Baile Escocia

 
 

A friend asked me for a list of songs that I could give him that would be a good introduction to salsa, and I thought I’d share it. It is not just my favourite tracks, though many are in there. I set myself a few criteria:

  1. the tracks must be danceable (Cachondea is a fantastic song, but is way too fast to dance to)

  2. must cover all the main genres & geographies so there is dura & romantica, Cuban & Columbian and more

  3. maximum 20 tracks, which is completely arbitrary but seemed like enough to give a flavour without giving an overwhelming list.

So here it is. The order is alphabetical so there is no ranking. And at the end there’s a few I nearly put in but didn’t make the cut.

 

PLaylist for those new to Salsa

4 May 2012

Aisha by Africando


This was the first salsa track I fell in love with. A cover of a Khaled song, this became many salseros favourite in the late 90s and early 2000s. Africando are a blend of African & Cuban musicians and have produced many great songs. Check out their albums Mandali or Martina too - neither has a bad song on them.

Show Me by Alex Wilson


Alex Wilson is a London band leader now based in Switzerland. This song from his 2007 album Inglaterra is definitely his best. Bringing in R&B elements, he defies those who say salsa can’t be sung in English. There’s also a hot reggaeton version.

Candela by Buena Vista Social Club


The Buena Vista Social Club was a project put together the Ry Cooder, the American guitarist. Exploring Cuba he came across a lot of old, almost forgotten musicians and pulled them together to form a sort of super-group. Although there are many great old recordings of the traditional Cuban style, the quality of the musicians and modern production values allow the music to shine again. Many of the tracks are more son than salsa, but this fantastic track crosses boundaries in more ways than one.

Químbara by Celia Cruz


No collection would be complete without the Queen of salsa. A star in Cuba with La Sonora Matancera, she crossed eras with her partnershisp with Tito Puente and Fania. This track is perhaps a little fast to dance to, but is a signature piece. Other classics include El Negro Bembón, Cao Cao Mani Picao and La Vida Es Un Carnival and any of these could have appeared in this list without lowering the standard.

Amor Para Mi by Cuco Valoy


Perhaps more famous for his hit Juliana, Cuco Valoy was from the Dominican Republic. He made his name with son & merengue hits but also produced some classic salsa tracks, including this one.

La Quiero A Morir by DLG


Dark Latin Groove brought a new sound to salsa music in the late 90s - check out the short rap section - but still created swinging salsa tracks as well as some strong romantica numbers. This 1997 track is actually a cover of a French song from the 70s and was deservedly DLG’s biggest hit.

No Estamos Loco by David Calzado & La Charanga Habanera


Timba is the contemporary Cuban salsa sound. Often accredited first to NG LA Banda, it is a blend of salsa with other influences, notably jazz & rap. While there are many great timba bands, this track is a personal favourite. Charanga Habanera have been at the forefront of the movement for the last ten years and continue to produce fantastic dance songs like this.

Se Me Fue by El Gran Combo


Puerto Rico’s finest export, El Gran Combo are another band who have produced a string of great tracks over the years. Still going strong after 50 years, albeit with a continually changing lineup, they bring a smooth big band sound to salsa. This is a great medium tempo song and a dream to dance to.

El Cantante by Hector Lavoe


In the 1970s the Fania record label effectively created salsa as we know it, drawing on both the mambo roots of the 50s &, especially, Puerto Rican music. The Fania All-Stars had a host of amazing musicians, but amongst them Hector Lavoe shone the brightest. While working with Willie Colón and after he went solo he produced a string of classic tracks. A persistent drug user, his career faded quickly after the 1970s and he died in 1993. A biopic based on his life was made in 2006 starring Marc Antony.

La Rebelion by Joe Arroyo


Joe Arroyo is one of the greatest soneros that Columbia has ever produced. Originally a protege of Fruko, his solo career with his band the La Verdad over the 1980s & 1990s produced an outstanding set of salsa tracks. La Rebelion, the story of a slave rebelling against his master, became his signature piece. Perhaps the classic salsa track.