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Expanded Glossary
There's a lot in a name; especially when a name means a different thing in a different context. It all began as numerous entries scattered across a myriad of shorthand notepads. Then it occurred to me that a webpage was a much better place to put it.

Note: entries aren't cross-referenced, so the search facility on your browser might be the best way of finding what you want.

Cuban secret society of men with "ritualized street theater, fantastical costume, esoteric language, and a voice-and-percussion music", "who derive from the still-extant Ekpe society in the Cross River region of Africa" - Sublette, Ned (2008). The World That Made New Orleans. Lawrence Hill Books. pp.297.

Academia de baile
Literally dance academy, offering entertainment similar to a cabaret de tercera but unlike the cabarets, academias were not overtly differentiated by class nor ethnicity. They had a reputation of being frequented by upper and middle class males seeking dance partners who doubled as prostitutes. Dance bands played under tough conditions, having to play a medley repetoire of minute-long fragments.

3/5 (three-fifths) clause
Notorious clause of the U.S. constitution which gave states extra representation and electoral votes based on slaves being three-fifths of a person. Owners could exercise the political weight of 60% of the number of slaves they owned, although the slaves themselves were not allowed to vote. Merchants of the North, who did not invest in human capital, thus had less voting clout.

Africa, Regional division by language
John Thornton (1998) identified three culturally distinct zones in Atlantic Africa which participated in the slave trade:

  1. Upper Guinea, stretching from the Senegal river to modern-day Liberia - speakers of Wolof, Mande and a diversity of other languages.
  2. Lower Guinea, stretching from Ivory Coast to Cameroon - speakers of the Aja and Akan family of languages.
  3. Angolan coast including Ndongo (Ngola) and Kongo kingdoms - speakers of the Bantu languages.

African groups of Cuba, Divison by ceremonial practice
There are five groups based on distinct drums and religious traditions: Arará, Carabalí, Congo, Gangá and Yoruba.

Afro-Louisiana culture
Whose music is described by Ned Sublette (2008), "The percussive syllabic music of the Central Africans (Kongos and Angolans) had been laid on top of the stringed-instrument, melismatic music of the Senegambians (Bambara, Mandingo, Wolof)—to say nothing of the people that in Cuba were called the Arará (Fon speakers from Ouidah and Ardra), the people from the Calabar region (Igbo, Efik), and all the other Africans who came during the Spanish years."

ultural movement in the 1920s supporting modernist interpretations of Afro-Cuban folkloric traditions in an attempt to define a new Cuban national identity. This is idealogically at odds with mestizaje and superación.

Literally 'firewater'. Unrefined cane liquor of the sugar colonies. Also referred to as 'taifa' by French creoles.

Puerto Rican folkloric musical form of the jíbaros related to the seis. Consequently associated with the mountainous interior of the island.

Literally "stew". Cuban culture as defined (1930s) by Fernando Ortiz, formed by the disintegration of formative African and Spanish elements into a new mixture of race and culture.

The feeling of bitterness caused by deception. In the Dominican Republic, 'música de amargue' was the term synonymous with bachata but without the latter's early undesirable connotations, so called because the songs had themes dealing with the pain of separation and disillusionment.

Amor triste
Unrequited love ("sorrowful love").


Andalusian cadence
Descending progression of chords: A minor - G major - F major - E major, believed to have come from Southern Spain under Moorish influence. This motif is common to the folkloric musics of the Spanish Caribbean.

A licence by the Spanish crown, sold at a high price, for the exclusive right to sell to the colonies.

1. Spontaneous informal party held in a backyard, living room, or street; 2. Guitar-led and acoustically based song and dance genre of the Dominican Republic with a guitar-bongo-maraca texture in the foreground, made by and for the consumption of the urban poor. Once a term with "undesirable associations including rural backwardness and vulgarity" (Deborah Pacini Hernandez).

Bachata classification
Is not applied consistently but include:

  • (slow tempo) bachatas románticas, canciones de amargue, boleros, bolero-bachatas;
  • (faster tempo) bolero-sones;
  • (double entendre lyrics) bachatas de doble sentido;
  • (disparaging women) bachatas de desprecio;
  • (merengue-based) bachata-merengues;
  • (using synthesizers) tecno-bachatas, tecno-amargues.

Bachata madre
Mother bachata, a term coined by Luis Dias used to refer to the original style of bachata (see Tecno-bachata).

Bailes de Cuna
Literally 'cradle dances'. Dances for white men and free women of colour in Cuba. Known as 'quadroon balls' in New Orleans and redoutes in Saint-Domingue.

Pan-Latin American (transnational) genre drawn upon the Cuban bolero and Spanish nueva canción, although it eventually lost the latter's politically and socially-conscious themes to be replaced by that of sentimentality more akin to that of the former. Balada's more sophisticated arrangements and production values gave it a more modern feel that differentiated it from the bolero.

(stress on the first syllable) Lit. "to remind" of "to remember" in Kikongo. mbula also means "town or village" and "to strike". A drum, a rhythm, a dance, and a place where it happens (in the same way as the conga is in Cuba, bomba in Puerto Rico). A single-headed drum played by the Kongo in New Orleans possibly as a reminder of their origins.

Batá drums
Played in Afro-Cuban sacred music. Hourglass-shaped drums with one much larger head (enu) than the other (chachá). Drumheads are made with male goatskin. The drums are laid horizontally across the thighs and played with bare hands. The cuban set has three drums: iyá (largest), itótetele (middle), and okónkolo (small).

Rhythmic signature of the danzón, similar to clave, comprising one bar of four even beats and another of cinquillo in alternation.

Four-stinged guitar-like instrument played by African slaves in the Deep South of North America. Probable ancestor of the banjo.

Barrel drum of Hatian origin played in the comparsas of Santiago de Cuba.

A Cuban peasant's shack. As in the lyric "Cuándo llegaré al bohío" [When will I get back to my shack] in "Al vaivén mi carreta" [To the sway of my ox-cart] by Ñico Saquito.

Poor Cuban guitar-playing singer-songwriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Cuban romantic song genre, not to be confused with the Spanish genre of the same name. Grew out of Santiago de Cuba in the mid-late 1800s. Played by trios or quartets featuring bongos, maracas, and one or two guitars.

Bolero Ranchero
Mexican translation of the Cuban bolero sung by mariachi conjuntos. Not a dance genre, it is associated with rural areas (see romántico).

Bomba (dance)
Afro-Puerto Rican dance which is highly polyrhythmic in nature and involves complex interactions between the dancers and rummers. Originating from the coastal plains of the island, the drumming is supported by a call-and-response vocal which is led by a lead solo voice, and replied to by a unison chorus. Cuba's equivalent is the Rumba.

Bomba (drum)
Single-headed goadskin drum of Puerto Rico, whose shells were originally made from barrels that had been used to transport lard or rum.

Movement performed by the female in rumba guaguancó to avert the vacunao of the male by the covering of her pelvic region with the handkerchief or folds of her skirt.

Botija a.k.a. Botijuela
Large clay jug, originally made from those used to transport olive oil to Cuba from Spain. The player sings the bass note into the jug from a hole in the side, using the container as a resonating chamber.

1. African-born; 2. "Africanised" Spanish. Described by linguist John Lipski as a "hybrid structure consisting of a Spanish (or pidgin Spanish) morphosyntactic frame with an African lexical core" - David F.García.

Brazillian expression implying a depreciative value judgement, similar to the words 'kitsch' or 'tacky'. Applied to music of poor and/or rural origin bearing a façade of modernity. (Brega has on occassion been inverted to become chic.)

Buena Vista Social Club
Now internationally reknown due to the Grammy Award-winning album by Juan de Marcos González and Ry Cooder, and its associated film by Wim Wenders, was a black working-class club located in Almendares, Marianao.

Cuban comic theatre of the 19th century featuring minstrel-like portrayal of black difference and (supposed) inferiority.

Cabarets de primera
Literally first-tiered cabarets patronised by tourists and the Cuban social elite, offering elaborate shows. Orchestras were big-band, all-white and tuxedo clad performing U.S. popular music. Septetos played Cuban dance music. Famous cabarets included Casino Nacional, Sans Souci and La Tropicana.

Cabarets de segunda
Literally second-tiered cabarets offering an environment similar to that of the first tier but were not as prestigious.

Cabarets de tercera
Literally third-tiered cabarets patronised by black working-class Cubans, and sometimes by individuals with a criminal background and an inclination to violence. Despite having a reputation for providing vulgar entertainment, performances included those by son groups and female solo dance routines.

1. Town council - a fundamental Spanish institution housed in the casa capitular; 2. (Cuba) see Cabildo de nación.

Cabildo de nación
Mutual aid group for Africans of the same region and whomever wanted affiliation. Assistance would include burial expenses, but cabildos would also reassemble, preserve and propogate African culture through song and dance.

Grand estates of coffee plantations built by the Domingans in the Sierra Maestra of Eastern Cuba.

Largest of three drums made of tree trunks and ox hide in the classic West African configuration. The other two being the mula and the cachimbo.


1. The back and forth interchange between the estibrillo of the coro and the soneo/inspiración of the sonero. Musical literature in English describes this phenomenon as 'call-and-response'.
2. Music form that Arsenio Rodríguez unsuccessfully tried to introduce in 1952, similar to son montuno except with with changes in harmonic voicing.

Características mejicanadas
Literally "Mexicanised characteristics". The themes of songs texts: debauched, despairing, violent, or preoccupied with drinking and womanising - more commonly dealt with in Mexican corridos and rancheras than the transnational balada.

Casinos or Casinos Españoles
Social clubs in the late 1800s for the social elites (of proven Spanish descent) of Puerto Rico.

Volkswagen bugs used by Dominican security forces which patrolled neighbourhoods listening for the sound of foreign radio broadcasts (banned under Trujillo's government). The sound of the car is still associated with state repression.

Outdoor beer gardens (in Cuba) which often have their own dancefloors.

In Cuba, a style of ensemble featuring flute and violin. Also a term used in Spain to describe a wind band. Curiously, the charanga never caught on in Puerto Rico which is normally receptive to Cuban genres.

Charanga francesca
Charanga ensembles which included piano. The "francesca" bit was added to denote a more refined sound, as the word "charanga" then was viewed pejoratively as something trivial. Charangas francescas were of distinctly Cuban origin, despite their name.

Chekeré or Shekeré
Large gourd covered with a bead netting; a shaker-style percussion instrument.

Chifladuras del dueño
"The Owner's Lunacy": a metaphor describing a course of action taken without rational purpose.

[literally meaning 'quintuplet', a misnomer because the term implies five evenly distributed beats] A rhythmic cell comprising five beats: 1,2,2+,3+,4. Found in the Hatian meringue, Dominican merengue, Cuban danzón, bolero and habanera (from which the Argentine tango claims some ancestry).

A short break in the song, normally at the climax of the mambo section.

The right of a slave, under Spanish Law, to "demand a contract to purchase their own freedom for an ajudicated amount" (Sublette, 2008). The owner was not allowed to refuse. Only implemented in Cuba, although it was extended to Spanish Louisiana.

Cocimiento, El
Energising effect of the diablo section as the climax of a song, as described by Arsenio Rodríguez. Intentionally drawn from a Cubanism meaning "a kick in the ass".

Neighbourhood grocery shop in suburban areas of the Dominican Republic, similar to the British corner-shop or the U.S. mom-and-pop store (albeit smaller). Formed a focus of community activity in the listening and discussion of music, as they commonly featured a jukebox.

Peasant colonisers of the Amazonian basin from the Colombian highlands.

Concón, El
The partially burnt rice at the bottom of a cooking pot. A metaphor for the Dominican Republic's urban poor who suffer in the fire of economic hardship, and who fail to develop as well as those on the top.

The beads that a believer of santería wears around the neck. Santería is not an evangelical religion, it waits for a person to believe - hence one 'requests' the collares.

1. An uptempo song and dance member of the rumba complex, it is a virtuoso acrobatic form performed solo with props called tratados. Columbia is named after a railroad weighing station in Matanzas province, Cuba. 2. Fort in Marianao, La Habana province, Cuba.

Combo Show
Described as a "dynamic multi-media spectacle" by Deborah Pacini Hernandez, it transformed the marketing of the merengue by including glittery costumes and energetic dancing; the latter is attributed to Johnny Ventura and Joseíto Mateo.

Comedias Rancheras
Mexican musical films which spread the ranchera genre all over Latin America, promoting mexican music internationally.

Spanish-derived word for a Cuban street car
nival, organised in neighbourhood-based groups with uniform dress and choreography, in a manner smiliar to samba schools of Brazil. See Conga.

Comparsa Conga
A kind of comparsa in Santiago de Cuba which features the bocú, quinto, a variety of iron or steel implements as bells such as wheel-hubs and hoe-blades, and
coroneta china. A comparsa could lead a conga down the parade, hence the terms are used interchangably.

Generically meaning "group" or "ensemble". More specifically in Cuban music, the term describes a line-up popular between 1940 through 1946, and most associated with Arsenio Rodríguez, comprising: first voice on clave, first voice on maracas, second voice on guitar, two trumpets, tres, piano, bass, bongo, and congas.

Conjuntos guaracheros
"White" conjuntos i.e. groups who played music for consumption by whites and social elites. Their repetoires were dominated by the faster-paced guarachas and were rhythmically sparse (lacking interweaving patterns). An example is Sonora Matancera.

Conjuntos soneros
"Black" conjuntos were ensembles who played for black and working-class audiences. Their playlists were built around the slower styles like the son montuno with a rhythmically dense sound. An example is Arsenio Rodríguez y Su Conjunto.

Bantu-derived word for a Cuban street carnival, which is percussion driven, that anyone might join. Congas used be a cause of significant concern to law enforcers, as they resulted in large numbers of drunk participants parading through the streets. See Comparsa.

The practice of 'Sacred Parody' where the songs of secular composers (French and Italian Baroque) have their lyrics replaced by ones extolling Christian life.

Offbeat accentuation. Sometimes also called upbeat accentuation, not to confused with upbeat tempo. This author contends the semantic use of the word "off" and its implications, hence a preference is expressed for the term "upbeat", despite the possbility of confusion with the context of tempo.

Contredanse anglaise
English country dance comprising a long line of men facing a long line of women.

Contredanse française a.k.a. quadrille
Dance involving squares of four couples. Harkens to the square formation adopted by infantry when faced with cavalry.

Style of Puerto Rican jíbaro music which makes "use of alternating voices trading verses in a sort of musical argument" (Ruth Glassner). This phenomenon of poetic duelling is also found in Cuba i.e. the trading of inspiraciones by soneros.

African-derived term meaning 'communal work'. Similar to the Haitian term "combite".

Corneta China
Chinese oboe played in the street carnivals of Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.

Literally "chorus". Backing vocals who sing the estibrillo, providing the framework for the sonero to improvise lyrics. In salsa, the vocals may be harmonised to the root, the third above, and the fifth below.

Criollo, Crioulo, Creole
Referring to a person born in the colonies, not in Europe. The term has no association with skin colour.

Puerto Rican music and dance form comprising: paseo (introduction); merengue (melodic section); contrasting melodic section; and closing with the original merengue. Consisting only of an ABAB structure, its repetitiveness left it vulnerable to allegations of monotony. Orchestras contained flutes, violins, piano, güiro, and military brass. The danza was also played in Cuba.

Popular Cuban music and dance form with an ABACA (rondo) structure featuring clarinet in the B section and violin in the C section, within a repeated theme to maintain unity. Governed by the baqueteo rhythmic key.

A danzón with reduced emphasis of the cinquillo rhythm, and where the final section features vocals and the güiro player swaps to playing maracas for a more son-style feel.
This change was made to allow danzón orchestras to compete better with the son sextets.

De Oído
To play music by ear.

1. Ten octosyllabic lines of fixed rhyme found in numerous music and dance forms of the Spanish Caribbean. There are several rhyming schemes e.g. ABBAACCDDC as in the güajira of eastern Cuba. Generally characterised into four subject groups: 'a lo divino' (supplication to the divine); 'en amor' (about love); 'en desprecio' (disparagement); and 'en queja' (complaint); 2.A Spanish poetic form.

1. A jam session, now a term in common use in salsa. According to Leonardo Acosta, he first heard the word in common use during the filin movement in the late 1940s; 2. An energetic improvised solo.

Puerto Rican term for the closing song at casino dances.

Disparagement. A common theme (usually of women) in bachata songs reflecting the changing roles of men, as they found themselves being no longer the dominant position in the household as breadwinners, due to the poor economic condition of the Dominican Republic in the late 1970s and 1980s. Desprecio contributes to the meaning of bachata's synonym: 'música de amargue' [bitter music].

Día de la Raza [Day of the Spanish Race]
Colombus day falls officially on the 12th of October but is celebrated on the 2nd Monday in October. As been used as a marker of Hispanic identity en bloc in NYC that is emphatically non-Italian.

Opening vocal syllables sung usually in rumba used to set the key of the song.

The climactic section of a song, as defined by Arsenio Rodríguez. Pertains to African belief that all things possess both good and evil simulatneously. The devil, as referenced here, conveys a message of playful trickery or mischief-making.

vb. 'to draw'. Used in barrio culture to describe dancing as 'the drawing of elegant footwork on the floor'. Applies to men, women in this context are expected to mark time.

Doble sentido
'Double entendre' where words and their meanings are manipulated to humorous result.

Exlies of the island of La Española prior to the formation of the Republic of Haiti on 1st January 1804.

Encerronas [Lockdowns]
Exclusive parties held at the private residences of the Cuban social elite i.e. politicians and the wealthy.

The "hook" or refrain of a song as sung by the coro (backing vocals) during the montuno section.

Fancy Girls
Young light-skinned sex slaves of the American Deep South, normally bringing traders more than ten times the average price.

Flota, La
Annual convoy bearing treasure from the Spanish New World, accumulated in Havana, and processioned to the House of Trade in Seville, Spain.

Hispanicised from the word "feeling", is a style of playing (not a form), which is now associated with romantic ballads. Filin is not for dancing, more for smooching to.

"French Letters"
Condoms used not for contraception, but for protection against venereal diseases.

Gente Baja, La
Lowest of the economic ladder occupying the most undesirable positions, stereotypically the maid and watchman in the Dominican Republic.

Social dances taking place in the beer gardens of La Tropical or La Polar in Havana, Cuba. Giras took place on Sundays lasting from 1pm up to as late as 4am. See also merenderos and verbenas.

Traditional praise singer of Senegal, although the use of vocal skills for satire, commentary or gossip may also be necessary.

'Spanglish' for watchmen, the armed and uniformed guards of the homes of the Dominican Republic's wealthy. Amongst the lowest paid, they were the denigrated stereotypic consumer of bachata during its era of marginalisation.

Fast time-keeping two-bar rhythm played with sticks on the side of the largest drum (called the caja) in early rumba.

Guaguancó (conjunto-style)
Style of playing guaguancó as first interpreted by Arsenio Rodríguez. The diana (where the trumpet takes on the contratiempo melismatic role of the lead vocal), canto (verse) and montuno sections remain similar to the folkloric form. It then proceeds to the solo, cierre and diablo sections of the son montuno arrangement scheme.

Guaguancó (folkloric)
Uptempo song and couple dance of the rumba complex. Originating in Matanzas circa 1880, it is a pursuit-and-capture dance with a sexual theme and centering around the movements of vacunao and botao. Traditionally sung a capella with a lead and chorus in call and response pattern, with claves and three tumbadoras (congas) called tumba, llamadora and quinto (in ascending pitch).

Repeated rhythmic cycle of notes or chords (a.k.a. montuno or vamp) played on stringed instruments like tres, guitar and violin. This is the rhythmic stream that propels the son and similar Cuban musics.

Guajira de salón
Adaptation of Cuban country genre punto guajiro to a trova-son style.

A neighbourhood six miles east of Havana popularly referred to as "the barrio of the babalaos" because of the intensity of its afrocubania and regarded as, in the words of Rogelio Martínez Furé, "one of the fundamental points of Cuban traditional culture in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries".

Cuban form similar to the son, but higher in tempo and adhereing strictly to a four line verse structure. Possibly deriving its name from guarache (Mexican scandal) and once a mainstay of Cuban comic theater, the guaracha is satirical or situationally humorous in theme.

David F.García in 'Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music' (2006) offers a concise description in footnote 15, pg. 173:

"The guaracha originated in the nineteenth century and was popularized in Cuban bufos (comic opera). By the 1930s big bands and septetos had started to perform guarachas at a faster tempo and with an added, son-influenced, montuno section. What remained of the nineteenth-century guaracha was its typically playful, roguish and sometimes bawdy lyrics.

A guaracha with a montuno section attached.

A country fiesta in Cuba.

A type of tree which in the Palo Monte religion is considered to be male; and whose parts are immensely powerful natural objects, for good or ill (hence the African concept of doubleness).

A large güiro.

In the son context, is defined as an improvised text sung by the first voice in alternation with the coro (chorus) in the montuno section. Sometimes called a pregón. In the salsa context, is another name for the verse.

The güiro is a single gourd scored with horizontal grooves on one side, and holes cut into the other so that it can be held. A small-diameter rod, also held horizontally, is run over the grooves to produce a ratcheting sound.

Habanera rhythm
Also referred to as the tango rhythm, is a signature Antillean motif comprising four beats: a dotted quaver, semiquaver, quaver, quaver. Can be foud in a broad host of genres from tango to reggaetón.

Haciendo una bachata
Making a bachata. Getting together for spontaneous entertainment in private (usually poor) spaces with improvisational musicians.

Haciéndolo a Guaje
"Faked playing it".

Papiamento (creole language of the Dutch Antilles) word for outdoor beer gardens which feature dance floors. Similar to Cuban cervecerías.

Sugar plantation field-and-mill complexes.

Isla, La
Puerto Rican term, used pejoratively, to refer to those of the mountainous interior implying cultural, economic and social deficiency.

Highly danceable improvisational section of the merengue, similar in function to that of the montuno section in salsa.

Subsistence farmers of the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico. Cuba's equivalent are the guajiros of Sierra Maestra.

Quadrille. Contredanse derivative danced in Guadeloupe.

Keil's 'Litany of Ills'
Postulated by Angeliki and Charles Keil (1987) as resulting from massive rural to urban migration i.e.: unemployment; the "freedom" to consume or be consumed; disintegration of traditional family/kiinship values; adultery; prositition; substance abuse; disease; overcrowding; high incidence of crime; malnutrition; alienation.

Kongo Cross
Signifies the meeting of two worlds, the living and the dead. Disguised by Kongo Africans as the Christian crucifix in territories where their native practices were suppressed e.g. New Orleans—they are distinguishable by the height of their crossbar: midway for Kongo cross, chest high for Christian.

¡Los Indios!
(Dominican Republic) Exclamation used to notify those demonstrating against Balaguer's regime that the police had arrived.

Lucha Sonora, La
The sonic disturbance/ struggle/ conflict. A period in Dominican history, while Joaquin Balaguer was in power (1966-1978), where there was intense political, economic and cultural instability. These were expressed directly in the country's music.

A term describing strong or potent 'peformative intent' as pertaining to musical rhythmic force and affective interplay between musicians and dancers. This should not be read as sexist; Afro-Cuban religious beliefs attribute power to both female (Ochún, Yemayá) and male santos (Ogún, Elleguá).

Dance or party, derived from the nickname of a famous Cuban rumbero also known as José Rosario Oviedo, who died tragically and mysteriously in the 1930s.

Cuban indepedence fighters. Famous black generals include: Quintín Banderas, Antonio Maceo and Guillermón Moncada.

1. Chants of the priests of the Palo Monte religion, which are also called cantos de fundamento or cantos de palo. It also appears in the Ki-Kongo phrase "abre kuto güiri mambo" [open your ears to what I'm going to tell you] sung in controversias. 2. A part of a popular Cuban dance, as first called by Arcaño in the 1930s.

Mangrove swap in Cuba where the negros curros lived.

Thick vegetative cover, an area where paleros would go with their ngangas to call upon the dead to fight with them. It appears as a term of cultural resistance.

Mano a mano
Marketing label given to the battle-of the-band shows between Arsenio's conjunto and Arcaño's charanga.

Manoseo del cuero
Cuban method of playing on timbale skins with hands and fingers.

Marímbula a.k.a. Manímbula
A thumb piano comprising a wooden box with a sound hole cut in the front. Metal tongues were attached to the box partially projecting over the sound hole, which were plucked by the thumb to produce bass tones. Probably derived from the smaller zanzaor instrument, the mbila (lamellaphone) of the Congos. See León, Argeliers (1984). Del canto y el tiempo. La Habana: Editorial Letras Cubanas.

Mariposa de la noche
Literally 'butterfly of the night': a prostitute.

Slave overseer.

Social dances taking place in the beer gardens of La Tropical or La Polar in Havana, Cuba. Merenderos took place on weekdays lasting from 1pm to about 6pm. See also giras and verbenas.

Merengue típico
Traditional merengue associated with rural culture interpreted by small ensembles called conjuntos commonly featuring: accordion, tambora, güira, and marímbula (compare with orquesta merengue).

Merengue típico moderno
Modernised accordion-based merengue, usually with larger orquesta-style lineups featuring electric instruments.

Cuban political social ideal of cultural and racial miscegenation. See superación.

Spirits whose help can be enlisted either to obtain a partner, or to ward off such magical attentions of another. A Dominican belief, especially those of rural areas.

1. Repeated rhythmic cycle of notes or chords played on the piano that underpins modern salsa and timba. Compare this with the term guajeo. 2. Highly danceable, improvisational section of a salsa song, usually the latter half.

1. Riffs performed on trombones and trumpets, usually spontaneously improvised; 2. section of a salsa arrangement in which these riffs are performed. Moñas serve to heighten the sonic energy of a salsa arrangement, and contribute to the climactic story-telling of a song.

Mulatico jabaíto
White-looking mulato.

Cuban spelling for Moune dé lé, Ki-Kongo (and found in the Carabalí language) for "white man".

Música de guardia
Derogatory term, formerly used to describe bachata as music listened to by (security) guards, who were amongst the lowest paid in the Dominican Republic.
"...originated during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo ...intended to invoke an image of low-rank soldiers in bars and brotherls listening to low-quality guitar music—particularly musics like Mexican rancheras and corridos that extolled drinking, womanizing, and machismo." (Deborah Pacini Hernandez)

Música cachivache
Derogatory term used to render insignificant or to trivialise songs of the bachata genre in the Dominican Republic. "Cachivache" is a worthless trinket.

Música movida
Upbeat music.

Musical activity
As analysed by musicologists has for components: the music itself; the performers; the audience; and the social context. This applies to live musical performances and recorded music. Conetmporary analysis includes a fifth component—the music business, comprising those who have determinative roles: producers, promoters, vendors, recording engineers, disk jockeys, but who do not participate directly with music-making.

Slang for "bud(dy)" or "bro(ther)".

Negro bozal
Comical black figure in Cuban popular theatre. (see Bufos)

Negro catedrático
Black pretentious figure in Cuban popular theatre. (see Bufos)

Negros curros
Free Blacks who emigrated from Sevilla to Cuba in the 1500s. Their flamboyant dress live on in modern day in the form of large ruffled sleeves (think Mambo Kings), and pants narrow in waist but large at the leg.

The focal point of the palo religion which, in Cuba, refers to the iron cauldron housing the ndoki (actioning spirit) that resides within it. Contains plant and animal materials, earth as well as human remains.

Notes inégales
French Baroque term: to play two equal-length notes unequally, creating emphasis on a note by holding it longer than the other. When used to accent the upbeat in jazz, this is phenomenon is known as 'swing'.

Nueva canción
Songs with politically conscious themes, originating from Chile during Marxist Salvador Allende's government (1970-1973). Foremost of these were the pioneering reinterpretations of Chile's folkoric songs by Violeta Parra, and similarly of Argentina's by Atahualpa Yupanqui.

Nueva trova (canción protesta)
Music genre expressing the ideals of the Cuban Revolution.

Economic migrants from Puerto Rico who settled in New York.

Ñapa, La
1. A complementary something extra; 2. (Colombia) A salsa band's encore tune.

A whining spoiled brat. Used to describe bachatero Luis "El Añoñaíto" Segura's style of singing.

Deities venerated by Afro-Brazillians.

Orquesta Merengue
Commercial merengue associated with urban culture, interpreted by large lineups commonly featuring: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, tambora, güira, conga, keyboard and electric bass guitar (compare with merengue típico).

Lukumi musical liturgies or devotional cycles of songs, where the orishas are saluted in fixed sequence. There are three forms: unaccompanied singing and chanting (orú); unaccompanied batá drumming (orú de igbodú or orú "seco"); and singing, dancing and drumming together (orú del eya aranla).

1. Another name for timbales; 2. Verbal instruction to play the cáscara pattern; 3. (Dominican) Pot for cooking rice.

Paises, Los
Dominican reference to the United States of America.

Congolese (Bantu) religion as practiced in Cuba.

(Dominican slang) Inexperienced fool, with connotations of the country bumpkin.

Sunday afternoon parties commonly featuring entertainment provided by small guitar-based groups in the times before the mass media in the Dominican Republic.

Sponsorship. For example, merengue in the 1980s was advertised together, and consumed together, with its largest sponsors: the cigarette and alcohol companies.

The phenomenon of musicians and record producers paying disc jockeys or station managers to get their records aired. The converse is also true, that the airing of songs by competeing musicians could be disincentivised financially.

Colloquialism: "to tan your hide".

"People's Music"
Term coined by Charles Kiel to define the space between "folk" (having connotations of "rural" and "illiterate") and "popular" (now nearly synonymous with "mass-mediated").

Cuban Army established by the United States over the course of Cuba's War of Independence from Spain. The policy was to post its members to unfamiliar regions of the island (somewhat reminiscent of the Roman legions). This policy assisted in the spread of musical influences from one side of the island to the other.

Half of what the coro were singing before i.e. shortened response line.

Plaçage [placing]
Contractual concubinage in New Orleans, where free women of colour were 'placed' in male patronage. The women had their own houses and relationships were long-term usually resulting in many children.

Puerto Rican music and dance form originating from the lower class regions of the island's southern coast. Topical and often satirical, it combined the Spanish verse structure with the African call-and-response with percussive emphasis.

Working-class barrio of Havana.

(Dominican) Collective taxi- a place where much music is discussed.

Punto Guajiro
A style of Cuban country music, of which Celina Gonzalez has been one of its greatest interpreters.

A contredanse form where figures are called. The presence of the military in the ballroom may well have influenced its development. Found throughout the Caribbean, the Jamaican style of calling probably contributed to the style of dancehall rap. See 'contredanse française'.

Okra, from the Angolan word 'kingumbo' (from which Louisiana's 'gumbo' is derived). Used in Cuba instead of the Spanish term 'molondrón'.

Municipal or district ward.

Improvisation of lyrics.

1. Smaller higher-pitched guitar-like instrument found in the Dominican Republic and Pureto Rico; 2. Conga drum smaller and higher-pitched than the quinto, also used for soloing.

Residual Cultural Practice
Sociological term defined by Raymond Williams as "effectively formed in the past, but... still active in the cultural process, not only and often not at all as an elemnt of the past, but as an effective element of the present". An example is Arsenio Rodríguez music, used as a resource by Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto and modern artists.

International variant of the Mexican translation of the Cuban bolero. Danceable music for urban music halls (see bolero ranchero).

Cuban percussion-based music and dance complex comprising: yambú, a slower more stately partner dance; guaguancó, a quick tempo partner dance featuring a sexual motif performed by the male called vacunao; and columbia, a virtuoso solo dance performed by males sometimes with blades as props. Rumba also describes the occassion when these dances are performed.

Rumbas de calle
Street carnival in Matanzas from which the corneta china was exported to Santiago de Cuba's equivalent carnival, the conga.

Salsa Dura
Style of salsa that stylistically has a core arrangement scheme similar to the son montuno (as popularised by Arsenio Rodríguez) i.e.: contratiempo, climactic energy, sonic power and density, timbral heterogeneity, and space for solos.

Lit. 'greeting'. Best explained in this quote from the book 'Bachata' by Deborah Pachini Hernandez (1995): "The saludo (greeting) is a form of ritual behaviour typical of Dominican traditional culture and serves to communicate important social information—a person's knowledge of good manners, as well as his or her verbal skills. When rural Dominicans encounter one or more persons, they individually greet and shake hands with each and every individual in the group, establishing the greeter and the greeted as members of a group and serving as a symbol of beloingiing to it."

Traditional music of the Dominican Republic celebrating popular Catholicism.

Cuban word for sandwich.

Song and dance form popular amongst the jíbaros of Puerto Rico, performed in groups of six couples (hence the name). Contains much of the traditional influences of Spain during the colonial period.

Seis con décima
Version of the seis containing décimas (ten-line verses). More precise in terms of meter and rhyme than the traditional seis. Comes to preserve the cultural history and social commentary which would otherwise have been lost, due to the high illiteracy rate of the demographic group.

Romantic serenades.

Sin pelos en la lengua [with no hair on the tongue]
Idiom for speaking one's mind, irrespective of how offensive it might be to the listener.

A propulsive rhythmic part similar in function to the montuno, by the saxophone section. It is played in systematic counterpoint to the brass section, acting as a link to the rhythm section.

Tenement. Multi-family dwellings for the poor, arranged around a central square in which were located the communal sanitary facilities. The social space where black drums, drums played with the hands, were played - even when they were outlawed.

from the verb "sonar" [to sound]. Ned Sublette in his book 'Cuba and its music' describes it as "a Cuban synthesis: Bantu percussion, elodic rhythm, and call-and-response singing, melding with the Spanish peasant's guitar and language."

Son montuno
Son from the deep country.

Soneo a.k.a. Inspiración
Improvised line by the sonero (lead singer of son) phrased to clave.

Racial uplift. A socio-political ideal held by Cuban intellectuals (some of them Blalck) who denigrated African practices as backward, and encouraged mestizaje to eradicate them.

Tambores de Fundamento
Consecrated set of batá with an orisha, Añá, sealed inside by its maker. Only used in sacred ceremonies. A new set of batá with fundamento are born in a ceremony in the presence of an older set and have their own birthday, are fed and accorded the same privileges of an orisha.

Tambores Judíos
Unbaptised drums. Sonically identical to consecrated batá but without fundamento inside.

Conga-like drum of Haiti. Takes the place of bongos in twoubadou music.

Allegedly an "African" word for marijuana.

1. A word possibly of Bantu origin, like the term "tumba", frequently used by the Spanish with the activities of black peoples. 2. Music and dance genre most popularised by Argentines. 3. Used interchangably with the word "habanera" to describe the rhythm which emanated from Havana.

Tango rhythm
See 'Habanera rhythm'.

(Dominican) Unit of measurement of land. 1 Tarea equals 628 square metres.

also called tecno-amargue, a term coined by Luis Dias used to refer to the instrumentally and musically more sophisticated bachatas he was writing, as compared to the 'original' style (see Bachata madre).

Tiempo Muerto
Literally "Dead Time". The period in between sugar harvests when unemployment is high.

Require head-covering worn by women of color to distinguish them from whites who were allowed to wear their hair free.

Energetic unruly dance wave beginning in 1980s Havana, comprising rumba, jazz pop and funk elements. ["unruly"... I like that - Ed.]

Toque de santo
A Santería event featuring drumming and dancing in which the saint may come down and "mount" a believer who is referred to as the "horse". A party for the gods.

Literally "nickel-swallowers". Dominican slang for 'jukebox'.

Props employed in the dancing of rumba columbia, usually: cane harvest instruments like the knife or machete, staves, chairs, glasses of water, and bottles.

Cuban guitar-like instrument, but played more like a piano in terms of rhythm. It has a small body, and is metal-strung with three widely-separated courses of double strings. The central course is unison whilst the outer pairs are in octaves. Possibly an African adaptation of of the Spanish bandurria.

Tricolor balls
Dances in New Orleans where all three of the city's tone-color classes—white, black and mulatto were represented.

Neighbourhood of Santiago de Cuba famous for its Carnival.

Tumba Francesca
Drumming and dance form whose signature motif is where the improvising drummer on occassion lays his single-headed barrel-shaped drum on the ground and straddles it, altering its tonality with his legs. In combination with open tones and slaps, the drummer duets with and mimics the dancer who plays with handkerchiefs. So-called because it is found in regions bearing French Domingan influence.

Tumbadora (pl. tumbadores) a.k.a. Congas
Single-headed and barrel-shaped hand drum that is quintessentially Cuban, formed from the merger of two other types of drum: the tambores de rumba and the carnaval conga. Comes in three sizes: tumbadora (largest); salidor or seis por ocho (middle); and quinto (smallest).

Bass riff.

Guitar-based ensemble, sometimes referred to as estudiantina, linked to political movements or parties. "Musicians worked wherever they could" - Ned Sublette.

Twoubadou [Troubadour]
Haitian musical tradition similar to the guitar-based musics of the Dominican Republic featuring guitars, maracas, marímbula, and tanbou.

Belly-to-belly pursuit-and-capture dance of Brazil.

[Lit. Vaccinate] Symbolic gesture of possession of the female dancer's gentials by the male, in the form of an aggressive hand movement, a kick, movement of handkerchief, or pelvic thrust.

Sex starlet.

Soiree, private or public cultural event normally held at a private residence.

Dominican slang for 'jukebox'. Derived from the word vello meaning 'hair', referring to the shock of hair between the horns of the buffalo depicted on U.S. nickels used to work them.

Social dances taking place in the beer gardens of La Tropical or La Polar in Havana, Cuba. Verbenas occurred on weekends, all day an all evening, and were much larger than giras, comprising ten or so dance bands playing two or three at a time on adjacent floors. See also giras and merenderos.

Ya ya
A type of tree which in the Palo Monte religion is considered to be female; and whose parts are immensely powerful natural objects, for good or ill (hence the African concept of doubleness).

Slowest song and dance form of the rumba complex where couples use softer, more sensuous movements. Resembling the dance form congo baile yuka, the yambú does not contain the vacunao movement.

1. Cuban-Congolese symbol of resistance describing a fierce iron-wielding warrior bathed in blood, usually grasping a machete. The Yoruban equivalent is Ogún. 2. A music and dance genre comprising alternating bars of 6/8 and 3/4 time signatures.

Cuban lyric theater bearing, like the Cuban bufos before, older Spanish theatrical traditions but bearing Cuban-sounding music and centred on Cuban themes. The vocal style is European light operatic.


1999 Salsa & Merengue Society