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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Salsa Music on the African Continent


Our mission is to bring salsa music back to its African roots.
---Grupo Africando, Senegal--West Africa
I was first introduced to Grupo Africando salsa band by an Afro-Colombian DJ at Kimballs Carnival night club in Emeryville, CA. As I was looking over their CD's liner notes, I saw their mission statement: our mission is to bring salsa music back to its African roots. I thought that statement was on point, considering how the roots of salsa music began with African slaves of the Spanish on the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico. I became a fan of Africando ever since. On the other hand, I'm also a fan of African pop music such as soukous in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and have always marveled at some of the similarities between popular African music and salsa.

Cuban music has been popular in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1940s as Afro-Cuban groups began performing in the Congo area as a result of a renown radio station based in Kinshasa, then known as LĂ©opoldville, the capital. As time passed, Congolese bands started creating their own original Cuban-like compositions with lyrics sung in French or Lingala, a tribal language of the western Congo region. The Congolese called this new music rumba.. African musicians in various parts of the continent used electric guitars to improvise and gave Cuban music its own regional flavor, gradually spreading out from the Congo resulting in the establishment of several different distinct regional genres, such as soukous. The re-working of Afro-Cuban rhythmic patterns by Africans brings the rhythms full circle, i.e, back to its African roots.