Native Venezuelan Enrique Gonzalez performs the song “Así” with his band the Big Maracas. The song, which he sings in Spanish, is an example of salsa music. After the performance, Gonzalez talks about his work as a musician, artist, and teacher.
Salsa is a fusion of traditional African and Cuban and other Latin American rhythms. The word “salsa” means “sauce” in Spanish. Some musical scholars believe that the beginning of the musical use of the word salsa began in the 1930s when a singer in a Latin jazz orchestra, Beny More, would shout “Salsa!” during particularly “spicy” or “hot” moments in songs, particularly during instrumental solos. In reality, though, musical scholars don’t quite agree on how salsa got its name.
One of the primary musical characteristics of salsa is the clave rhythm which musical scholars believe came to Cuba with slaves from West Africa. In Spanish, clave means “key,” “code,” or “keystone.” In architecture, a keystone is the center stone of an arch that serves to hold the other stones in place. In salsa music, the clave rhythm forms the foundational percussive center point much like that keystone holds the arch together. (Another way to think of it is as the “secret code” of salsa music.) The clave is the rhythmic glue that holds salsa together.
Salsa music became popular in the United States beginning in New York City in the 1970s.
Enrique Gonzalez is a native of Venezuela. He is musician, songwriter and visual artist. In this segment, he adapted the lyrics and rhythm of an existing song. His own compositions and many of his paintings are inspired by growing up in the Venezuelan rainforest. Find out more about him and view more of his paintings at his website.