How is Salsa music doing? The answer depends on who you ask. While Salsa Congresses are proliferating all over the world, Salsa bands are struggling to find work! Why is this discrepancy?
The reason for the discrepancy is that Salsa Congresses and Salsa music are not connected. It seems like a contradiction, but the facts led me to this conclusion.
A couple of musicians that I’ve interviewed this year for Latino Music Cafe have agreed that Salsa Congress dancers don’t care about the music. I think they are right. One of them gave me an example of a Salsa Congress attendee that didn’t recognize La Sonora Ponceña. But to me the best evidence is that these are two different communities.
Salsa Dancing Community vs. Salsa Music Fans
Most of Salsa Congress attendees are in for the dancing, not the Salsa music. I’ve gone to events where the dancers line up to dance as if in Country music. The 1st time I saw this my jaw dropped to the floor. “What the heck are they doing?” I asked myself in disbelief. For this exercise, it really doesn’t matter who is playing or what they are playing. The music is an excuse to show what they learned at dance school.
This is totally different than Salsa fans that see an old photo of La Sonora Ponceña on a Facebook group and reminisce on the good old days when Toñito Ledee was signing and Little Johnny Rivero played the congas (I was one of those). This type of Salsa fans go dancing because a particular band is playing, not regardless of who is playing. They follow their favorite bands, and in the process learn of new good ones that are alternating with their favorite. They go to concerts and buy CDs. This is a different persona than the Salsa Congress dancer.
Convert Salsa Dancers into Salsa Music Fans
So for Salsa Congress dancers, I believe the music really doesn’t matter, as long as it has a beat to dance to. Perhaps Salsa artists need to see this community as an opportunity to convert some of these dancers into fans.
When Salsa artist participate in Salsa Congresses, they must realize that even though they may be dragging some fans along, many in attendance are not true Salsa fans. Sharing a little knowledge about Salsa music, it’s roots, it’s history, and some anecdotes regarding past Salsa legends throughout their presentations, may go a long way to convert Salsa Congress dancers into Salsa music fans.