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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 (N–Z)

The 1960s incarnation of the chachachá, still played by the charanga bands. Its signature is a conga pattern called "caballo" (literally meaning "horse").

A Puerto Rican music and dance form, used as a vehicle for social and political commentary. Traditional plenas include the pandereta, a tambourine–like frame drum without the jangles. Normally played in 4/4 time, and has no clave.

Also known as Merengue Palo Echao. The most enduring variant after Merengue Cibaeño, and still practised today. Found in the east and south of the Dominican Republic, it is a rhythm and dance performed to 12/8 time.

Rumba Abierta
General term used to describe rumbas played at up–tempo.

Rumba Columbia
Originating in the countryside, it is performed by a single male dancer. It is up–tempo and played in 6/8 time. Sung in a mixture of African and Spanish.

Rumba rhythm group
Secular music and dance performed at informal gatherings. All members of this group have 4/4 time unless specified otherwise. They obey a five–beat syncopated pattern over two bars of music called rumba clave. All rumbas operate a call–and–response pattern between lead singers, drummers, and drums. In order of speed the better known rumba types are: yambú, guaguancó, Rumba Columbia, and Rumba Abierta.

An umbrella term encompassing a myriad of mid to up–tempo Afro–Cuban and Latin rhythms and styles including: chachachá, mambo, son, cumbia, guajira, guaracha, songo, which may sound similar to untrained ears. For a more detailed treatment, look up the separate article.

A style of music where the performers originally improvised their lyrics as social commentary. Based on melodic lines from the west, particularly Spain, and rhythms from Africa.

Son Montuno
The most famous variant of the son after its urbanisation, arguably when it was performed by septeto or conjunto bands. In this instance, montuno refers to the mountains in eastern Cuba.

Son rhythm group
All members of this group have 4/4 time and obey a five–beat syncopated pattern over two bars of music called son clave. These rhythms include son, bolero, chachachá, and mambo.

A fusion of elements of rumba, son, jazz and funk. The bands playing this style usually bear electronic instrumentation. The development of songo is attributed to Juan Formell and his band Los Van Van.

Originating in the cities, it is probably the oldest rumba form and is performed by couples. Also called Rumba de Cajón (box rumba) because the percussion used to be played on wooden boxes similar to flamenco. It is slow to mid–tempo in 4/4 time and sung in Spanish.

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