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Salsa Romántica is a soft form of salsa music that emerged between the mid-1980s and early 1990s in New York City and Puerto Rico. It has been the most commercially successful form of salsa in the last 20 years, despite criticism that it is a pale imitation of "real" salsa, often called "salsa dura."
Description and origins
Salsa Romántica is a slower, lighter sounding type of salsa music that La Palabra, a Cuban musician, introduced in the mid-1980s. Salsa romántica arose at a time when classic, big-band salsa, popularized by Fania Records was taking an astounding measure on the Latin record charts, owing to the merengue boom and the rise of Latin pop. Salsa romantica is distinct from other salsa music styles because it uses a softer/quieter sounding orchestral sounds, ballads set to a slowed down salsa rhythm, and romantic lyrics (1). Because of the softer orchestra and leisurely rhythm, some have nicknamed this genre "limp salsa" (2). It has been the most commercially successful form of salsa in the last 20 years in Latin American countries, and is most popularly played in fancier dance clubs as well as radio stations (3). The best known early salsa romantica artists include: Eddie Santiago, Frankie Ruiz, Lalo Rodríguez and Luis Enrique. More famous modern artists are Gilberto Santa Rosa, Marc Anthony, La India and Tito Nieves.
Salsa romántica was heavily influenced by the balada style (or, pop style) of salsa, and is widely criticized by dancers due to the simple compositional style of both types. Traditional salsas give more improvisational ability to the musicians and dancers involved.
Though it bears the moniker of a salsa, salsa romántica is considered by most to be inauthentic to the true spirit and style of salsa music. In Cuba, some critics refer to it as the “white” style to differentiate between salsa romántica and traditional salsa.
Critics have also focused on the fact that "true salsa" involved qualified musicianship alongside the intricate composition, while salsa romántica was too lyrically syrupy and musically systematic. Some say that one of the reasons salsa romántica even came about was due to the cocaine cartel’s affinity for it. The cocaine cartels began to affect the tone of salsa during the 1980s, and live salsa became much more prevalent in luxury nightclubs. Dancing was still encouraged, but researchers claim that the dancing of this time period began to dwindle creatively and became much less interesting to watch. Salsa contests also began to disappear due to the lack of inspired dancers and interesting music. Though many critique this style, it was incredibly popular during this time and played on most popular radio stations.
Critics of salsa romántica, especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s, called it a commercialized, watered-down form of Latin pop, in which formulaic, sentimental love ballads were simply put to an Afro-Cuban beat—leaving no room for classic salsa's brilliant musical improvisation, or for classic salsa lyrics that tell stories of daily life or provide social and political commentary. The marketing of salsa romántica singers has often been based more on their youthful sex appeal than on the quality of their music. For these reasons, the form sometimes has been derided as salsa monga (limp or flaccid salsa), as opposed to salsa gorda or salsa dura (fat or hard salsa).
The form today
The strict lines between salsa romántica and classic salsa have been blurring in recent years. Several performers have succeeded in blending elements of salsa romántica and more hard-driving, traditional salsa, including La India, Tito Rojas, Eddie Santiago, Anthony Cruz, Gilberto Santa Rosa, and Víctor Manuelle.
La India, Luis Enrique, Giro Lopez, Marc Anthony and Víctor Manuelle are the best-known performers of salsa romántica today. However, Marc Anthony surpasses his colleagues not only in fame, but in sales as well, being the highest selling salsa artist of the past two decades. By blending elements of pop into his songs - as well as making pop versions of his salsa songs - Anthony has been able to establish a loyal fan base of Hispanics of all nationalities, as well as broaden his audience to non-Spanish speaking individuals. Young salseros gravitating to the form include Tito Rojas, Anthony Cruz, Frankie Negrón, Kevin Ceballo, Charlie Cruz, and Jay Lozada.
Omar Alfanno is probably the most prolific songwriter in the salsa romántica genre he was hand held into the business by Salsa Dura songwriter Johnny Ortiz. Other notable composers include Palmer Hernandez and Jorge Luis Piloto. Antonio "Tony" Moreno, Chino Rodriguez, Sergio George and Julio "Gunda" Merced are some of the most notable producers in the salsa romántica genre.
Despite having many prominent artists and a large fan base, Salsa Romàntica is considered, by older salsa musicians and fans, to be a sad imitation of classic salsa - salsa monga or "limp salsa". This is partially due to the fact that this form of salsa talks less about political strife and working-class concerns, and more about non-offensive things such as love and parties.
Salsa erótica (or "erotic salsa") was a short-lived offshoot of salsa romántica in the late 1980s, in which a few performers branched off into explicitly sexual lyrics. The most popular salsa erótica recordings are probably "Ven, Devórame Otra Vez" ("Come, Devour Me Again") by Lalo Rodríguez, in which the singer is imploring his woman for another session of sex; and "Desnúdate, Mujer" ("Get Naked, Woman") by Frankie Ruiz, and "La Cita" ("The Date") by Galy Galiano.
- Ilch, Tijana (2016). "The History of Salsa Music (p.1).
- Waxer, Lise (2000). “The Rise of Colombian Salsa”. Latin American Music Review. 21(2): 118(52)- via Gale Cengage Academic.
- Waxer, Lise A(2002). "The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves,and Popular culture in Cali, Colombia" (p. 31-69) -via Project MUSE.
- Manuel, Peter (1994). The Soul of the Barrio: 30 years of salsa (p. 28). NACLA Report on the Americas.
- Moore, Robin (2010). Music in the Hispanic Caribbean: experiencing music, expressing culture (p. 232-234). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537505-3.
- Hutchinson, Sydney (2015). Salsa World: A Global Dance in Local Contexts. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 162. ISBN 9781439910078.
- Garcia, David F. (2006). Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN 9781592133864.
- Waxler, Lise A. (2002). The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. p. 105. ISBN 9780819564412.
- Manuel, Peter (1994). The soul of the barrio: 30 years of salsa. NACLA Report on the Americas. 28 (2).
- Moore, Robin (2010). Music in the Hispanic Caribbean : experiencing music, expressing culture. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537505-3.