Latin Song Philosophy from a Dj/Instructor

So, what goes into choosing songs? There are songs that are popular that are easy to pick for dancing, and that is a trap that many instructors and djs fall into. Hey! You play it as a dj and everyone dances to it, so why not use it? As an instructor it is easy to pick a cha cha cha and use it instead of searching for a slow enough song, or manipulate a song to slow/increase the tempo for class instead of leaving it at the tempo that the artist/band.

I refuse to fall into that trap. As a dj and instructor I realize that some familiarity with what is played helps a lot of people who come out, but that doesn’t mean that 70-90% of the songs I use are used over and over again.

I am passionate about the Latin dance and music universe that is so vast (wide and deep) that we often only carve a small portion of that for ourselves and stick to what is easy to familiar. As a dj and instructor I seek to expose those who already participate in this community to what is beyond our “home town” – the wide blue yonder. And I also wish to increase the strength and vitality of the Latin dance/music community by increasing membership. One way I do this is through what songs I play.

One example: La Matricula by Giraldo Piloto and Klimax.  A timba song that can be heard on youtube at

This song has a steady and clear beat that can be used in class, either for salsa or casino de rueda. In terms of timba, it isn’t a hardcore song, and so is accessible to those more comfortable with cuban salsa/salsa. Those who do Argentine tango like this, so it has a broader cross-genre appeal to attract those who may be more comfortable with something other than salsa, which brings up something else. The song has an interesting twist to it, that some people either connect with unknowingly, or by recognizing it.

La Matricula seems to have a backbeat referring to “Peter and the Wolf”, a Russion children’s story, played by an orchestra, and written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936. Each animal is played by a different instrument. It is a classic.

Wikipedia article:

One youtube link to get you started: 

Giraldo Piloto of Klimax is also a pivotal figure in the Cuban salsa music scene, starting with the band NG La Banda, and to find out more about him and Klimax check out and

As you can see one song can bring a wealth of opportunities if chosen well.  Some other quick songs to throw out there are Nganga Kisi by Ricardo Lemvo from the Sao Salvador album, Tras Tormenta by Arnaldo Y Su Talisman, Chin Chon Chow from Snowboy AfroCuban Kaleidoscope.  Perhaps, I’ll explore these and other songs in more detail another day?

So, when choosing a song I look to find something that hasn’t been played often in my area, or that is unknown yet still is accessible, broadening the community’s knowledge of the Latin dance/music universe.  I also search for something that can appeal beyond just the core group of Latin dancers.

Timbaton – Tras La Tormenta – After the Storm

Tras La Tormenta, meaning after the storm, by Arnaldo Y Su Talisman is one of my current top songs.  It is a timbaton song. Timbaton = timba + reggaeton

All too often people will find out about a genre and then sort of get stuck on a particular sound.  I, on the other hand, like to keep the sound that makes the genre what it is, but at the same time sample the spectrum that it covers.  In the case of timbaton I have provided some of the songs that I like below to try and give you a flavor of what timbaton covers:

Timbalive – Zorra, El Dinero

Paulito FG – Te Bote from Un Poquite De To album

Maraca – Castigala – more of a timba/reggaeton/rap fusion

Dayron Y El Boom – Chocolo from Mi Tumbao CD – has the timbaton feel, not strictly timbaton?

Alain Daniel – La Miki

Arnaldo Y Su Talisman – Tras La Tormenta – a bachata like syn? – a timba/bachata/reggaeton song

Note that I have not tried to provide a sampling of bands per se, but rather a sampling of the sound spectrum of timbaton via songs that I like.  I welcome suggestions if anyone feels that they can see a gap, or gaps, in my timbaton sampling spectrum.