In the middle of the 1800s Cuban music was distinguished by its geographic location (1). Male musicians were itinerant, moving around from village to village. Most of their instruments were rudimentary and portable: a guitar also called a tres with three strings; a marimbula, an African thumb piano; a botija, a ceramic drum made with olive jars; and bongos. Their music was played with simple chords and their lyrics were improvised.

The musical formula of salsa included a montuno section, which consists of a vamp with lyrical improvisations which is called la inspiracion (the inspiration) (1). Soneo, which is equivalent to scat in jazz, is the improvised vocal lyrics and is an acquired skill. Vocals were still sung predominantly by men. The word montuno which is Spanish for "mountain" comes from the style called son-muntuno which originated in Sierra Maestra.

In the west, the music was highly influenced by Europeans. The arrangements were more elaborate than the simple chords of the itinerant musicians in the east. Unlike the musicians in the east, the musicians in the west had constant patronage and venues (1). The instruments were more expensive and resembled those of French orchestras.

Later when Cuba gained its independence, the geographic distinction between the Oriente and Western Cuba turned into a social stratification. European music or music from the west was played for white upper class and music from the Oriente was played by the black lower class.



History of Salsa
African Rhythms
History of Salsa Dancing
French Connection
Cuban Son