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Top 10 Salsa Songs of all Time

June 22, 2011

I’ve been asked so many times by students what music they should buy, or where to find good music to practice to, that I’ve decided to put up a list of my favourite salsa songs so people can find them to buy for themselves (or just to listen to).

If you think I’ve missed any, please comment at the bottom, and if I agree, I’ll move it onto the list :)

  1. Har-You Percussion Group – Welcome to the Party
  2. Los Titanes – Merecumbe
  3. Ray Santiago – It’s a Man’s World
  4. Ray Barretto – Indestructible
  5. Joe Arroyo – La Rebelion
  6. Oscar D’León – Lloraras
  7. Celia Cruz – Quimbara
  8. Al DeLory – Via
  9. Fruko y sus Tesos – El Preso
  10. Marc Anthony – Aguanile

For anyone looking to download these mp3s, the’re all on iTunes.

Update: I’ve since had more suggestions but I can’t bring myself to remove any of the ones I’ve already put up… so here are some more brilliant songs:

  1. Mambomania – Dame Cinco
  2. Ismael Rivera – El Cumbanchero
  3. Celia Cruz – Azucar Negra
  4. Charlie Palmieri – Either You Have It Or You Don’t
  5. Eddie Palmieri – Vamonos Pa’l Monte
  6. Ray Barretto – Trucutu
  7. Marc Anthony and India – Vivir lo Nuestro
  8. N’Klabe – I Love Salsa
  9. Luis Enrique –  Yo No Se Mañana
  10. El Timba – Hermano
  11. Eddie Torres and his Mambo Kings – Arinanara
  12. Celia Cruz – La Vida Es Un Carnaval
  13. Frankie Ruiz – Lo Dodo
  14. Frankie Ruiz – La Cura
  15. Hector Lavoe – El Cantante
  16. Jose Bello – La Palabra Amigo
  17. Fruko y Sus Teso – Cachondea
  18. Marc Anthony – Valio La Pena
  19. La India – Ese Hombre
  20. La Sonora Poncena – Yambeque
  21. Africando – Yay Voy
  22. Cuco Valoy – Juliana

From → Music

62 Comments
  1. #5 I have to agree, this would be on my list.
    Oscar is up there,
    Mambomania, not so sure about this one, too many memories of Stars on 45.

  2. brian permalink

    Fantastic list! May I suggest:

    Abran Paso – Larry Harlow / Ismael Miranda

  3. Ronnie permalink

    Hey dude, nice work.

    have a question for you?
    Why does my foot hurt…..no seriosly why is this “Joe Arroyo – La Rebelion” in your top 10?
    Dont get me wrong I love that song but I want to know? What it makes you feel?

    • I hear this song out at the clubs all the time and it has very easy to follow musicality and hits. Really fun song to dance to.
      Plus I love how the energy levels in this song keep on ramping up and up so by the end of the song everyone is going off!
      How about you?

  4. Omi permalink

    Just stop. You have already offended me beyond belief. Agaunile is by Wille Colon & Hector Lavoe, Produced by Johnny Pacheco. Its on the el cantante sountrack, but there was only 1 cantante & it’s not marc anthony.Start with Fania from the 60s & work your way down.

    1. Celia Cruz – La Vida Es Un Carnaval
    2. Willie Colon/Hector Lavoe – No Me Llores Mas
    3. Oscar De Leon – Lloraras
    4. Fania All Stars(Celia Cruz) – Quimbara
    5. Tommy Olivencia/Frankie Ruiz – Lo Dudo
    6. Hector Lavoe – Periodico De Ayer
    7. Ismael Rivera – El Negro Bembon
    8. Frankie Ruiz – La Cura
    9. Hector Lavoe – El Cantante
    10.Celia Cruz – Azucar Negra
    11. Jose Bello – La Palabra Amigo
    12. Fruko y Sus Teso – Cachondea
    13. Bobby Rodriguez – Hipocresia
    14. Mark Anthony – Valio La Pena
    15. La India – Ese Hombre

    This is me being fair. If it was up to me I would list 10 songs by Willie Colon/Hector Lavoe. They were by far the best salsa musicians. Other hits by Willie Colon include El Malo, Juana Pena, Che Che Cole, Abuelita, Oiga Senor, Mi Gente(Fania All Stars), Loco(Hector Lavoe), La Banda (Hector Lavoe).

    • Thank you so much for so many great suggestions! I’ve put a lot of them up on the post now. However, I must say that I don’t agree with all your choices, but I suppose that’s only to be expected.

      Regarding Aguanile, I was waiting for someone to push back against my choice of using Marc Anthony’s version over Hector Lavoe’s, but in my opinion, it is the clear winner. The hits are sharper, and the downtime feels more soulful. I’m sure I’ll end up in Salsa hell for saying that, but I prefer dancing to the Marc Anthony version.

      • You are banished to salsa hell.

        Where you are forced to listen to Lil Wayne and bad remakes of classic Fania songs forever

    • tejasa permalink

      shut up asshole

    • amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Thanks all for your ideas!

    I am sure though, these must be mentioned as well :)

    Salsa Celtica – Yo me voy
    Picadillo – Fania All Stars
    lluvia con nieve – mon rivera
    La Palomilla – Joe Cuba
    La33 – La Pantera Mambo
    Jimmy Sabater – Por Primera Vez
    Tito Puente – Hong Kong Mambo
    Hacha y Machete – Creacion 75
    .. and more :)

  6. Diego permalink

    Africando – Yay Boy
    Grupo Niche – Sin Sentimientos

  7. Mely permalink

    I am leaving my share here

    Gilberto Santa Rosa- Conciencia
    Grupo Chaney- Amigos
    Tommy Olivencia- La Rueda
    Rey Ruiz- Luna Negra
    El gran combo de Puerto Rico (any song from this band is good!!)
    Frankie Ruiz- Bailando

    This is the top ones that we puertorricans believe are the tops ones. Not the the only best ones (you made a very good list), but very good ones.

  8. Dude You’re crazy! All of you!!! Or most of you, anyway! LOL! Sorry! But, I grew up listening to Salsa music in the 70s! I’ve heard thousands of songs over the years! Salsa wasn’t even called “salsa” back then! I was a kid in Colombia, jamming to this music b4 most of you were even born! And for you all to not even include “La Sonora Poncena” in any of your list is such an insult to the whole music phenomenon! Let alone Salsa itself!
    Ok! Now that I got the beef out of my system, I’m calm enough to give y’all my two cents of wisdom, and take it strictly for what it’s worth! LOL! Are you ready? ok:
    My top ten list of salsa songs ever made I haven’t even thought about it, but I know the songs for 1 reason and one reason only: They’ve past the test of time with me, and strictly with me. That is, I’ve heard these song over a hundred times each, and I’ve never gotten tired of listening to them; quite the contrary, not only do I want to listen to them every time more, but they put me in a trance when I hear them. Furthermore, I can’t fathom going to heaven, or hell for that matter, if listening to them for eternity is not part of my reward/punishment: So, with that in mind, here is my list of gifts from heaven to us, miserable mortals. The first three are tied for first, so, either one is # 1:

    1- Sonora Poncena/Yambeque
    2- Grupo Niche/La Negra No Quiere
    3- Sonora Poncena/ Yare
    4- La Suprema Corte/Escombros
    5- La Sonora Matancera/ Matala
    6- Grupo Gale/Mi Vecina
    7-Africando/Ya voy
    8- Joe Arroyo/No le pegue a la negra
    9- Fruko- El Preso
    10- Cuco Valoy/Nacio Varon or Juliana

    Please forgive me for being so bias, but I probably stuck 2 or 3 songs (not more) that may not belong in the top ten, but top 20. Either way! you’ll never go wrong with these 10, for eternity, trust me!!! Having said that, my deepest respects go to so many great salsa artists from the Caribbean America, to whom justice is not being done with this stupid “Top Ten list” adjective; included but not limited to:Guayacan, Gilberto, Eddy, Oscar, Gran Combo. Please also note my lack of appreciation for certain modern artists who have contributed to popularize the genre to the masses world-wide in certain ways, which, only history will prove them (the artists) wrong and phony. And, no, I’m not talking about the great Luis Enrique at all; please!!! Peace from Texas, y’all!!!

    Armando

    • Hey Armado,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share these with me. I’ve updated my list to include these:
      * La Sonora Poncena – Yambeque
      * Africando – Yay Voy
      * Cuco Valoy – Juliana

      I already had these:
      * Joe Arroyo/No le pegue a la negra (also known as La Rebellion)
      * Fruko- El Preso

      I personally don’t agree with you for the other 5 however, and I think I know why… I agree they’re quite nice to listen to, but I’m a dancer 1st and foremost, and if I can’t enjoy dancing to a song, I won’t tend to listen to it. My dance comfort zone is approximately 90BPM and above, and most of the songs you have listed are below that threshold.

      I’m not from South America so I probably don’t get the cultural significance of some of these songs… I’m purely going from a listening and dancing point of view so I hope I don’t offend you with this.

      Thanks again for the additions, and even some of the slow ones I’ve added to my teaching playlist :)

      • Diplomatic speech .. I was temped to simply say ‘ Oh.. boring’ after listening to them :) Sorry Armano, I am sure there will be quality in those tracks but assuming Welcome to the party and Merecumbe are on the top of my list as well.. well .. the energy coming out of the song does matter for me :)
        On the other hand, it is not hard to dance well on a quick song but it is very hard to do so on a slow one.

    • Yare – so soulful

      cant forget Woody’s Blue either… underrated classic

    • carolinazhangdesigner permalink

      Amen!!!!

  9. Jordan permalink

    oye como va – tito puente

  10. hgmota permalink

    Why hasnt anyone included Ruben Blades here is beyond me (!!). If you’re only going to include one, and only one by him, then definitely ‘pedro navajas’ should be there (I’d say the whole ‘Siembra’ album for that matter). Not to mention the strong colombian bias in many lists, but hey, a top 10 is a difficult thing to put together….

  11. How come nobody included Henry Fiol? What’s wrong with you people? QUE PENA ME DA

  12. Mas Que Nada!!!!!!!!!

  13. MBA permalink

    there is a song i like that has the lyrics “meals on wheels” but i don’t know the name. do you know which song i’m referring to?

  14. Cuco Meyreles permalink

    Cuco of GPI

    When people ask me what are the Top Ten SALSA songs ever, here they are and why they are on the list:

    1. Vamonos Pa’l Monte-Eddie Palmieri-You can’t get any better afinque rythem to dance
    2. Yambeque-Sonora Poncena-It’s amazing how good only 14 words in the verses sound
    3. Pedro Navaja-Blades & Colon-This song was revolutionary
    4. Cocinando-Ray Barreto-Latin Percussion at its Best, especially the timbal playing of Oreste
    5. Ah, Ah, O no-Hector Lavoe & Willie Colon-Great sing-a-along tune
    6. Adoracion-Eddie Palmieri-What an intro!!! Salsa Gruesa!!!
    7. Un Verano en NY-El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico-Andy Monatnez was still singing for them.
    8. La Cartera-Larry Harlow-Great charanga sound
    9. Mi Dsesngano-Roberto Roena-Nice melo Salsa tune
    10. Usted Abuso-Willie Colon & Celia Cruz-Tite Curet Alonso did a great job in the translation

  15. Ray Barreto did Trucutu ?

    I thought that was Tommy Olivencia

  16. Kevin Morgan permalink

    Hi,

    I was wondering if anyone can help me out. In early 2000 there was a salsa song on the radio that I absolutely loved. It was a trio of singers. In which the new boyfriend of the girl happened to be a friend of the ex. I thought maybe Gilberto Santa rosa with some other singers.. can someone please help me find that song?

  17. Matt permalink

    Too many people smoking some funny things in this page. You should know from the get-go that this topic is always going to be subjective. I personally think you need to break it down a number of ways.
    1. Is it for dancing or for listening, or both?
    2. Do you like “old” (like the classics) or “new” salsa?
    3. Do you look at the various styles (from the range of salsa-producing countries) differently?

    Me personally –
    1. I like to listen and dance to it. 80% of the music I listen to is salsa. Some tracks work well for listening but not so much for dancing (Marc Anthony tracks for example that start slow and can take forever to “pick up” into the salsa groove, which I like to dance to but a lot of people don’t because they stand there on the dance floor looking confused!). Other tracks have a great energy to dance but don’t interest me at all to listen.

    2. I prefer newer salsa. Not so much because the older tracks aren’t good songs, but I can’t stand listening to crappy old scratchy recordings. I’m a musician and I have recorded a lot of music over the years, so my ears are pretty sensitive when it comes to the mix. If I don’t like the mix, chances are I won’t want to play the song, for dancing or for listening. And I’m not alone, I have friends (and my brother) who are the same, their ears get tired after a while of listening to the old mixes (the equalisation). A perfect example of this is a comparison you mentioned – Hector Lavoe vs Marc Anthony. I prefer to listen to the Marc Anthony versions of Hector Lavoe songs, purely because the mixing is better. The sound is more full, more contemporary. A song like El Cantante (in my top 10) is great by Hector Lavoe, and amazing by Marc Anthony. Modern recording and mixing has provided this song with a certain kind of “boost” to create an even more flavourful package. This isn’t a diss to Hector, since he is a master, but I just prefer to lean towards newer mixes. And let’s face it, Marc Anthony does an incredibly admirable job. Another example – I love Lloraras by Oscar De Leon, but I don’t listen to it or dance to it (I actually prefer to listen and dance to Llora Llora by Tego Calderon and Oscar, a reggaeton remix of Lloraras) because it’s an old scratchy mix. Great song, I play it in both of my bands, but I just don’t like the mix. Call me crazy but that’s just how I am.

    3. I would have a top 10 for each of the groups of salsa – say, Colombian, Cuban (timba), Puerto Rican (including Puerto Rican music from the USA), rest of Latin America (say, Venezuela, Panama, etc), and Mambo from the USA (I’ve probably forgotten something but these make up the majority of my music collection). This way you don’t have to group music that is significantly different – for example, my favourite Colombian bands (groups like Grupo Gale, La Sonora Carruseles, Guayacan) play vastly different music to my favourite timba groups (Timbalive, Los Van Van, etc), so why attempt to group them into the same list?

    Anyway, that’s my rant. If I had to list some awesome tracks, the list would include a few tracks by each of these bands:
    El Dinero, De Miami a la Habana, Tu Sabes Que Lo Se, Llego Mi Pasaporte – Timbalive
    Dilema, Te Va Doler – Fabian Torres
    El Reto, Descontrolame – Luis Enrique
    Te Amare, Ayudame – Huey Dunbar
    Se Le Ve, En My Puertorro – Andy Montanez
    La Agarro Bajando, Si Te Dijeron, Pero No Me Ama – Gilberto Santa Rosa
    Hasta Que Vuelvas Conmigo, Y Hubo Alguien – Marc Anthony

    Plus some stand out tracks –
    Divino – Pobre Corazon
    La Salsa Vive – Tito Nieves, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Celia Cruz
    Ni Calor Ni Frio – Oscar De Leon
    Baila Que Baila – Jose Alberto El Canario
    Llego El Sabor – Jose Alberto and Oscar De Leon

    Some other great bands/acts to mention (that I don’t think have been mentioned yet) – Mike Devito, NG2, Michel Maza, Victor Maneulle, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Tiempo Libre, Carlos Oliva, Grupo Gale, Croma Latina, Quinto Mayor, Manolito Simonet, and hey, check out what Tony Succar is doing in Miami with his Michael Jackson Tribute – sweet!

    And yeah, I’m a gringo, but before anyone questions my background – I’ve been drumming and writing music for 20 years (variety of styles), playing and dancing salsa for 4 1/2 (I run 2 latin bands), dj’ing for a couple of years – I basically live and breathe this stuff (ask my missus!). And I’m not trying to sound like a know-it-all, just wanting to expand the discussion further and give everyone some new ideas for musical enlightenment :)

  18. Rolando permalink

    Don’t waste your time with this list: the formula is easy: Take the three “monsters” of Salsa; select their three of four greates hits, and that’s it!!! Who those are? Easy man: Wille Colon & Hector Lavoe, Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto. I leave for you to pick the best of each one, but if left to me this is my list:

    1) Vamonos Pa’l Monte – Eddie Palmieri
    2) La Malanga – Eddie Palmieri
    3)Muneca – Eddie Palmieri
    4) Quitate la Mascara – Ray Barreto
    5) Mirame de Frente – Ray Barreto
    6) La Hipocresia y la Falsedad – Ray Barreto
    7) Che-Che-Cole Willie Colon
    8) Ghana’e Willie Colon
    9) La Murga – Wille Colon
    10) Quitate Tu – Fanial All Stars (can’t simply leave this one out)

    Ouchhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

  19. steven rodriguez permalink

    La Murga (feat. Willie Colon) Hector Lavoe,
    Mi Libertad Frankie Ruiz, Lloraras Oscar D’leon, Pedro Navaja Willie Colon & Rubén Blades, Lluvia Eddie Santiago, Dejala Tito Gomez & Tito Rojas, Se me fue El Gran Combo, Triste y Vacia (feat. Willie Colon) Hector Lavoe, Tu con el Frankie Ruiz, Conteo Regresivo (salsa version) Gilberto Santa Rosa are all essentials and some of the best!

  20. bob permalink

    i see alot of ricans on the list ,fania went to cuba and irakere sat them down

  21. bob permalink

    johnny pacheco … la salsa es y siempre sera la musica cubana, by the way all the list ive seen are great .List are all personel opinion to many great songs to dificult to critique unless you guy on popularity ,los van van should be on anybodys list el gran combo irakere orquesta aragon so many

  22. bob permalink

    #1 pedro navaja yall choose the rest

  23. melvin permalink

    NO Gran Combo!!!!!!!!!!! Travesty

  24. Rafy LaSalSa permalink

    5 6 and 9 are the only songs in this list that is 100% ok, the other are sooooo wrong incredible wrong.

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  32. Mikey permalink

    First off just like omi said, aguanile isn’t Marc Anthony’s song and that’s the misconception. So with that I wouldn’t value your list at all. Clearly you do not know what you’re talking about. All that “down beat” this and that is bull. They sped up the tempo a bit and the production is a bit clear and as it should be … Marc Anthony is a good singer but can’t be compared to Hector and has no place in a top ten list for salsa. In my opinion. But this is your list and your opinion, so, good for you.

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  49. Ray permalink

    I’m looking for a salsa song, not exactly sure what it’s called but I heard it at Salsa on St. Clair street festival in Toronto this past weekend and the crowd went craaaaaaazy (in a good way :)

    The chorus is pretty catchy and its a sing-a-long per say. The chorus included ” La La La La La”.
    Seems like a throwback salsa song, but I’m not exactly sure, I may be wrong. The song is sung by a man.

    If anyone knows this song, let me know!
    Thanks =)

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