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SON

 

Let us begin our dance journey  with son, one of the earliest Cuban music forms. 

Most music historians agree that the Cuban son is the backbone for contemporary salsa and was probably the most popular dance music genre to emerge from Cuba during the early 20th century. Son developed in the late 1800’s in the  mountainous Oriente province, located in the eastern regions of Cuba. Son began as an Afro-Cuban popular dance of the rural working classes and was performed with percussion alone.   Son is believed to be the first musical genre to use drums played with bare hands. Music historian Vernon Boggs notes that Son possesses numerous African musical influences including syncopated rhythms and melodic line that had no connection to the underlying percussion.   

                                                                Text Box:  You can hear a  wonderful example of the slow country style of son in the song “Chan Chan”, a recent composition of Cuban music legend, Compay Segundo.  The song explores the enduring love and passion of a Cuban peasant couple.

     Son, the dance, starts with a very formal,  closed embrace of the man and woman. The couple maintains a very upright frame, with quick flirtatious  side to side movements of the shoulders, torso and hips accenting the underlying six count rhythm of the feet .  Since son is danced off the beat (a.k.a “contratempo”) the couple moves on the half beat before one.  So leader moves left and holds on the “and-one” beat , moves right on  the “two” beat and left on the “three” beat.  This results in a slow-quick-quick, slow-quick-quick rhythmic pattern.  Salsa dancers will recognize that this style is the exact opposite of the quick-quick-slow rhythmic pattern work of modern day salsa.   

Sources:

  Rebecca Mauleon, The Salsa Guidebook

  F.  Figueroa, Encyclopedia of Latin American Music

  Vernon Boggs, Salsiology

 P. Manuel, Popular Music of the Non-Western World

           


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