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aaron luis levinson is not only the producer of baby loves salsa, but also the proud owner of a grammy for his 2006 recording of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra which won "best salsa album of the year" by the national academy of recording arts & sciences. his list of great musical accomplishments is long (google him) as is his list of great human accomplishments. you can't google humanity - but take it from me - they broke the mold when they made this guy. anyway, we asked him to school you moms and dads on some simple salsa stuff to make your world more musically delicious.

By now you have sunk your teeth into the delectable morsel that is Baby Loves Salsa. for all you people that are now curious about this amazing music Andy and Heather asked me to write a little blog that gives you some insider tips on where you can go to peep more cool info, music and video about Salsa music. So here goes!

sobre la music (about the music)
bailar, bailar, bailar (dance, dance, dance)
llego la television (here comes the television)
what is salsa anyway?
the major figures
where to pick it up
the benchmark of salsa

For those of you that like digging into the people that made Salsa music happen in the first place I have got to direct you to DESCARGA.COM. While this site is the foremost net-based site for selling Salsa music CD's, DVD's and books they are also a great resource for learning through first hand interviews. These interviews are funny, insightful and revealing and available nowhere else (they even have one or two with lil' ol' me).

More killer history lessons and factoids about Salsa music and the quirky and crazy talented peeps that made it happen here and around the world can be found at another great site *Salsaclasica.com (click on the English button to translate the page)

Of course the music is great to listen to at home, at at a concert, or in the car but in order to really get the full effect you gotta see people DANCE to this music. If you think you've seen good dancers before be prepared to have your mind BLOWN: SalsaNewYork.com is the foremost spot to find out about salsa dancing in New York City.

My friend Chris Soto is a great dancer, a talented producer and a vital proponent of the US salsa dance community. He has a killer site that you gotta check out to learn more about the Salsa dance scene in Miami, Boston and other major metropolitan centers: themamboproject.com

Another good site for events and networking is the borntosalsa.com site. This site is a linchpin for the dancing community and you can just drop in and get a great update on all kinds of salsa events.

For many of the salsa dance insiders this is their go to site. Expect to get the lowdown on clubs, CD's, events and all kinds of other great stuff. You must check out the videos they are blazing: salsadynasty.com

At the top of the heap for many is iMambo.tv This is a great site to get started with Salsa dancing videos and other goodies.

But hot on its heels is Nuevotec.com which also has tons of video and at least for me is a bit more user friendly than some other sites out there. You might be surprised at how international the scene has become...

And last but certainly not least is everyone's old favorite, the standby, the original and still champeen, youtube. Yes, good old youtube has a ton of Salsa content and frankly if you like music performance video this is really the place to be. Just type in the following names to the search window and get ready for some seriously explosive and radioactive footage: Celia Cruz, Ismael Rivera, Arsenio Rodriguez, Jimmy Bosch, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Jose Conde, Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe and be prepared to get on the Salsa Express...tickets are still available.

Salsa of course means sauce in Spanish and many folks think that the name is fine cause it summons up the idea of many tasty ingredients blended together to end up with one consistently delicious outcome. Others think the name is misleading and that all the "ingredients" are really a fully-formed tradition that has been slickly renamed for marketing purposes alone. But setting aside this debate I think that all agree that in the end the performers who make up both the historical and contemporary tradition are some pretty wicked artists. Stretching back to the Big Three (Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Machito) the Latin big band has emerged for most people as the most identifiable sound of Salsa. But that is just one impression and it could be equally argued that such smaller formats as the tumbao, conjunto and sexteto have all played an important role in making Salsa what it has become today. The music today is now a hugely popular form in Europe, Asia and Africa in addition to its traditional popularity in the Caribbean as well as North and South America. Like jazz most of the pioneers of the form are getting up in age if they have not actually passed away but the tradition is kept very much alive by neo-traditionalists, experimentalists and the vast majority who rest somewhere in between the two. In its simplest form Salsa marries African derived rhythms with Spanish melodies and language and mixes these two traditions up with instruments that hail largely from Cuba and Western Europe. Other countries like Puerto Rico and to a lesser extent Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and Peru have all contributed something important to the development of Salsa both as performers and consumers of this musical and dance-based form. Today however we find Salsa clubs in Tel Aviv and Tokyo and Texas and the cross section of people practicing the form both as dancers and players mirrors this new global diversity and interest.

As mentioned many people regard at least in the US Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Machito as the pivotal three dance band leaders who ushered in the Salsa era in the mid-60's. But such legendary artists like Arsenio Rodriguez, Mongo Santamaria, Beny More, Lily Martinez and of course the Queen of Salsa the incredible Celia Cruz all of Cuban heritage must be acknowledged as playing just as important (if not more) role as their American-based counterparts. Eventually many leading lights like Arsenio, Celia and Mongo would all end up here in the United States but the pride and love for their homeland and its magic never wavered for a moment. By the 70's Nuyorican artists like Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon and Ray Barretto as well as Sonora Poncena and Ismael Rivera who remained based in Puerto Rico began to add their own incredible range of influences to the Salsa formula and a whole new audience emerged that was asian, black and white alongside the obvious Latin core constituency. While salsa is no longer the music of Latin teenagers and young people as rock and rap have been for the non-Latin community the music has attracted adherents in many corners of the world and this internationalized base keeps the form very much alive and kicking in the early 21st century. Today artists like Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Jimmy Bosch and Oscar De Leon on the one hand and emerging voices like La Excellencia and Hector "Papote" Jimenez on the other all point to a mature musical that is still very much in vibrant health and gaining magnetic energy each day.

Well of course the obvious places for Salsa music are Amazon.com for physical goods and iTunes for downloads but to be honest while these outlets may be of some use there are more specialized sites that really help people dig much deeper into the goldmine and learn something along the way. For digital delivery we recommend that you visit the eMusic site as they have a very deep and unusual catalog of independent releases from a very wide array of artists. For physical goods from around the world we suggest that you set your browser to www.descarga.com and prepared to be amazed by the staggering selection of music available from this outlet. But if you are ever in New York we also suggest visiting stores like /Record Mart/ located in the Times Square subway station. But also pay a leisurely visit to the great /Casa Latina/ located at 151 East 116th Street in the heart of Spanish Harlem.

While many labels have been key players in the dissemination of tropical latin music recordings the one that is forever looked at as the home of Salsa records is Fania records. From the Fania All Stars to Celia and Tito Puente, Fania was the most significant force in breaking the sound of Salsa music to an international audience. If you want to just dip your toe in the pool it is suggested that you begin with the greatest hits compilations made by Fania today as a great starting point for your journey. From superior sound quality and liner notes to well-executed packaging the new Fania catalog does a great job of getting a newly minted salsero ready to Rumba. If you wish to go back a bit further into history we strongly urge you to listen to music by Beny More, Miguelito Cuni, Olga Guillot and many other men and women of Cuban birth who are among the finest and most influential artists of the 20th century. Other important labels for tropical Latin music include Gema, Alegre, SMC, Bronco and Tico. To learn more about these individual artists we suggest searching the amazing descarga.com archives for many great interviews and articles as well perusing the following artists links:

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