African music has had a major influence on Cuban culture beginning in the early 1550’s through slave trade. Thousands of slaves were brought to Spain in the 1400’s and eventually migrated to Cuba. Since these “Ladinos” were accustomed to Spanish culture and language, they easily were able to get by in Cuba and even escape slavery. As a result, Slave owners in Cuba brought more slaves directly from Africa. In 1526, a Royal Decree allowed slaves to buy their freedom, resulting in increased interaction and ethnic mixing among Cubans and Africans. All aspects of both cultures began to blend, especially among working class Cubans and Africans. Music became a common bond between the two groups
Dance is just as important and music in Afro-Cuban Culture. The music is made to be danced to, and most of the popular Cuban dances that exist today are of African decent. The most popular are the rumba, danzon, and son. Especially among the working class poor, dancing and music was simply a way to blow off steam and have a good time.
The rumba is a dance and music genre that originated in Cuba in the mid 1800s. It has often been compared with North American blues, as it was a vehicle of protest and expression among the working class poor of places of Cuban and African decent. The rumba is a combination of percussion and vocal ensemble, and was often a community event where many were encouraged to participate.
There are three kinds of rumba, all having a similar rhythm but varying tempos. The Yambu, a couples dance, has a moderate tempo and is danced side-by- side. It is commonly enjoyed by older people due to its slower tempo. A more modern version is the Guaguanco, also a couples dance, with a faster tempo. It contains a gesture called the vacunao (literally vaccination), in which the male dancer moves is pelvis towards the female. Couples dance very provocatively but often do not even touch. Last is the Columbia, danced a single male. It is the most difficult of all three rumbas, with a very fast tempo.
The instruments used in the rumba each play a key part and are essential in constructing the unique sound of the rumba. The claves, a pair of wooden sticks struck against one another, begin the rumba. They help keep the rhythm and often accelerate the pulse and vary the patterns of the rumba. They also set the tempo and the mood of the rumba. The Conga drums, also essential, are barrel shaped and have varying pitches. The most important conga is the quinto, or lead...