Though long out of print, El Libro de la Salsa, published in 1980 by a Venezuelan disc jockey and journalist named César Miguel Rondón, has been an underground hit among scholars for more than two decades. Now, happily, the book’s incorporation into the world of academic writing on music is official. Leaving out the photographs, cover art, and lyrics that appeared in the original, UNC Press has published an excellent English translation of Rondón’s text. The classic narrative of the origins and trajectory of salsa, which has informed the best academic writing on the subject for years, is now at the disposal of readers of English.

Rondón argues that salsa was a reinvention of Cuban and other Caribbean music in the context of working-class Latino New York after the Cuban Revolution. In the 1960s, as the great New York mambo orchestras went...

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