UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

BC Salsa : identity, musicianship and performance in Vancouver's Afro-Latin orchestras Aiken, Malcolm


For over twenty-five years, musicians, dancers and singers of Afro-Latin music have maintained an active presence in the culturally diverse music scene of Vancouver, BC. During this time, the music performed and created by this group of artists has undergone dynamic changes in sound and function, reflecting a new transcultural music identity. This music, commonly referred to as salsa, is being created, performed and transformed by musicians of all backgrounds and social classes. Local composers are incorporating a variety of musical influences into their music and assimilating elements of the city’s music cultures. Today, an eclectic mix of musicians in Vancouver are creating new forms of music rooted in the Afro-Latin music traditions, and are establishing a unique contemporary musical scene. At the forefront of salsa’s local history are the Afro-Latin dance bands prominent in the city’s dance community. Their impact on the musicians and local music culture has been paramount and pivotal to the exposure of salsa to a mainstream Canadian audience. One prominent factor in the continued growth of the music has been the influence of the many non—Latino musicians who have assimilated into the salsa community as performers. Their musical and cultural influences have helped push the music in new directions and maintained the music’s relevance within the wider arts community. An ethnography of the Vancouver Afro-Latin music scene has never before been attempted. A nuanced analysis of a global salsa culture such as this, especially one outside of the Latino cultural sphere, parallels the scholarship of Roman Velasquez and Hosokawa, whose insights into the salsa communities of London and Tokyo have highlighted salsa’s global interest and presented it as a truly transnational music culture. In that framework, this study presents a history of this community at a micro level and documents its development and the musicians who shaped it. Salsa in Vancouver today reflects the dynamism and diversity of the city’s cultural landscape. The local dance bands and musicians involved in its creation and performance are reshaping its traditional sound and identity, and helping to redefine salsa as a contemporary musical genre within the global music community.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International