Charanga is both a type of band and a style of music. Elements of charanga are usually woven into salsa music but technically you can do pachanga whenever you feel like it.
Someone once told me that charanga and pachanga are different. One emphasizes downbeats and the other emphasizes the upbeats
That was years ago though and I don’t remember the explanation well.
According to Eddie Torres Jr.: charanga is the music you dance pachanga to.
I’m not knowledgeable enough to agree/disagree with him.
First, words get re-used. For example, what does mambo mean? Well, it’s NY-style salsa dance, it’s a specific step, it’s a section of a song, etc.
Back in the olden days, a charanga was a type of orquesta that played danzón. Flutes, violins and timbales are the hallmarks. No horns. No congas. In the 1930’s, a ritmo nuevo was adopted from son by the charangas, and everything changed.
From percussion reference books I’ve read, the tumbao for charanga style music is a little different from the tumbaos used in son-montuno. But that’s about where my knowledge runs out. I’m not sure why it’s different, but origninally the conga was not part of the charanga percussion section.
Conga pattern for charanga style salsa
According to one of my percussion teachers, the pachanga rhythm pattern is very different from son-montona. Instead of a marcha-based tumbao, the congas play a caballo. (A very fast caballo can also be used in merengue.) The slaps fall on 1 and 3, which matches the timing of the pachanga dance step.
Here’s an example of the caballo.
a caballo pattern for congas
I was told that Charanga is a style of salsa music that is characterized by the inclusion of flutes in the band. Normal Salsa bands do not have a flute.