Fast turns, tight footwork, and the thrilling beat of a fast salsa song: there’s nothing like it. Although I love dancing to slow salsa songs, there’s a special place in my heart for fast salsa tracks. It’s an amazing way to losing yourself in the moment, with no time for distractions. You can’t worry about how you look, if your styling is correct or any other unwanted thought—you just focus on your partner and the lively beat of the music.
If you’re looking for some salsa songs to get your heart beating and push your dancing to the limits, I’ve put together a playlist of my favourite fast tracks for dancing. Admittedly, I would struggle to dance to them all in a row! Unless you want to test your stamina, they’re best woven in with slower tracks.
I’ve tried to give a mix of styles to suit all tastes. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy these songs and have as much fun dancing to them as I do!
How Fast Is Salsa Music?
We often think of salsa music as being fast. There is, however, a good variation of speed and rhythm across the genre.
Normally, we measure song speed in beats per minute (BPM). However, the BPM will often fluctuate in salsa songs. Most salsa songs will sit between 140 and 250 BPM, with 160–200 BPM being a medium-speed song.
Complicating it slightly, musicians often count BPM differently to dancers. The “dancer’s BPM count” is double that of a musician’s, so they would consider 120 BPM to be a fast salsa song.
“La vida es un carnaval”, by Celia Cruz
No salsa playlist would be complete without at least one track from Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa. Her distinctive voice is instantly recognisable, and her songs are guaranteed to bring fire to the dance floor. With an average BPM of 205–215, this is a fast track that most dancers can enjoy dancing to. It’s about the importance of enjoying life—a message that’s perfect for dancing salsa.
“Llorarás”, by Oscar D’León
Oscar D’León is a Venezuelan musician famed for his salsa music. In Spanish, he is known as El Sonero del Mundo (the Great Son Singer of the World) and, in a riff on his name, El León de la Salsa (the Lion of Salsa). “Llorarás,” which he recorded in 1975 with his group La Dimensión Latina, is possibly his most famous track. It’s a bitter song hitting out at a rumbera, or female rumba dancer, who rejected him—although if you don’t understand the lyrics, it sounds upbeat and happy! The average speed is 190–200 BPM, making it one of the slower tracks on my list but still an upbeat track. It always gets my pulse racing and never fails to put a smile on my face.
“La Malanga”, by Eddie Palmieri
This lively song is a double entendre about being hungry for malanga, a root vegetable common in South America and the Caribbean. The average BPM is 240–250, meaning it’s one of the faster tracks from my list. It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s a fun one.
“Que Bueno Baila Usted”, by Oscar D’León
Another upbeat song from the Lion of Salsa, Que Bueno Baila Usted is an homage to the Cuban singer Benny Moré. It has a clear rhythm that experienced and beginner salsa dancers alike can enjoy.
“Quimbara”, by Celia Cruz
At 240 BPM average this is a lively tune with fabulous percussion and a real party feel. The music instantly transports you to the streets of Cuba, while the song itself is about dancing.
“La Pantera Mambo”, by Orquestra La 33
That’s right: it’s the salsa version of the fabulous Pink Panther tune! It’s a fun and lively song with some great opportunities to style it out. It always gets my feet moving!
“Ran Kan Kan”, by Tito Puente
With a steady BPM of 205–210, this will keep you challenged on the dance floor. The track is non-stop percussion and is guaranteed to get your heart rate up. Fittingly, the lyrics are dedicated to the timbales, a type of drum.
“La Rebelión”, by Joe Arroyo
This song is so beloved by salsa dancers that it’s been turned into multiple memes. Its incredible musical composition tempts you onto the dance floor even when you’re tired. Beneath it’s catchy rhythms, however, it has a powerful message about the history of the slavery in Colombia in the 17th century. The lyrics relay the story of an enslaved man who rebelled when an enslaver hit his wife. In fact, the song’s also known as No le pegue a la negra, meaning “don’t hit the black woman”. Salsa music has roots in the Atlantic slave trade, and this song depicts one of the many uprisings of enslaved people in Colombia.
“Procura”, by Chichi Peralta
This is another fabulously lively tune with great percussion. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
“Micaela”, by Sonora Carruseles
My first dance to this was rueda, so it’s always stuck in my mind as a perfect rueda track—even though the lyrics are about how well a woman called Micaela dances the boogaloo. And despite all this, I love the freedom of dancing freestyle to it. It’s a happy, lively song. With an average BPM of 180, it’s not too fast, but it has enough variety in the rhythms to really keep you on your toes.
“Merecumbe”, by Los Titanes
The intro alone is enough to put this on my list. As soon as I hear the piano build up, I am on the dance floor. The musicality is fabulous. It’s a real feel-good song to get your feet flying and your pulse racing.
“Salsa Dramática”, by DJ Lukas El Taz
Warning: This is not your typical salsa song! It plays with the traditional salsa rhythms to craft something unique, and it’s fantastic to dance to. He has lots of other experimental salsa compositions. This was his first so it made it onto my list, but I recommend them all.
“Toma Jabón Pa’ Que Laves”, by Fruko y sus Tesos
A real mix of flavours and rhythms, this is a lively tune that will quickly get your feet moving. It’s a fairly loyal cover of a song originally by Daniel Santos. Both are worth listening to, but I prefer this one.
“Tim Pop Con Birdland”, by Juan Formell y Los Van Van
This is such a fun tune—I defy anyone to sit it out. It’s full of energy, with upbeat melodies and a real party feel to it.
So, there you go: 14 fast salsa songs that will get you whirling across the dance floor. And if you’re up for another challenge, take a look at my slow salsa song playlist. It might not get your heart beating so hard, but slow songs are a great way to work on your styling. Plus, they’ll give you a chance to catch your breath after these rapid tracks!
Hayley discovered salsa in 2009 and fell in love with the dance and the lifestyle. She has since embraced kizomba and bachata, and she now runs a small dance school—Salsa Bonita—and dance events in Cornwall, UK, including the Dança Bonita SBK Beach Festival. She also has a dance shoe shop, Shimmy Shoes, with one of her close friends.