The following list offers some of the greatest Salsa songs ever recorded. This compilation does not pretend to be a fixed ranking but rather an opportunity to explore some of the sounds that have shaped Salsa music throughout history. I hope this list of top Salsa songs helps you to discover the essence of one of the most vibrant rhythms in Latin music.
Joe Cuba Sextet & Cheo Feliciano - "El Raton"
An iconic song in Salsa music and one of the top hits from Joe Cuba, "El Raton" offers a soft piano introduction that brings an air of mystery into a melody that soon after becomes an authentic ecstasy of sounds. A wonderful track to fully appreciate the talent of Cheo Feliciano, one of the best Salsa singers of all time.
Gilberto Santa Rosa - "Conciencia"
Even though modern Salsa tends to be quite different from the old classic stuff, there are artists who still preserve the rhythm's original flavor. One of these artists is Gilberto Santa Rosa. "Conciencia," the song that transform this Puerto Rican singer into a Salsa superstar, reflects the artist's attention to maintain the essence of Salsa music.
Justo Betancourt - "P'a Bravo Yo"
If there is a song that achieved everything Salsa is all about, that song is "P'a Bravo Yo." With the marvelous voice of the Cuban singer Justo Betancourt, "P'a Bravo Yo" is an explosion from beginning to end. Without any doubt, one of the greatest Salsa songs in history, and an ideal track for a good Latin party.
La Sonora Ponceña - "Yambeque"
An institution in Salsa music, La Sonora Ponceña has been shaping the sounds of Salsa since the 1950s. "Yambeque" is one of the top Salsa songs this Puerto Rican band has produced. Look out for the fantastic percussion solo in the middle of it.
Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz - "Sonido Bestial"
This track from the legendary Salsa duo is one of the most innovative pieces ever recorded in the history of the genre. With this song, Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz consolidated one of the most exhilarating sounds in Salsa music. Look out for the sounds of the trumpets, Richie Ray's amazing classical piano playing, and the closing percussion segment. A masterpiece!
Oscar D'Leon - "Lloraras"
The 'Lion of Salsa,' Oscar D'Leon is Venezuela's best Salsa singer and one of the greatest voices of this rhythm. "Lloraras" is a short song with an exuberant beat that keeps you dancing from beginning to end.
Fania All Stars - "Quitate Tu"
In a way, "Quitate Tu" became the song that covered everything that the Fania All Stars did. This single brought together the best voices of the Fania phenomenon becoming one of the greatest Salsa songs of all time especially after the band's unforgettable live performance at the Cheetah club in New York City.
Ismael Rivera - "Las Caras Lindas"
Better known as 'El Sonero Mayor,' Ismael Rivera is considered one of the most creative singers in Salsa music. His particular voice and his honest, simple way of singing allowed Rivera to create a brand around himself. "Las Caras Lindas," a single that highlights the pride of his Afro-American roots, is by far one of his most popular Salsa songs.
Hector Lavoe - "Mi Gente"
To many, Hector Lavoe is considered the most important Salsa singer in history. His unique nasal voice and the feeling he used to incorporate into his songs made of him one of the greatest personalities in Salsa. One of his most famous hits is "Mi Gente," a song that captured Salsa fans all over the world.
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico - "El Menu"
There is a reason why El Gran Combo is known as 'The University of Salsa.' Decades of great music has transformed this Puerto Rican band in one of the most beloved names in Salsa. "El Menu," an iconic track that came to represent everything El Gran Combo is all about, has been always considered one of the band's very best songs.
Ruben Blades - "Pedro Navaja"
This single was released with the legendary album Siembra, a musical production recorded by Willie Colon and Ruben Blades, which ended up moving to history as one of the essential albums in Latin music. Because of its lyrics, music and overall innovation, "Pedro Navaja" has been widely considered one of the greatest Salsa songs ever recorded. In fact, Salsa critics have always referred to this single as an important step in the evolution of Salsa music. "Pedro Navaja" is probably the best story ever told in a Salsa single and the musical progression that goes along with the lyrics is plain fantastic.