jazz and classical music whilst still a member of Irakere. Since then, he has assimilated a wide variety of Cuban rhythms including son, rumba, bembé,danzón and its derivatives (habañera, mambo and cha-cha-chá), bolero and Puerto Rican rhythms bomba and plena in his music. He has also appropriated other Latin American styles into his music, from Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico, combining them with American jazz, demonstrating that the Latin Caribbean idiom shares affinity with other Afro-Hispanic styles. In addition, he has incorporated non Latin-Hispanic styles, originating from Brazil and Jamaica, as part of a pan-Latin repertoire. Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval has assimilated a similar expanse of styles. As such, the scope of the Latin jazz idiom expanded to incorporate other styles.
In my discussion of the ways in which salsa scenes have developed across the world, it is useful to apply the definition of a ‘music scene’ according to Will Straw, which
‘…is that cultural space in which a range of musical practices coexist, interacting with each other within a variety of processes of differentiation, and according to widely varying trajectories of change and cross fertilisation’
This definition challenges the notion of the ‘music scene’ as a time-bound, self-contained entity, and emphasises that the ‘salsa scene’ must be analysed within the context of wider social processes and global networks that are linked together through migration, power relations and transnational identities. The fusions that emerged from the interactions between Latin communities living in New York were the precursor to successive processes of syncretisation that aided the commercial distribution of salsa from New York, Miami and the Spanish-Caribbean to other countries such as Panama, Venezuela and Colombia, and subsequently Japan and the UK.
In Miami, exiled Cubans from the Cuban Revolution have cultivated their own unique sound, which blends salsa with rock, funk and rhythms from the French and British Caribbean – influenced by anti-Socialist movements in Miami. Miami Sound Machine was an exponent of this style in the 1980s. Their instrumentation (electric guitar, electric bass and drum kit) highly resembled a rock outfit, yet conga drums and auxiliary percussion were permanent in their line-up, and they incorporated diverse Caribbean rhythms – Cuban son, Dominican merengue, Trinidadian soca, Jamaican reggae – with rock and rap. Cuban vocalist Gloria Estefan started out in this band, and later went solo. Although her music is based on Afro Caribbean rhythms, her amalgamation of Spanish and English lyrics has made Latin music popular with non-Latin audiences. Her bilingualism highlights the importance of language demarcating the function of Latin Caribbean music in drawing cultural boundaries. Her first Spanish-language album, Mi Tierra (1993), signified a return to her roots via collaborations with notable Cuban musicians including Israel “Cachao” Lopez and Tito Puente – a move that brought her out of the world-beat market and placed her in an unbroken salsa tradition. The 1980s also witnessed migrations from Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, a trend that created a salsa scene in Miami, such that Miami was becoming known as ‘”The Capital of Latin America” – Spanish was the language of business and salsa the language of pleasure’ . Many artists, such as Albita Rodriguez, immigrated to Miami from Colombia, illustrating how the unique, cosmopolitan environment and common language in Miami nurtured a combined pan-Latin ideology and encouraged the mutual interaction between American, Cuban and other Latin American styles.
Conversely, other Hispanic Latin American ethnicities have culturally appropriated Cuban and Latin-Caribbean styles. Panama, as the main commercial distributor of Jamaican reggae, also received influences from New York salsa, particularly as Rubén Blades, one of the key figures behind Fania, was Panamanian. The assimilation of Jamaican reggae, hip-hop,electronica and Latin-Caribbean styles, bomba, plena, merengue andbachata, was facilitated by the abundance of Puerto Rican salsa records on the market, and resulted in the emergence of reggaeton. This genre became popular throughout the Caribbean especially amongst the underground movement that represented the urban youth in 1995, when the namereggaeton (denoting a hybrid of reggae and electronica) was first used.
The re-localisation of salsa in Venezuela and Colombia was largely due to socio economic transformation and the processes of rapid urbanisation occurring in central trade networks of these two countries, particularly Caracas (Venezuela) and Cali (Colombia), reinforced by the links between local cultural practices and transnational cultural formations that engendered the development of an urban culture. The increased channels of transportation and communication, and distributions of culture and commerce forged stronger connections between these locations and the global market, and the diffusion of salsa records (a transnational style) among sailors imparted a new, cosmopolitan sensibility. For citizens in Caracas and Cali, salsa articulated commonly experienced socio-political circumstances to those in New York, where the same problems of narrow urban spaces, discrimination between race and class, unemployment, poverty and crime were an urban reality. These people found something in the New York sound that resonated with their own experiences. Both styles of salsa are characterised by their fusions with other Afro Caribbean musical influences, and the tendency to experiment with other urban, marginalised traditions extended the meanings and trajectories of salsa-derived music beyond their local meanings to cultivate solidarity among Hispanic Latin American ideologies. While Venezuelan salsa remains true to the hard-edged, urban New York sound, Colombian salsa is more rooted in the traditional accordion driven sounds of cumbia and vallenato. It retains a simplistic feel, with piquant lyrics, a light texture, a crisp percussive attack and a steady, on the beat rhythmic accent. This style was pioneered by musicians such as Joe Arroyo, Fruko y sus Tesos, Grupo Niche, Guayacan and Grupo Gale.
The influx of foreign influences – especially Dominican merengue, hip hop, rock and rap – was detrimental to salsa and mainstream Latin Caribbean musical styles and their commercial marketability. In 1984, the NuYoricanFania producer Louie Ramirez introduced salsa romantica into the commercial market, a watering-down of Afro Cuban musical elements that marketed the Latin Caribbean sound to pop audiences. In contrast to the hard edged drive of the classic Fania salsa dura (hard salsa), salsa romantica had a milder sound, due to the smooth, polished, pop-influenced studio productions that replaced the rough, grainy recordings of the previous decade. Structurally, salsa romantica songs conform to the conventional Afro Cuban bipartite form – a songlike verse-chorus section, followed by an extended montuno section. However, the functions role of improvisation and polyrhythm in the reduced prominence of the percussion and brass is surrendered to the emphasis on smooth vocal lines. Previously, timbaleros (timbale players) constantly invented new lyrics, but now, cáscara patterns had become formulaic. Topical, politically-orientated lyrics, exemplified by Rubén Blades, were replaced with the preponderance of love as the main literary theme. These innovations limited the range of improvisational tools available to the performer, particularly in the montuno section. The de-centralisation of lyrics from current affairs to broader themes of love appealed to the middle classes throughout Latin America, particularly in Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Essentially, this development de-localised salsa meanings from the New York barrio towards notions of socio political unity, and cultivated a pan Latin, cosmopolitan sensibility. Musicians such as Marc Anthony , Jennifer Lopez, Victor Manuelle and Linda “La India” Caballero perform salsa romantica; further diluting Latin Caribbean musical elements in mixtures ofsalsa with rock and hip hop.
Japanese salsa group Orquesta de la Luz illustrates the reciprocal relation between local and global frames of reference. Although its lead singer, Nora Shiji, spoke no Spanish, she learned her lyrics orally and phonetically from recordings by Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Rubén Blades. Like Blades, Nora sang in English too (for example, Time after Time and I Can Only Be Me from La Aventura, 1993 ). Nora acknowledged herself that althoughsalsa sung in Spanish is inextricably grounded in the clave rhythm (since the clave is embedded in the rhythmic nuances of Spanish language), through her bilingualism, she was engaging in a de-ethnicisation of salsafrom that which makes salsa authentically ‘Latin’ – thus satisfying an international market, de rooted from cultural centricity. The lyrics articulated a global meaning, framed both by the realisation of her non-Latin ethnicity, and the simultaneous expression of aesthetic and political neutrality. Song titles often contained double edged meanings. Arroz con Salsa (Rice with Salsa) plays off gastronomic metaphors of rice (Japanese food) and salsa (Caribbean food) and denoted the desirable convergence between the East and the West – and, more specifically – between the Oriente and the Caribbean. Son del Este either translates as ‘[Cuban] sonfrom the East’ or ‘They are from the East’ which not only orientalises the Cuban son, but reminds us that the Cuban son originated from Santiago de Cuba, the ‘Oriente’ of Cuba – thus inviting Latino audiences to question to question their own centrality as sole creators of ‘Latin’ music. The lyrics of Arroz con Salsa represent salsa as a universal language or fraternity, through the concept of sabor [flavour];
Tu sabes que somos de Japon
You know that we are from Japan
Pero tenemos sabor latino
But we have a Latin flavour
Todos somos hermanos
We are all brothers
Here, Orquesta de la Luz acknowledge their ethnic differences, yet articulate a trans-localised global village through the notion of a brotherhood. Therefore, Orquesta de la Luz globalise their music whilst eliminating a key concept, rooted in the barrio context; ethno-political expression. On the other hand, their song Somos Diferentes (We Are Different) addresses the irreconcilable differences between two lovers. This implies a broader definition of ‘difference’ allowing an allegorical reading; the cultural, racial and national differences represented by the group itself. Through a process of de politicisation through broad themes such as ‘love’Orquesta de la Luz simultaneously deconstructed the value of salsa music as a medium for negotiating national and cultural identity.
The development of the London salsa scene was due to the presence of Latin American immigrants who exchanged records amongst one another through meetings at house parties, community centres and later, nightclubs. These encouraged the collective identification of place through specific time space actualities, and resulted in the re construction and communication of Latin cultural identities. Power relations led to an institutionalisation of salsa as a world music genre via music industries, record shops and the media (radio, television and magazines). Additionally, the route of salsa into London is attributed to cultural embassies, solidarity campaigns and promoters. Although these institutions were carrying out their own objective procedures, they were connected to others in New York and Miami via global networks. Specifically, the diffusion of Latin Caribbean musical influences in the UK might be related to the particularly ‘British’ musical interests. While magazines such as Latin Music Magazineand Latin Beat cater for the cosmopolitan and ‘eclectic’ tastes of ‘world music’ audiences , salsa originally found its way into the nightclub circuit via the bebop and cubop trends during the 1950s. Pete King, co-founder of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, explained;
‘[f]or progressives like us, bebop and early Cuban jazz, the cubop, were the things. Ronnie and I opened our first club as somewhere for us to play them.’
Ronnie Scott, inspired by his visit to the Havana Jazz Festival in 1982, organised the Soho Festival of Cuban Jazz in 1983, which featured artists such as Afro-Cuba, Chucho Valdés and Irakere. Today, most musicians playing salsa and Latin-Caribbean music in London received a formal musical education, and in many cases, approached salsa through jazz. Rock music, and the popularity of Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana, has also stimulated an awareness of the Latin Caribbean idiom in the UK. Carlos Santana, inspired by the Latin influences that pervaded the popular culture of both Mexico and San Francisco, California, recorded and released a cover version of Tito Puente’s Oye Como Va for the albumAbraxas (1970) which combined the mambo, timbales and congas withblues¬-style electric guitar. Dance music and DJ culture also contributed to this awareness. Performances by acts such as the Fania All-Stars (1976), Tito Puente (1981), Oscar D’Leon with special guests Daniel Ponce and Charlie Palmieri (1987), Elio Revé (1989) and Celina González (1989) stimulated numerous Anglo Latin collaborations throughout the 1980s. These included percussionist Mark Cotgrove (aka: Snowboy) and theNuYorican Soul Project, which blend Latin elements with rap, drum and bass and R&B. Its director, disc jockey Gilles Peterson, maintained that ‘NuYorican Soul Project makes the important connection between Latin music and disco and future Latin… now these musicians are making connections between modern dance floor music and the history of salsa’ – illustrating that British musicians too are playing a part in the continued evolution of salsa.
Part 2) Re-Localisation
The 1996 Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon reconciled the link between the Latin-Caribbean musical diaspora in the United States and the global market, and its Afro-Cuban roots. The 1959 Cuban Revolution signified a border in time whereby Afro-Cuban music emigrated to the United States and throughout the world. The US embargo on Cuba during the 1960s effectively cut off all the links between the Latin Caribbean cultural diaspora and its musical heritage. Many performers from the pre-Revolutionary era remained in Cuba, including bandleaders Beny Moré and Arseñio Rodriguez, and their careers suffered as a result. The motivation behind the project was to re-establish that link as the necessary reconciliation with the past. Performers included Compay Segundo (vocals), Ibrahim Ferrer (vocals) Omara Portuondo (vocals) Manuel Puntillita Licea (vocals), Pio Levya (vocals), Eliades Ochoa (guitar), Rubén González (piano), Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal (trumpet), Amadito Valdés (timbales), Orlando “Cachaito” López (contrabass) and Barbarito Torres (guitar). Much like Beny Moré and Arseñio Rodriguez, these musicians had mostly retired – their musical careers over or in decline. The Buena Vista Social Club project produced a film by Wim Wenders, concerts in Amsterdam and Carnegie Hall, New York, and a series of albums. This breached the Cold War gap between Cuba and the United States and inspired a renaissance of interest in Latin Caribbean music throughout the Western world. For example, the number of Cuban bands performing abroad from 1996-2000 was comparable to the proportions during the 1950s – during the mambocraze. However, unlike most of the trends discussed, Revivalism did not give in to the exoticisation and fetishisation of ‘Third World’ artists through misrepresentations, cultural subordinations or commodifications of music as a cultural artefact. Traditions rhythms including son , rumba, danzónand bolero were presented in the film and the albums within their contextualised locations, rooted in the day to day life of Havana. They retained their original structures, and were played on their original instruments.
The roots of salsa and Latin jazz go further. Modern jazz musicians such as Dominican piano player Michel Camilo and Spanish piano player Chano Domínguez have explored fusions of Latin Caribbean music with their Spanish roots, particularly flamenco. Michel Camilo first encounteredflamenco in 1989, when he recorded ‘Hands and Feet’ for piano, accompanied solely by the tapping feet of a flamenco dancer. Since then, Michel Camilo has collaborated with Spanish guitarist José Fernández Torres (aka: Tomatito), releasing several albums with the flamenco group Ketama. Chano Domínguez explored fusions of flamenco and jazz with the view that ‘there's no palpable fusion, both styles are made the one same thing’ – implying that Latin jazz and flamenco both originate from the same Spanish passion and spontaneity.
Finally, the most notable way in which Latin-Caribbean music has ‘returned to its roots’ is through the reverse transculturations of Cuban music in West Africa. This was largely preceded by the Afro Caribbean Slave Trade.
Two centuries of cultural contact between West African and the Caribbean initially laid the groundwork for the popularity of Cuban music in Senegal. Shipping routes between Havana, Cuba and Dakar, Senegal, established important trans-Atlantic interracial relationships. Music making and sharing was an integral part of maritime lifestyle for African and Afro Caribbean sailors, who played and exchanged Cuban music among themselves – a key social function that facilitated its distribution throughout Senegal and West Africa.
It was the music’s familiarity that led musicians in the 20th century, pressurised by governmental nationalistic initiatives and re-Africanisation policies, to adopt Cuban music as the national style. Some of the most famous Cuban musical forms share common traits with their African antecedents and the music heard in Senegal during the 1950s and 1960s was only three or four generations removed from the original African slaves.
This aesthetic identification with Cuban music led many West African musicians to reclaim Cuban music as their own national music. The radio, aligned with French colonial powers, was a proficient source of propaganda. Cuban music – in keeping with French cosmopolitan tastes and enthusiasms – featured heavily on the repertoire, and was broadcast to increasingly diversified audiences. The circulation of Cuban records, the radio and performances by acts such as Don Azpiazu and his Havana Casino Orchestra, Septeto Habañero, Trio Matamoros, Orquesta Aragón and Johnny Pacheco facilitated the dissemination of Cuban musical influences throughout Africa, and the Cuban sound became assimilated into emerging national cultures.
African rumba – a fusion of Cuban styles with Congolese instruments, pioneered by Le Grand Kalle (Joseph Tschamala) became popular. Congolese guitarist Franco later blended the rumba with elements ofhighlife to create soukous. In Senegal, Youssou N’Dour and Star Band de Dakar played a mixture of mambo, cha-cha-chá and rumba in bars and nightclubs throughout Dakar from 1973 onwards. In Mali, vocalist Baaba Maal noted that the prominent saturation of Cuban music in local villages led him to believe that Cuban music came from West Africa – which is, in essence, true. Moreover, it was the way in which Cuban music did not align itself with colonial powers that appealed to African musicians. It was socially endorsed for an African in a French colony to listen to French music. Cuban music, having disassociated itself from Spanish colonial rule and the United States, provided the cosmopolitan alternative to both indigenous African traditions and the hegemonic culture of the French colonisers. Cuban music also constituted the link between West Africa and modernity. Salif Keita noted that through Cuban music, African musicians discovered modern instruments. Cuban music is characterised by its syncretisation with the modern drum kits and electric guitars of Western pop. As a result of the African Diaspora, African musical patterns became part of the Western musical fabric. Afro Cuban musical influences was integrated into the repertoire of Western pop groups and its return to Africa is attributed to the influence of modernity on technology, socio-political relationships, transport and communication among global networks. However, most significantly, the Africando Project (meaning ‘Africa Reunited’ in Wolof, the Niger-Congo language that is spoken by the Senegalese), established in New York in 1992, illustrated how musicians were consciously re-connecting with their own musical patterns played on modern musical instruments and settings.
The cultural appropriations of Afro-Cuban music in Latin American locations such as Miami, Panama, Venezuela and Colombia were facilitated through common language and ideology. In particular, the Cuban Revolution instituted the displacement of Cuban populations in Miami. Miami was, despite the US embargo on Cuba, the link between Havana and New York, and the gateway to Latin America, through which a mutual influx of Afro Cuban styles were cross-pollinated and entered into global networks. Through these networks, the styles were globalised and translated into forms comprehensible to international audiences. It is for these reasons that Latin Caribbean musical idioms were becoming popular in Japan and the UK. In the process, its inherent meaning changed from a conserved Caribbean ideology to the tropicalisation and exoticisation of a foreign locality. Conversely, the Buena Vista Social Club brought Cuba – and its African roots – back into the mainstream. I argue that unlike the Buena Vista Social Club, which was effectively a revival of traditional values in comparative juxtaposition with modern-day society; the popularity of Cuban music in Africa was the self-conscious identification with a music that has always been there. This music was re established as a national identity. Nevertheless, this state of identification was initially brought about by the process of globalisation mentioned above. The reverse transculturation of Cuban music to West Africa was thus a combination of globalisation and re-localisation; the simultaneous cultural output and reclaim of Latin-Caribbean idioms as national heritage.
It is crucial to realise that the Latin Caribbean idiom is not a time-bound, place-orientated and self-contained entity, but characterised by heterogeneous interaction at many different levels:
The Latin-Caribbean idiom is characterised by the simultaneous reifications with its roots and with its migrant communities who spread the message across the world – it is cross-informed by both the past and the future – hence, characterised by a three-dimensional flux of development. As a fluid concept, the Latin-Caribbean idiom is not an idiosyncratic genre. Institutions such as Fania have tried to market Afro-Cuban music under the salsa label. Nevertheless, even this label could not apply to Tito Puente or Celia Cruz, whose style began twenty-five years earlier. Tito Puente rejected the label, saying ‘[t]he only salsa I know comes in a bottle. I play Cuban music.’ Latin Caribbean music is displayed in record shops under various guises, most commonly, under ‘Latin’, ‘International’, ‘World’ music, ‘Folk’ and ‘Jazz.’ These represent the way in which the classification and placement of Latin Caribbean music depends on geographical boundaries and definitions.
Nowadays, most record shops such as Virgin and HMV reserve a section for ‘Latin’ music while others contain subsections for specific genres such as ‘Salsa’ and Latin pop. Tower Records, located in Piccadilly Circus, London, used to display salsa records alongside merengue and Latin pop records under the ‘Latin’ category and placed this within the ‘International’ section.
In 1994, due to a re-organisation of the store, the ‘Latin’ category was changed to ‘Salsa’ and a separate ‘Latin Pop’ category was introduced. This reflects how, due to an increasing awareness of Latin-Caribbean influence on the market, stores were beginning to make the distinction between Latin American music and music originating from a specifically Afro Cuban stylistic basis.
What is the ontological significance of the ‘Spanish tinge’ in music? Jazz musicians draw on ‘Latin’ influences consciously and semi-consciously through polyrhythm even though they might not have a comprehensive understanding of clave and the way in which clave functions in Latin jazz. Furthermore, the ethics of Latin jazz has often been characterised by misinterpretations and misrepresentations of what makes Latin jazz ‘Latin’ – and not just jazz. Is a performance authentically ‘Latin’ because its techniques are grounded in the socio-political, historical, cultural and philosophical ethos of Afro-Cuban playing traditions, or is the jazz musician putting a ‘Latin’ touch into the performance merely by adding a conga drum in the ensemble? Evocations of Latin-Caribbean music derive from its inherent characteristics, and in this case, the conga drum is related to the pitch-rhythm-timbre complex of African polyrhythm. In the same way, the fluctuating piano figurations conjure up the dynamic spontaneity and dialectic interaction of the montuno. Since the Cuban Revolution and the Puerto Rican Depression, Latin Caribbean music has become emancipated from its stylistic origins. Subsequently, the Latin Caribbean idiom has had to blend with other genres in order to maintain its aesthetic autonomy – often, at the expense of its immanent form. The most notable genre is jazz, an Afro American tradition, which shares many of its common hereditary characteristics, and as such, resulted in the defining genressalsa and Latin jazz. However, Latin Caribbean music has also been incorporated into other popular genres including blues, gospel, soul, R&B, rock, funk, hip-hop, rap, dance, house, and other Afro-Caribbean styles such as reggae, calypso, soca and merengue, such that it has become culturally transparent.
In this study, I have identified the genesis of the Latin Caribbean idiom, and presented a cross-section of the diverse ways in which the Latin Caribbean idiom has manifested itself in the work of individual artists, collective movements and cultural appropriations. Throughout these examinations, I have discovered that the Latin Caribbean idiom is determined by a series of constants. These constants have changed meanings over time. The constants polyrhythm and call-and-response remain in the music, whereas the social integration has changed. Within Cuba itself, Latin Caribbean music remains contextualised within its social functions, religion, leisure and communication, and these social functions are preserved in its culture through definite musical structures. Outside Cuba, Latin Caribbean music has become appropriated as a cultural symbol, represented through the exoticisation and commodification of Afro Caribbean elements, or merely exploited as an enhancement to a dominating genre. These tendencies explain why Cuban musicians tended more towards jazz (music for listening), whereas Puerto Rican, NuYoricanand American musicians tended more towards salsa and ‘Latin’ fusions (music for dance).
Nevertheless, these uses of music are essentially flavourings of the whole; here, I return to those gastronomic metaphors that prevail throughout all scholarly discourse. Jelly Roll Morton quite correctly cited the ‘Spanish tinge’ as an important seasoning. Here, I argue that this ‘Spanish tinge’ takes on completely different meanings for different people – for Cubans, Latin Caribbean music is life; for the rest of us, ¡Echale Salsita!
Rory spent the first few years of his life in an ice cave, carving out his palace of wonder. He's a bit of a love doll, but he who melts the ice shall have their reward.