Here are a few of the pages that helped me compile this list:
- Alfonso Rios - www.latinmovesnz.com/dances.htm
- Vivio and Greydis - www.thecubangroove.com/dance_styles.html
Note the 3/2 rumba clave, which can easily be confused for a 2/3 son clave. Rumba has three flavours: yambo (slow), guaguanco (meduim), and columbia (fast).
Son is a more traditional style of music, of which salsa is derived from. Note the emphasis on the 1 and the 4 (across each two bars)... very characteristic of Son.
Cha Cha (Volver A Verte, Oscar De Leon)
No clave, and when the cowbell comes in, it usually hits all four beats in the bar. There is often a half beat on the 'cha cha cha' bit as well. Note how clear the guiro is when it comes to cha cha.
Guajira-Son (Amor Verdadero, Afro Cuban All-Stars)
Guajira is a syncopated country/folk style of music, which fuses 6/8 and 4/4 time signatures. It is often played by a single vocalist accompanied by a guitarist. When mixed with Son and played in slow 4/4 time, it is known as Guajira-Son. I personally have trouble distinguishing between some guajiras and cha cha, and happily dance cha to both styles :)
Son-Montuno (Dundunbanza, Sierra Maestra)... thanks to Andrei for this sample!
Not everyone agrees on what Montuno ('comes from the mountain') actually means in terms of music, or what Son-Montuno is. Montuno could mean the fast, semi-improvised section of the music near the end of the song (what musicians sometimes refer to as the mambo section), but it can also mean an accompanying piano melody as well. Either way, Son-Montuno is a fairly fast version of Son, and I can personally feel a slight cha-cha influence as well. Again, I find a cha cha feel in many son-montunos, and some people will even dance on-2 to son-montunos as well.
Nice to listen to, damn hard to dance linear salsa to!
Linear Salsa (La La La, Direct Latin Influence)
Note how simple linear salsa is... everything is constructed over a two bar phrase, with simple baselines, melodies and lyrics. Very well suited to slot-styled dancing (a quick-quick-slow or light-and-shade dance pattern, as opposed to the circular pattern of Cuban styled salsa).
Salsa with English Lyrics
Note how even though this song is sung in english, it still has been constructed/played with the clave at the heart of the music. That's why it works!
A Latin Pop Song
This is a nice song to listen to, to dance to, just don't dance salsa to it, as it doesn't have the clave as its heartbeat!
Reggaeton is a fusion of west-indian/jamacan reggae and dancehall with latin american styles such as salsa, bachata, cumbia and the like. It also has a strong rapping/hip hop influence as well. You can hear the bongos slightly in most reggaeton songs, and there is a faint implication of a clave at times too.
Salsaton (Sueltame, DLG - Deep Latin Grooves)
This is a fusion between Reggaeton and salsa. In some cases, Reggaeton will switch out for Salsa (so, less rapping, more montuno, clave, etc), and then back again (back to stronger beats, more of a hip hop feel, etc), yet in other salsaton songs, there will be a complete fusion of reggaeton and salsa throughout the entire song. Other flavours similar to Salsaton include Cumbiaton and Bachaton.
Salsa Romantica (Herida, by Brenda K Starr, from the album Te Sigo Esperando)
Salsa romantica is just a style of salsa. It tends to be quite light, with a lot of bongos and not so much jazz. The lyrics are always romantic!
Samba has a 2/4 signature, but the syncopated beats make it feel more like a 1-2-3 sort of a song (there are three steps in the samba basic). I love the big drumming in the background... it is intoxicating if you ever catch samba being played live.
Mambo - 40s/50s Style
Mambo of this style is a groovy kind of dance/music (done in the 40s, 50s, ...) which marginally resembles the salsa/mambo that is done today. However, it is slower, more centered, and can quite easily be danced entirely as a solo or as a group of individuals, as opposed to salsa which is usually a partner dance (shines excluded).
Mambo 1970s onwards
Mambo of the "new" style is a contentious issue (see this article from wikipedia). There are quite a few different terms for mambo, but when the music is referred to today, I define it as salsa music that is jazzy (New York influenced), and is fast paced from beginning to end - as if the entire song is one big mambo section of a salsa song (i.e. the section after the chorus where everyone is playing louder and faster). As for Mambo the dance (the modern version that is), well, I just classify that as salsa being danced on 2 in a linear style (so the use of "light and shade" instead of round Cuban circular turn patterns). Simple really! :)
Zouk is a fairly new kind of dance style, with music to match. However, it looks very much like a laid-back version of Lambada, which I am sure it gets its roots from. To me, zouk has roughly the same 1-2-3 feel as Reggaeton, Samba, etc.
Another dance/musical style closely related to Zouk is Kizomba. There is far too much hip movement in this dance for me to tell you anything about it. Sorry!
Note how Bachata has the same bongo pattern as salsa... it is just slowed down (and of course the congas, clave, etc are not played).
A 2/4 timing signature. What your grandparents danced to before getting married. Enough said.
To me, cumbia feels jumpy, as if we were riding a horse. I have heard that cumbia might have been named after the Andes, which themselves are very "up and down". Makes sense to me! Interestingly enough, one particular type of basic conga pattern is called "Caballo" which translates to "horse" in English. If the caballo pattern is used in Cumbia, then it is all starting to make sense as to why it feels like a jumpy style of music.
Lambada (in its modern form) grew in popularity along side salsa in the 1980s and early 90s. The dance style is similar to salsa in terms of leading and following, but the footwork is a three-step (a bit like slow samba) as opposed to a forward and back basic that salsa employs. Lambada music, in the 80s and 90s, however was bit more up-and-down compared to salsa... perhaps a little closer to cumbia. Again, anything with 2/4 or 4/4 timing works though, although in the early 80s, lambada was only really being played with 2/4 time signatures (a bit closer to merengue).