Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, Latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.
About Different Types of Salsa Music
There are many different kinds of salsa music, ranging from fast to slow, and I've tried to make this list representative of that variety. I will admit that I am biased towards faster tropical salsa songs since I feel that they are more exciting and fun to dance to. Generally, Puerto-Rican and Cuban salsa are on the faster side compared to other types of salsa.
Here is a list of the artists featured in this article and their respective nationalities/countries of origin so you can get a better understanding of what different salsa styles are like:
- Cuba: Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan
- Colombia: Grupo Niche
- Puerto Rico: Marc Anthony, El Gran Combo, Victor Manuelle, Tito Puente
So as you can see, most of the tropical salsa comes from Puerto Rico, and that's what it's known for.
Of course, there are other kinds of salsa styles from other countries, so don't think that this list is comprehensive. Salsa music can be fun and uplifting, sensual and erotic (even with sexually explicit content), or it can be sad and melancholy and about lost love and heartbreak.
I recommend you experiment with listening to different kinds of salsa music to find the kind you like most. Personally, my favorite is the fast and happy kind because it gets me excited about dancing and puts a smile on my face.
For those of you who know how to dance (or are learning how to), all of these are meant to be danced "on 1," (but you could probably dance them "on 2" if you wanted).
About This List of Songs
I've tried to compile a list of tropical salsa songs that are either really fun and/or romantic and upbeat that put you in a positive and happy mood. All of the songs are either about enjoying life, having fun with salsa, or being in love. This is a great list for when you want to cheer up your day, get excited about going out, or actually dance salsa!
Even though most of these songs are faster, that doesn't make them any less fun to dance to! Don't be afraid of the speed if you are not an advanced salsa dancer; instead, use it to challenge yourself to become an even better dancer!
1. "Cali Panchanguero" by Grupo Niche
I straight-up love this salsa song by Grupo Niche, I never get tired of listening to it, and I've danced to it dozens of times over the years. It always puts me in a salsa-dancey mood whenever I hear and gets me up and moving!
This song can definitely be good for salsa beginners, with or without slowing it down a bit. I like this music video because it's got different footage of salsa dancing and people just being happy with life. Definitely some fun dancing ideas in there. Anyway, I'm sure you'll love this song just as much as I do!
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2. "Ella Lo Que Quiere Es Salsa" by Victor Manuelle ("What She Wants Is Salsa" or "She Wants Salsa")
I love this song because it's very flirty and playful, and I always like to imagine myself as "ella" in the song, which gets me to ramp up my dancing whenever this song is playing. My dance partner also likes this song because he knows how much fun I have with it. There's a lot of good opportunities to do salsa shines, which I love.
This song is good for salsa beginners, all the way to more advanced dancers. I'm an on-1 salsa dancer and find that this song fits the bill well. It has a really clear beat that makes it easy to keep track of the music and isn't too fast or too slow.
3. "La Vida Es Un Carnaval" by Celia Cruz ("Life Is a Carnival")
I love this song by Celia because it's really happy and upbeat and reminds you to laugh and have a good time and not to worry about stuff. The beat can be a little tricky to follow, so I recommend practicing dancing salsa to it a few times before you hit the club with it. I'll admit that it does have a little bit of a cumbia feel, so you can do the back-rock salsa basic to this song instead of the forward and back/progressive salsa basic. Even if you don't end up dancing to this song, it's still really nice to listen to.
4. "Me Libere" by El Gran Combo
I love this song because it's very uplifting, and the beat always energizes me and makes me feel like dancing salsa whenever I hear it. This song is a bit faster, so I might not recommend it for beginners without slowing it down or practicing the basic a lot first so you're really good at it and able to count the beat well. But it is a good salsa song for intermediate and advanced on-1 dancers.
5. "Mi Tierra" by Gloria Estefan
This song is a good one for beginner salsa dancers because it's a bit slower, and the beat is pretty clear, so it shouldn't be a significant challenge to count while you're dancing. Even if you're an intermediate or advanced dancer, you can still appreciate the song because the lyrics are really nice and emotionally moving. There's also plenty of opportunities to do salsa shines and poses/tricks during the song.
6. "Quimbara" by Celia Cruz
I love this salsa song because it's really fast and crazy and a great opportunity to do a lot of salsa shines and just go all-out with your dancing—great for intermediate and advanced on-1 salsa dancers, but probably not the best song for beginners. I love to dance this song with other advanced salsa dancers and just be free with our dancing and really do a lot of improvisation and body rolls and tricks and things.
7. "Ran Kan Kan" by Tito Puente
I love this salsa song because of its energy and playful lyrics, and fun instrumentals. It can be danced on-1 or on-2, or used for mambo, but I usually dance on-1 because my on-2 salsa isn't that strong yet. I think that this song can be good for salsa beginners but can be a lot of tricky because of all the bridges and pauses and other musical inconsistencies.
I'd definitely recommend this song for intermediate or advanced salsa dancers, especially because there's a lot of room for salsa shines and tricks and dramatic styling and improvisation once you get to know the song after listening to it more than once. Definitely a lot of fun to dance salsa to!
8. "Sin Salsa Nay Hay Paraiso" by El Gran Combo ("Without Salsa There is No Paradise")
Personally, for me, I feel like this song embodies what salsa dancing means to me. The title and lyrics "Sin Salsa No Hay Paraiso" translate to English to "Without salsa, there is no paradise." I love that this song talks about the universality of salsa and how people all over the world dance it. I'm sure that just about any serious salsa dancer can relate to the lyrics of this song.
This is a good on-1 salsa song and has a clear beat, making it good for beginners. For intermediate and advanced salsa dancers this song is fun to dance to just because of the lyrics and its message. There are also some musical opportunities to do some salsa shines or tricks if you want to.
9. "Tu Amor Me Hace Bien" by Marc Anthony ("Your Love Does Me Good")
I love this salsa song to listen to or dance to because the lyrics are really nice and romantic and sweet. This would be a good salsa song for beginners because it's not too fast, and the beat is pretty consistent. I would dance this song on-1 and not on-2.
This song is also good for intermediate and advanced dancers if they want to take it easy and just enjoy listening to the song while dancing and take it easy and not be all fast and crazy. I also enjoy listening to this song in my car or on my iPod when I'm not out on the dance floor.
10. "Vivir Mi Vida" by Marc Anthony ("Live My Life")
I straight-up love this salsa song and the lyrics Marc Anthony sings. This song is all about celebrating life and enjoying life, which always puts me in a good mood when I hear it, especially when I'm in a slump and not feeling so great. I definitely recommend this song for after-breakups because it's really empowering and motivating, and energizing. I would definitely dance this song on-1 and am not sure how good it would be to dance on-2.
This song is really fast and kinda crazy to dance salsa to, so I don't recommend this song to salsa beginners. This song is better for intermediate or advanced salsa dancers and definitely gives you a workout when you dance it at full speed, but it's a blast, and all the craziness leaves you feeling satisfied at the end of it, knowing you made it through.
What did you think of this list? Leave your comments here!!
Leopoldo Brentano on July 18, 2020:
LAOC.RUMBA on March 28, 2019:
You have led somemany outside frome your list? For a sample Oscar de leon .Benny more.Eddy palmier. RUBEN BLADES. Hector lavoe. Eddy santiago Gilberto santarosa.joe Arroyo. El gallo dela salsa.el canario.plus etc.etc.
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on May 13, 2018:
Awesome, glad to hear that, thank you!
Mewilson80 on May 08, 2018:
Best List on the internet - thank you!
Stefan Freedman on September 16, 2016:
Great list - thanks.
Brandon The One from Southern california on November 17, 2014:
I found this very interesting, great article.