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Salsa & Merengue
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Revealing Items

Exploding Myths
Salsa: The Music
Salsa: The Dance
A History Of Salsa
Merengue: The Music
Merengue: The Dance
A History Of Merengue
Glossary: Rhythms & Styles (A–M)
Glossary: Rhythms & Styles (N–Z)
Glossary: Band Instrumentation
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Rhythms and Styles (A–M)

Afro–Cuban 6/8
Derived from West African sacred music, it has its own clave pattern consisting of a syncopated seven beat pattern over two bars of music. This clave pattern is though to be the ancestor of the Cuban patterns.

Popular dance rhythm from the Dominican Republic. Often typified by a jangly guitar line and simple arrangements played in 4/4 time. Does not obey clave.

A balladic dance rhythm. The four beat pattern is accented on 2,3+,4,4+ with the congas. Member of the son rhythm group. Considered slow–tempo at about 80–110 bpm. This style is commonly described as "Rhumba" (rumba with an "h") in ballroom dancing. Also used to describe a cut of jacket (have they no shame?).

Bolero Cha
Also known as Bolero Rítmico. A compound rhythm played in the transition between bolero and chachachá. Therefore it has 4/4 time and is a member of the son rhythm group.

Bolero Rítmico
See Bolero Cha.

A folkloric form from Puerto Rico. The four beat pattern is played on squat drums called bombas with accent on beat four. Can be considered to have a clave equivalent pattern called cuá.

A gathering with music and dance, percussion is provided using improvised instruments such as frying pans and bells.

A dance rhythm with even accentuation on all four beats in every bar. Also tends to have an accent on the "and" of beat four (4+). Typically mid–tempo at about 100–140 bpm. Member of the son rhythm group. First popularised by the charanga bands of the 1950s. Supposedly derived from the montuno section of the danzón with the congas present.

A faster variant of the son, from Guantanamo in the east of Cuba.

Compound rhythms
Describes the formation of a rhythm or style by merging two or more others e.g. guajira–son, guaguancó–son, merengue–cha.

Conga (de comparsa)
An up–tempo heavily syncopated Cuban carnaval rhythm and dance. Originally a comparsa was a slaves march, permitted only on special occasions. Comparsa now refers to the group that play the rhythm. Dissimilar to 1–and–2–and–3…Four! rhythm popularised in Florida.

An extremely popular dance rhythm from Colombia but also popular in Chile and Mexico amongst others. Often classified as salsa, played in 4/4 time with a heavy beat one and accentuated beats three and four, giving a loping rolling rhythm similar to "riding a horse".

An involved and ornate Cuban music form of West European ancestry developed in the 19th century (see related article).

Dominican Merengue Complex
Rural merengue variants: merengue de atabales in 12/8 time, merengue redondo in 4/4 time, meregue ocoeño in 4/4 time. Rarely performed or obscure rhythm and dance styles with independent couple choreography. (As described by Austerlitz, Paul. 1997)

The best known and most popular rumba form danced in couples. Born in the cities, its versatility has allowed modern bands easily to adapt and play it. It is mid to up–tempo, played to 4/4 time.

Similar to the son with vocals as a form of social commentary to guitar accompaniment. Originally from the countryside. The urbanised version that we hear today is played in 2/4 or 4/4 time and is rhythmically similar to the son montuno but slower.

The modern guaracha is played in 4/4 time. The lyrics are lewd, satirical or silly providing social and political commentary.

An up–tempo dance rhythm typically 190+ bpm. All four beats are evenly accented. Member of the son rhythm group. It was the mainstay rhythm of the Latin big brass bands during 1940s. Some believe that it originated from a section of the danzón. It is also Congolese for "trouble".

An umbrella term for rhythms and styles (including rural musics) that originate mainly from the Domincan Republic. It encompasses hybrids of Merengue Cibaeño and popular western dance rhythms.

Merengue Cibaeño
A dance rhythm and style from the El Cibao region of the Dominican Republic (see separate article). Written in 2/4 or 4/4 time, it is an extremely versatile form that hybridises easily with western popular music.

A Cuban carnaval dance rhythm traditionally played with percussion instruments only.

Strictly speaking not a rhythm itself but a phase in the playing of music. In this part of the song, the melodic instruments are less prominent and the percussion takes on a more driving pulse.


Miscellaneous notes

Bpm: beats per minute as danced.

Counts: to a four beat bar would be 1–and–2–and–3–and–4–and– (vocally), in notation would be 1,1+,2,2+,3,3+,4,4+.

Call and Response: where the lead singer or drummers improvise in alternation with the chorus creating a musical dialogue.


©1999 Salsa & Merengue Society