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Sounding Salsa:Performing Latin Music in New York City by Chris Washburne

Washburne is a NYC based trombonist with a great deal of experience in playing salsa in NYC area clubs and in touring groups. He has written a combination of a personal memoir of his experiences and an ethnographic study of salsa.

Washburne’s paragraph structure is often overly long, and the combination of this tendency and a relatively long and uninteresting introduction provide a very slow start. However, as soon as Washburne gets into the gist of the book the interesting aspects come to the fore, and the book is thereafter informative, quickly paced, and interesting. The book gives a brief history of salsa in NYC and Puerto Rico, an explanation of the circumstances that a professional salsa musician manages, thoughts on the relation of violence, drugs, and gender to the salsa scene, and an especially worthwhile discussion of clave with notated musical examples.

The section regarding the relationship of salsa to various specific nationalities and Latin-Americans as a broader group is particularly insightful. The gender section rightfully depicts the typical salsa group as having the gender ratio of a rugby team and the audience as being very well mixed. Washburne’s comments about gender in salsa are worthy of consideration despite overemphasis on the career of La India, one of the book’s few weaknesses after the introduction.

The book should be of interest to those with any level of interest in salsa from novices to musicians and aficionados.

Originally Published