What is Pachanga?
Pachanga is a prominent forerunner of salsa, though it is a distinct dance and Latin rhythm in its own right.
The pachanga rhythm developed as an offshoot from the original charanga music played in Cuba and around the Caribbean since the end of the 18th century. Charanga was a mixture of French contradanza and Afro-Caribbean music and dance styles. What distinguishes charanga and pachanga music is that these use a different instrumentation, replacing the brass instruments more commonly used in Latin/Caribbean music with flutes and violins.
Cuban immigrants later took the pachanga rhythm and dance styles to the US, where they became hugely popular during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Pachanga music is quite difficult to define. In general, it has a harder and jazzier sound than normal salsa, and is often punctuated by catchy extra rhythms (in addition to salsa’s typical four beats) and the clanging sounds of the cowbell. It also usually retains the flute and string instrumentation of charanga.
Pachanga uses intricate footwork patterns to extremely fast and varied rhythms.
Pachanga dance movement utilizes a swiveling motion, usually achieved by dancers placing their weight on the balls of their feet and twisting their hips to emphasize the beat. It often employs varied footwork patterns, from three to eight beats, but in general each beat of the music is used. While proper pachanga music and dance differs from salsa, there is a lot of crossover in the music, so it is possible to integrate some pachanga movement and footwork into any salsa pattern.