Top 10 Best Salsa Songs of all Time

What exactly is Salsa music?

It’s Spanish of course! And according to Merriam Webster, it literally means sauce.

The unique sauce called Salsa music, cooked up in NYC’s Latino communities, reached its peak in the 1970s and went on to conquer the world’s dance floors and concert halls.

Salsa is an infectious blending of Afro-Cuban rhythms, call and response vocal sections and other elements of jazz, including soloists and big brass arrangements.

It also spawned an entire genre of dance styles practiced by millions today.

“Salsa, hybrid musical form based on Afro-Cuban music but incorporating elements from other Latin American styles. It developed largely in New York City beginning in the 1940s and ’50s, though it was not labeled salsa until the 1960s; it peaked in popularity in the 1970s in conjunction with the spread of Hispanic cultural identity. The term salsa also refers to a dance that is associated with the music.”

Encyclopedia Britannica

Here is a top ten list of what the New Music World team think are the best Salsa songs of all time.

These were chosen from the classic era of salsa music and brought to the world most notably by an ensemble named The Fania All Stars for Fania Records.


Mi Gente

mi gente

Hector Lavoe, The Fania All Stars

 MY PEOPLE!!!! Mi Gente. The Fania All Stars created Salsa!

This is an anthem. It contains all the elements of a salsa song.  Listen to the call and response of the singer and the choir; the brass section solos, the snaking rhythm of the piano locked into the drums and bass.

  “Te Cante Mi Gente” “I Sing to You My People”  You go Hector Lavoe!

Héctor Juan Pérez Martínez (30 September 1946 – 29 June 1993), better known as Héctor Lavoe, was a Puerto Rican salsa singer.

Lavoe is considered to be possibly the best and most important singer and interpreter in the history of salsa music because he helped to establish the popularity of this musical genre in the decades spanning the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Listen to it here.


La ViDa es Un Carnival

celia cruz

Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz is the Queen of Salsa! She is another powerhouse Latin singer that came out of the The Fania All Stars collection of artists at Fania records.

A much loved performer, Life is  A Carnival from her 1998 release says it all.

Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso (21 October 1925 – 16 July 2003), known as Celia Cruz, was a Cuban-American singer and one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century.

Cruz rose to fame in Cuba during the 1950s as a singer of guarachas, earning the nickname “La Guarachera de Cuba”.

In the following decades, she became known internationally as the “Queen of Salsa” due to her contributions to Latin music in the United States. 

Listen to it here.


Pedro Navaja

Ruben Blades

“Pedro Navaja” (English: Peter Blade) is a salsa song written and performed by Rubén Blades from the 1978 collaboration with Willie Colón .

A slick story set in the NYC of the 70s.

This song was voted among Billboards Top 100 Salsa Songs of all times.

Ruben is an artist thst you MUST listen to in order to see his influence on the breadth and depths of latin music.

Listen to it here.


Las Caras Lindas

ismael rivera

Ismael Revera

Known as the Mayor of Song, Ismael Rivera was born in Puerto Rico.

Las Caras Lindas speaks of Mr Rivera’s tireless work as an advocate for Latin people and people of color.

Listen to it here.


Asi Hes La Vida

willie colon

Willie Colon

Born in the Bronx, New York to Purto Rican parents, Willie rose to fame as a trombonist. He was signed to the Fania artist roster at the age of 15. Prodigy!

Listen to it here.


Vamonos Pa’l Monte

eddie palmiera

Eddie Palmieri

Considered by many to be the greatest jazz salsa bandleader and pianist of his era, Eddie Palmieri digs in on this smoking Fania All Stars label release.

On Let’s go To The Mountain ( Vamanos Pal Monte) Eddie takes us for a rollicking, handclapping trek up. You’ll be dancing all the way!

Listen to it here.


Sonido Bestial

Sonido Bestial

Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz

Released at the height of the Salsa rage in 1971, this smash hit combined fiery piano technique with great horn arrangements, that classic salsa piano tumbao, and suave Spanish call and response vocalizations.

Listen to it here.


Llorarás

Llorarás

Oscar D’Leon

Known as El Faraón de la salsa (the pharaoh of salsa) Oscar de Leon sings “  Lloras”, arguably his biggest hit. He shaved his head but kept his mustache as a trademark throughout his life.

Listen to it here.


Oye Como Va

Oye Como Va

Tito Puente

Yup. Everyone knows this classic but most are unaware that Titio Puente wrote it. He probably thanks Carlos Santana and everyone else who recorded it at least once a day.

Listen to it here.


Soy La Ley

Soy La Ley

Pete El Conde Rodriguez

The 1979 hit, Soy La Ley (I Am The Law), leaves no doubt as to who was a defining force behind Fania’s musical output. 

Pete El Conde Rodriguez recorded 7 albums for the Fania All Stars between 1964 – 1973. He went on to have a successful solo career with multiple top ten Salsa hits.

Listen to it here.


Final Notes

Listen to these on repeat for a few hours and you’ll be a Salsa afficianado in no time flat!

Enjoy!

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