What is Salsa and Where did Salsa dancing come from originally?

Salsa is dance music, a variety of what is called Latin jazz, which is a blend of Afro-Caribbean and Spanish influences and American jazz.

It is popular among Anglos and Latinos alike. The name comes from salsa picante, or “hot sauce.”

Salsa’s greatest pioneer was Tito Puente (1930–2000), a New York–born bandleader and composer of Puerto Rican ancestry. Known as El Rey, or “the King,” he began in the 1940s to bring Latin rhythms to both the popular dance-hall and elite jazz-concert circuits.

Santana’s 1970 rock hit “Oye Como Va” is a reinterpretation of a Puente composition.

Other Puerto Rican composers include Rafael Hernandez, whose works such as “Lamento Borincano” incorporate Puerto Rican folk rhythms.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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