Tuesday, July 14, 2009


In the Cuban rumba culture integrate undoubtedly elements from African cultures. It’s music for fun and entertainment. Rumba is rather than dancing and singing, a kind of festival created by Africans and their descendants in Cuba including the presence of white people who shared with them in the lowest class of colonial society. Rumba has both African and Hispanic elements.

The cajón is an instrument of Cuban rumba. The date of its appearance is in the last decades of the nineteenth century. In the Cuban rumba they used boxes of candles for quinto and cod crates for tumbadora. Along with the boxes were played different kind of furniture and other household utensils like stools, drawers, spoons and bottles.

The tumbadora (conga drum) is maybe the most important and best known Cuban membranophone. The origin of tumbadora has strong Bantu influence, but its history reflects the synthesis of various types of drums of African origin like ngoma and makuta drums. The history of tumbadora is associated with the development of conga and rumba music and dance styles. In rumba group they use normally three tumbadoras with lot of variations in their names: the largest one is known as salidor or tumbadora; the medium-sized is called tres dos, tres golpes or un golpe; and the smallest one is called quinto. The Rumba instrumental ensemble consist also claves and cajita china or catá.

Rumba styles with great antiquity called rumbas de tiempo’España are highly mimetic dances. It begins with a brief part of singing with the singer alone. After this part singer gives entrance to the choir and the band and begins improvising new texts alternating with the choir. This part is called Capetillo. Mamá’buela is one of the rumbas de tiempo’España, where the dancers make mimetic gestures of a boy who doesn’t want to go to school, and grandmother who is nagging and beating the boy. video

Yambú is one of the oldest subspecies of rumba. It is slow and elegant type of rumba, where the dancers sometimes imitate old age and difficulty of movements. The part of the song is short and it is preceded sometimes with a hum or lalaleo, called diana, which serves as preparation for entry of the choir. Yambú was born in the solares of Matanzas and Havana. video

Guaguancó is maybe the most popular type of rumba. In the initial part of guaguancó the singer after Diana tells singing a long story about an event or person. After this part singer gives entrance to the choir. Guaguancó is more figurative and faster than yambú. Guaguancó dance is an erotic play between man and a woman. The man is trying to make a gesture called vacunao (pelvic thrust) in the moment, when the woman isn’t enough alert to cover her with her hands, skirt or scarf. This dance has similarities with the dance called Yuka of Bantú origin. Guaguancó was born in the same environment as yambú. video

Rumba Columbia is the rumba style, which have most African influences. It was born in the rural areas of Matanzas. Today it is mostly virtuosic solo dance of men. In the rumba Columbia singer may use words of Palero vocabulary or words in yoruba or Abakuá languages that are used in Cuba. The rhythm of rumba Columbia is more figurative and fast than in yambú and guaguancó. The dance is executed by a man who dances with acrobatic gestures or imitating for example a cripple, an epileptic or a bullfighter. The dancer establishes a dialogue with the drummer who plays the quinto. video

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