Music of Cuba

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Music of Cuba
General topics
Related articles
Specific forms
Religious music
Traditional music
Media and performance
Music awards Beny Moré Award
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem La Bayamesa
Regional music

The music of Cuba, including its instruments, performance and dance, comprises a large set of unique traditions influenced mostly by west African and European (especially Spanish) music.[1] Due to the syncretic nature of most of its genres, Cuban music is often considered one of the richest and most influential regional musics of the world. For instance, the son cubano merges an adapted Spanish guitar (tres), melody, harmony, and lyrical traditions with Afro-Cuban percussion and rhythms. Almost nothing remains of the original native traditions, since the native population was exterminated in the 16th century.[2]

Since the 19th century Cuban music has been hugely popular and influential throughout the world. It has been perhaps the most popular form of regional music since the introduction of recording technology. Cuban music has contributed to the development of a wide variety of genre and musical styles around the globe, most notably in Latin America, the Caribbean, West Africa and Europe. Examples include rhumba, Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, soukous, many West African re-adaptations of Afro-Cuban music (Orchestra Baobab, Africando), Spanish fusion genres (notably with flamenco), and a wide variety of genres in Latin America.



Large numbers of African slaves and European, mostly Spanish, immigrants came to Cuba and brought their own forms of music to the island. European dances and folk musics included zapateo, fandango, paso doble and retambico. Later, northern European forms like minuet, gavotte, mazurka, contradanza, and the waltz appeared among urban whites. There was also an immigration of Chinese indentured laborers later in the 19th century.

Ancient print of colonial Havana

Fernando Ortiz, the first great Cuban folklorist, described Cuba's musical innovations as arising from the interplay ('transculturation') between African slaves settled on large sugar plantations and Spaniards from different regions such as Andalusia and Canary Islands. The African slaves and their descendants made many percussion instruments and preserved rhythms they had known in their homeland.[3] The most important instruments were the drums, of which there were originally about fifty different types; today only the bongos, congas and batá drums are regularly seen (the timbales are descended from kettle drums in Spanish military bands). Also important are the claves, two short hardwood batons, and the cajón, a wooden box, originally made from crates. Claves are still used often, and cajons (cajones) were used widely during periods when the drum was banned. In addition, there are other percussion instruments in use for African-origin religious ceremonies. Chinese immigrants contributed the corneta china (Chinese cornet), a Chinese reed instrument still played in the comparsas, or carnival groups, of Santiago de Cuba.

The great instrumental contribution of the Spanish was their guitar, but even more important was the tradition of European musical notation and techniques of musical composition. Hernando de la Parra's archives give some of our earliest available information on Cuban music. He reported instruments including the clarinet, violin and vihuela. There were few professional musicians at the time, and fewer still of their songs survive. One of the earliest is Ma Teodora, supposed to be related to a freed slave, Teodora Ginés of Santiago de Cuba, who was famous for her compositions. The piece is said to be similar to 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century Spanish popular songs and dances.[4]

Cuban music has its principal roots in Spain and West Africa, but over time has been influenced by diverse genres from different countries. Important among these are France (and its colonies in the Americas), and the United States.

Cuban music has been immensely influential in other countries. It contributed not only to the development of jazz and salsa, but also to the Argentine tango, Ghanaian high-life, West African Afrobeat, Dominican Bachata and Merengue, Colombian Cumbia and Spanish Nuevo flamenco and to the Arabo-Cuban (fr) music [5] developed by Michel Elefteriades in the 1990s.

The African beliefs and practices certainly influenced Cuba's music. Polyrhythmic percussion is an inherent part of African music, as melody is part of European music. Also, in African tradition, percussion is always joined to song and dance, and to a particular social setting.[6] The result of the meeting of European and African cultures is that most Cuban popular music is creolized. This creolization of Cuban life has been happening for a long time, and by the 20th century, elements of African belief, music and dance were well integrated into popular and folk forms.

18th and 19th centuries[edit]

Manuel Saumell

Among internationally heralded composers of the "serious" genre can be counted the Baroque composer Esteban Salas y Castro (1725–1803), who spent much of his life teaching and writing music for the Church.[7] He was followed in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba by the priest Juan París (1759–1845). París was an exceptionally industrious man, and an important composer. He encouraged continuous and diverse musical events.[8]p181 Aside from rural music and Afro-Cuban folk music, the most popular kind of urban creole dance music in the 19th century was the contradanza, which commenced as a local form of the English country dance and the derivative French contredanse and Spanish contradanza. While many contradanzas were written for dance, from the mid-century several were written as light-classical parlor pieces for piano. The first distinguished composer in this style was Manuel Saumell (1818–1870), who is sometimes accordingly hailed as the father of Cuban creole musical development. According to Helio Orovio, "After Saumell's visionary work, all that was left to do was to develop his innovations, all of which profoundly influenced the history of Cuban nationalist musical movements." [9]

Ignacio Cervantes

In the hands of his successor, Ignacio Cervantes Kawanagh, the piano idiom related to the contradanza achieved even greater sophistication. Cervantes was called by Aaron Copland a "Cuban Chopin" because of his Chopinesque piano compositions. Cervantes' reputation today rests almost solely upon his famous forty-one Danzas Cubanas, which Carpentier said, "...occupy the place that the Norwegian Dances of Grieg or the Slavic Dances of Dvořák occupy in the musics of their respective countries". Cervantes' never-finished opera, Maledetto, is forgotten.[8]

In the 1840s, the habanera emerged as a languid vocal song using the contradanza rhythm. (Non-Cubans sometimes called Cuban contradanzas "habaneras.") The habanera went on to become popular in Spain and elsewhere. The Cuban contradanza/danza was also an important influence on the Puerto Rican danza, which went on to enjoy its own dynamic and distinctive career lasting through the 1930s. In Cuba, in the 1880s the contradanza/danza gave birth to the danzón, which effectively superseded it in popularity.[10]

Laureano Fuentes (1825–1898) came from a family of musicians and wrote the first opera to be composed on the island, La hija de Jefté (Jefte's daughter). This was later lengthened and staged under the title Seila. His numerous works spanned all genres. Gaspar Villate (1851–1891) produced abundant and wide-ranging work, all centered on opera.[8]p239 José White (1836–1918), a mulatto of a Spanish father and an Afrocuban mother, was a composer and a violinist of international merit. He learned to play sixteen instruments, and lived, variously, in Cuba, Latin America and Paris. His most famous work is La bella cubana, a habanera.

L. M. Gottschalk

During the middle years of the 19th century, a young American musician came to Havana: Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829–1869), whose father was a Jewish businessman from London, and his mother a white creole of French Catholic background.[11] Gottschalk was brought up mostly by his black grandmother and nurse Sally, both from Dominique. He was a piano prodigy who had listened to the music and seen the dancing in Congo Square, New Orleans from childhood. His period in Cuba lasted from 1853 to 1862, with visits to Puerto Rico and Martinique squeezed in. He composed many creolized pieces, such as the habanera Bamboula, Op. 2 (Danse de negres) (1845), the title referring to a bass Afro-Caribbean drum; El cocoye (1853), a version of a rhythmic melody already present in Cuba; the contradanza Ojos criollos (Danse cubaine) (1859) and a version of María de la O, which refers to a Cuban mulatto singer. These numbers made use of typical Cuban rhythmic patterns. At one of his farewell concerts he played his Adiós a Cuba to huge applause and shouts of 'bravo!' Unfortunately his score for the work has not survived.[12] In February 1860 Gottschalk produced a huge work La nuit des tropiques in Havana. The work used about 250 musicians and a choir of 200 singers plus a tumba francesa group from Santiago de Cuba. He produced another huge concert the following year, with new material. These shows probably dwarfed anything seen in the island before or since, and no doubt were unforgettable for those who attended.[13]p147

Other important Cuban performers from the 19th century were Claudio Brindis de Salas Garrido and José White Lafitte.

Cuban violin virtuoso Claudio José Brindis de Salas

Claudio José Domingo Brindis de Salas Garrido was a renowned Cuban concert violinist. His father was the violinist and bandleader Claudio Brindis de Salas. The son surpassed his father, and was a violinist of world renown.[14][15][16] He studied under his father, and at a later time with Maestros José Redondo and the Belgian violinist José Van der Gutch. In 1863 he first performed in public, in Havana, with Van der Gutch as accompanist and composer Ignacio Cervantes also played at the same concert. According to critical notes, he was considered as one of the best violinists in the world of his time. Carpentier called him "the most extraordinary of the black musicians of the nineteenth century... an unprecedented case in the musical history of the continent".[17] The French government made him a member of the Légion d'Honneur, and gave him the title of Baron. In Buenos Aires he was given a genuine Stradivarius; when he stayed in Berlin, he married a German woman, was appointed chamber musician to the Emperor, and became a German citizen. He died in 1911, now in poverty, from tuberculosis in Buenos Aires. In 1930 his remains were transferred to Havana with great honors.

José White in 1856 after receiving the 1st prize for violin at the Conservatoire de Paris

After receiving his early musical training from his father, Cuban virtuoso violinist and composer José White Lafitte gave his first concert in Matanzas on 21 March 1854. He was accompanied by the visiting American pianist-composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, "who encouraged him to pursue further violin studies in Paris and raised money for him to travel there".[18] José White studied at the Paris Conservatory between the years 1855 and 1871 and was highly praised by Rossini. From 1877 to 1889 he was director of the Imperial Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he served as court musician for the Emperor Pedro II, (source: Miguel Ficher, et al., Latin American Classical Composers, Scarecrow Press, 1996, p. 373). Afterwards he returned to Paris to spend the rest of his days. The famous 1737 "Swansong" Stradivari was his instrument. His most famous composition is La Bella Cubana, a habanera. White also wrote a violin concerto, recorded several decades ago on the Columbia label.

20th-century classical and art music[edit]

"Amadeo Roldán (1900–1939) and Alejandro García Caturla (1906–1940) were Cuba's symphonic revolutionaries [though] their music is rarely played today".[13]p354 They both played a part in Afrocubanismo: the movement in black-themed Cuban culture with origins in the 1920s, and extensively analysed by Fernando Ortiz. Roldan, born in Paris to a Cuban mulatta and a Spanish father, came to Cuba in 1919 and became the concert-master (first-chair violin) of the new Orquesta Sinfónica de La Habana in 1922. There he met Caturla, at sixteen a second violin. Roldan's compositions included Overture on Cuban themes (1925), and two ballets: La Rebambaramba (1928) and El milagro de Anaquille (1929). There followed a series of Ritmicas and Poema negra (1930) and Tres toques (march, rites, dance) (1931). In Motivos de son (1934) he wrote eight pieces for voice and instruments based on the poet Nicolás Guillén's set of poems with the same title. His last composition was two Piezas infantiles for piano (1937). Roldan died young, at 38, of a disfiguring facial cancer (he had been an inveterate smoker).

Alejandro García Caturla.

After his student days, Caturla lived all his life in the small central town of Remedios, where he became a lawyer to support his growing family. His Tres danzas cubanas for symphony orchestra was first performed in Spain in 1929. Bembe was premiered in Havana the same year. His Obertura cubana won first prize in a national contest in 1938. Caturla was murdered at 34 by a young gamble.[8]

Gonzalo Roig (1890–1970), was a major force in the first half of the century.[19] A composer and orchestral director, he qualified in piano, violin and composition theory. In 1922 he was one of the founders of the National Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted. In 1927 he was appointed Director of the Havana School of Music. As a composer he specialized in the zarzuela, a musical theatre form, very popular up to World War II. In 1931 he co-founded a bufo company (comic theatre) at the Marti Theatre in Havana. He was the composer of the most well-known Cuban zarzuela, Cecilia Valdés, based on the famous 19th-century novel about a Cuban mulata. It was premiered in 1932. He founded various organizations and wrote frequently on musical topics.[20]

One of the greatest Cuban pianist/composers of the 20th century was Ernesto Lecuona (1895–1963).[21] Lecuona composed over six hundred pieces, mostly in the Cuban vein, and was a pianist of exceptional quality. He was a prolific composer of songs and music for stage and film. His works consisted of zarzuela, Afro-Cuban and Cuban rhythms, suites and many songs that became Latin standards. They include Siboney, Malagueña and The Breeze And I (Andalucía). In 1942 his great hit Always in my heart (Siempre en mi Corazon) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song; it lost out to White Christmas. The Ernesto Lecuona Symphonic Orchestra performed the premiere of Lecuona's Black Rhapsody in the Cuban Liberation Day Concert at Carnegie Hall on 10 October 1943.[22]

José Ardévol, Harold Gramatges, Alejo Carpentier.

Founded in 1942 under the guidance of José Ardévol (1911–1981), a Catalan composer established in Cuba since 1930, the "Grupo de Renovación Musical" served as a platform for a group of young composers to develop a proactive movement with the purpose of improving and literally renovating the quality of the Cuban musical environment. During its existence from 1942 to 1948, the group organized numerous concerts at the Havana Lyceum in order to present their avant-garde compositions to the general public and fostered within its members the development of many future conductors, art critics, performers and professors. They also started a process of investigation and reevaluation of the Cuban music in general, discovering the outstanding work of Carlo Borbolla [23] and promoting the compositions of Saumell, Cervantes, Caturla and Roldán. The "Grupo de Renovación Musical" included the following composers: Hilario González, Harold Gramatges, Julián Orbón, Juan Antonio Cámara, Serafín Pro, Virginia Fleites, Gisela Hernández, Enrique Aparicio Bellver, Argeliers León, Dolores Torres and Edgardo Martín.[24] Other contemporary Cuban composers that were little or no related at all to the "Groupo de Renovación Musical" were: Aurelio de la Vega, Joaquín Nin-Culmell, Alfredo Diez Nieto [25] and Natalio Galán.[26]

Although, in Cuba, many composers have written both classical and popular creole types of music, the distinction became clearer after 1960, when (at least initially) the regime frowned on popular music and closed most of the night-club venues, whilst providing financial support for classical music rather than creole forms. From then on most musicians have kept their careers on one side of the invisible line or the other. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, a new crop of classical musicians came onto the scene. The most important of these is guitarist Leo Brouwer, who made significant innovations in classical guitar, and is currently the director of the Havana Symphonic Orchestra. His directorship in the early 1970s of the Cuban Institute of Instrumental and Cinematographic Arts (ICAIC) was instrumental in the formation and consolidation of the nueva trova movement.

Other important composers from the early post-revolution period that began in 1959 were: Carlos Fariñas and Juan Blanco, a pioneer of "concrete" and "electroacoustic music" in Cuba.[27]

Left row, top to bottom: Armando Rodríguez Ruidíaz, Carlos Malcolm, Juan Piñera. Right row, top to bottom: Flores Chaviano, Magali Ruiz, Danilo Avilés.

Closely following the early post-revolution generation, a group of young composers started to attract the attention of the public that attended classical music concerts. Most of them had obtained degrees in reputable Schools outside the country thanks to scholarships granted by the government, like Sergio Fernández Barroso (also known as Sergio Barroso), that received a post-graduate degree from the Superior Academy of Music in Prague,[28] and Roberto Valera, who studied with Witold Rudziński and Andrzej Dobrowolski in Poland.[29] We should also mention other three composers that belong to this group: Calixto Alvarez,[30] Carlos Malcolm [31] and Hector Angulo.[32]

During the early 1970s, a group of musicians and composers, most of them graduated from the National School of Arts and the Havana Conservatory, gathered around an organization recently created by the government as the junior section of UNEAC (National Writers and Artist’s Union of Cuba), the "Brigada Hermanos Saíz."[33] Some of its member were composers Juan Piñera (nephew of the renowned Cuban writer Virgilio Piñera),[25] Flores Chaviano, Armando Rodriguez Ruidiaz, Danilo Avilés,[25] Magaly Ruiz and Efraín Amador Piñero. Other contemporary composers less involved with the organization were: José María Vitier, Julio Roloff,[25] Jorge López Marín and José Loyola.[34]

Tania León

After the Cuban Revolution (1959), many future Cuban composers emigrated at a very young age and developed most of their careers outside the country. Within this group we should mention composers: Tania León, Orlando Jacinto García, Armando Tranquilino,[25] Odaline de la Martinez, José Raul Bernardo,[34] Jorge Martín and Raul Murciano.[35]

21st-century classical and art music[edit]

During the last decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century a new generation of composers emerged into the Cuban classical music panorama. Most of them received a solid musical education provided by the official arts school system created by the Cuban government and graduated from the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). Some of those composers are: Louis Franz Aguirre,[36] Ileana Pérez Velázquez, Keila María Orozco,[34] Viviana Ruiz,[25] Fernando (Archi) Rodríguez Alpízar,[37] Yalil Guerra, Eduardo Morales Caso[38] and Ailem Carvajal Gomez.[39] All of them have emigrated and currently live and work in other countries.

Electroacoustic music in Cuba[edit]

Juan Blanco was the first Cuban composer to create an electroacoustic piece in 1961. This first composition, titled "Musica Para Danza", was produced with just an oscillator and three common tape recorders. As a result of the enormous scarcity generated by the Cuban Revolution since its origins in 1959, access to the necessary technological resources to produce electroacoustic music was always very limited for anyone interested. For this reason, it was not until 1969 that another Cuban composer, Sergio Barroso, dedicated himself to the creation of electroacoustic musical compositions.

In 1970, Juan Blanco began to work as a music advisor for the Department of Propaganda of ICAP (Insituto Cubano de Amistad con Los Pueblos). In this capacity, he created electroacoustic music for all the audiovisual materials produced by ICAP. After nine years working without restitution, Blanco finally obtained financing to set up an Electroacoustic Studio to be used for his work. He was appointed as Director of the Studio, but under the condition that he should be the only one to use the facility. After a few months, and without asking for permission, he opened the Electroacoustic Studio to all composers interested in working with electroacoustic technology, thus creating the ICAP Electroacoustsic Music Workshop (TIME), where he himself provided training to all participants. In 1990, the ICAP Workshop changed its name to Laboratorio Nacional de Música Electroacústica (LNME) and its main objective was to support and promote the work of Cuban electroaocustic composers and sound artists.

Some years later, another electroacoustic music studio was created at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). The Estudio de Música Electroacústica y por Computadoras (EMEC), currently named Estudio Carlos Fariñas de Arte Musical (Carlos Fariñas Studio of Musical Electroacoustic Art), is intended to provide electroacoustic music training to the composition students during the last years of their careers.

After 1970, Cuban composers such as Leo Brouwer, Jesús Ortega, Carlos Fariñas and Sergio Vitier began also creating electroacoustic pieces; and in the 1980s a group of composers that included: Edesio Alejandro, Fernando (Archi) Rodríguez Alpízar, Marietta Véulens, Mirtha de la Torre, Miguel Bonachea and Julio Roloff, started receiving instruction and working at the ICAP Electroacoustic Studio. A list of Cuban composers that have utilized elecotroacoustics technology include: Argeliers León, Juan Piñera, Roberto Valera, José Loyola, Ileana Pérez Velázquez and José Angel Pérez Puentes.[40]

Most Cuban composers that established their residence outside Cuba have worked with electroacoustic technology. Among others, we can mention composers Aurelio de la Vega, Armando Tranquilino, Tania León, Orlando Jacinto García and Armando Rodriguez Ruidiaz.[41]

Classical guitar in Cuba[edit]

From the 16th to the 19th century[edit]

The guitar (as we know it today or in one of its historical versions) has been present in Cuba since the discovery of the island by Spain. As early as the 16th century, a musician named Juan Ortiz, from the village of Trinidad, is mentioned by famous chronicler Bernal Díaz del Castillo as "gran tañedor de vihuela y viola" (a great performer of the "vihuela" - a guitar ancestor - and the viol). Another "vihuelista", Alonso Morón from Bayamo, is also mentioned in the Spanish conquest chronicles during the 16th century.[42]

A disciple of famous Spanish guitarist Dionisio Aguado, José Prudencio Mungol was the first Cuban guitarist trained in the Spanish guitar tradition. In 1893 he performed at a much acclaimed concert in Havana, after returning from Spain. Mungol actively participated in the musical life of Havana and was a professor at the Hubert de Blanck conservatory.[43]

The 20th century and beyond[edit]

Severino López was born in Matanzas. He studied guitar in Cuba with Juan Martín Sabio and Pascual Roch, and in Spain with renowned Catalan guitarist Miguel Llobet. Severino López is considered the initiator in Cuba of the guitar school founded by Francisco Tárrega in Spain.[42][44]

Clara Romero (1888-1951), founder of the modern Cuban School of Guitar, studied in Spain with Nicolás Prats and in Cuba with Félix Guerrero. She inaugurated the guitar department at the Havana Municipal Conservatory in 1931, where she also introduced the teachings of the Cuban folk guitar style. She created the Guitar Society of Cuba (Sociedad Guitarrística de Cuba) in 1940, and also the "Guitar" (Guitarra) magazine, with the purpose of promoting the Society’s activities. She was the professor of many Cuban guitarists including her son Isaac Nicola and her daughter Clara (Cuqui) Nicola.[45]

After studying with his mother, Clara Romero, at the Havana Municipal Conservatory, Isaac Nicola (1916 – 1997) continued his training in Paris with Emilio Pujol, a disciple of Francisco Tárrega. He also studied the vihuela with Pujol and researched about the guitar’s history and literature.[46]

The modern Cuban Guitar School[edit]

Leo Brouwer.

After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Isaac Nicola and other professors such as Marta Cuervo, Clara (Cuqui) Nicola, Marianela Bonet and Leopoldina Núñez were integrated to the national music schools system, where a unified didactical method was implemented. This was a nucleus for the later development of a national Cuban Guitar School with which a new generation of guitarists and composers collaborated.[42]

Maybe the most important contribution to the modern Cuban guitar technique and repertoire comes from Leo Brouwer (born 1939). The grandson of Ernestina Lecuona, sister of Ernesto Lecuona, Brouwer began studying the guitar with his father and after some time continued with Isaac Nicola. He taught himself harmony, counterpoint, musical forms and orchestration before completing his studies at the Juilliard School and the University of Hartford.[44]

The new generations[edit]

Since the 1960s, several generations of guitar performers, professors and composers have been formed under the Cuban Guitar School at educational institutions such as the Havana Municipal Conservatory, the National School of Arts, and the Instituto Superior de Arte. Others, such as Manuel Barrueco, a concertist of international renown, developed their careers outside the country. Among many other guitarists related to the Cuban Guitar School, we can mention the following names: Carlos Molina, Sergio Vitier, Flores Chaviano and Efraín Amador Piñero, as well as: Armando Rodriguez Ruidiaz, Martín Pedreira, Lester Carrodeguas, Mario Daly, José Angel Pérez Puentes and Teresa Madiedo. A younger group may include guitarists: Rey Guerra, Aldo Rodríguez Delgado, Pedro Cañas, Leyda Lombard, Ernesto Tamayo, Miguel Bonachea,[47] Joaquín Clerch [42][48][49] and Yalil Guerra.

Classical Piano in Cuba[edit]

Ernesto Lecuona.

After its arrival in Cuba at the end of the 18th century, the pianoforte (commonly called piano) rapidly became one of the favorite instruments among the Cuban population. Along with the humble guitar, the piano accompanied the popular Cuban “guarachas” and “contradanzas” (derived from the European Country Dances) at salons and ballrooms in Havana and all over the country.[50] As early as in 1804, a concert program in Havana announced a vocal concert “accompanied at the fortepiano by a distinguished foreigner recently arrived”… [51] and in 1832, Juan Federico Edelmann (1795-1848), a renowned pianist, son of a famous Alsatian composer and pianist, arrived in Havana and gave a very successful concert at the Teatro Principal. Encouraged by the warm welcome, Edelmann decided to stay in Havana and very soon he was promoted to an important position within the Santa Cecilia Philharmonic Society. In 1836 he opened a music store and publishing company.[52]

One of the most prestigious Cuban musicians, Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963) began studying piano with his sister Ernestina and continued with Peyrellade, Saavedra, Nin and Hubert de Blanck. A child prodigy, Lecuona gave a concert at just five years of age at the Círculo Hispano. When graduating from the National Conservatory he was awarded the First Prize and the Gold Medal of his class by unanimous decision of the board. He is by far the Cuban composer of greatest international recognition and his contributions to the Cuban piano tradition are considered exceptional.[22]

Musicology in Cuba[edit]

Main article: Musicology in Cuba
Alejo Carpentier.

Throughout the years, the Cuban nation has developed a wealth of musicological material created by numerous investigators and experts on this subject. The work of some authors who provided information about the music in Cuba during the 19th century was usually included in chronicles covering a more general subject. The first investigations and studies specifically dedicated to the musical art and practice did not appear in Cuba until the beginning of the 20th century.[53]

A list of important personalities that have contributed to musicological studies in Cuba includes: Fernando Ortiz, Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes, Alejo Carpentier, Argeliers León, Maria Teresa Linares, Pablo Hernández Balaguer, Alberto Muguercia and Zoila Lapique.

A second generation of musicologists formed after de Cuban revolution of 1959 include: Zoila Gómez, Victoria Elí, Alberto Alén Pérez, Rolando Antonio Pérez Fernández and Leonardo Acosta.

Popular music[edit]

Hispanic heritage[edit]

It is obvious that the first popular music played in Cuba after the Spanish conquest was brought by the Spanish conquerors themselves, and was most likely borrowed from the Spanish popular music in vogue during the 16th century. From the 16th to the 18th century some danceable songs that emerged in Spain were associated to Hispanic America, or considered as been originated in America. Some of these songs with picturesque names such as Sarabande, Chaconne, Zambapalo, Retambico and Gurrumbé, among others,[54] shared a common trait, its characteristic rhythm called Hemiola or Sesquiáltera (in Spain).

Vertical hemiola. About this sound Play 

This rhythm has been described as the alternation or superposition of a duple meter and a triple meter (6/8 + 3/4), and its utilization was widespread in the Spanish territory since at least the 13th century, where it appears in one of the Cantigas de Santa María (Como poden per sas culpas).[55]

Hemiola or Sesquiáltera is also a typical rhythm of the African musical traditions, both from the North of the Continent as from the South.[56] Therefore, it is quite probable that the original song-dances brought by the Spanish to America already included elements from the African culture, with which the black slaves that arrived to the Island were familiar with and further utilized in order to create new creole genres.[57]

The well known Son de la Ma Teodora, an ancient Cuban song, as well as the first Cuban autochthonous genres, Punto and Zapateo, show the Sesquiáltera rhythm on their accompaniment, which greatly associate those genres to the Spanish song-dances from the 16th to the 18th centuries.[58]

Música Campesina (Peasant Music)[edit]

Cuban rural landscape.

It seems that Punto and Zapateo Cubano were the first autoconous musical genres of the Cuban nation. Although the first printed sample of a Cuban Creole Zapateo (Zapateo Criollo) was not published until 1855 in the “Álbum Regio of Vicente Díaz de Comas”,[59] it is possible to find references about the existence of those genres since long time before.[60] Its structural characteristics have survived almost unaltered through a period of more than two hundred years and they are usually considered the most typically Hispanic Cuban popular music genres. Cuban musicologists María Teresa Linares, Argeliers León and Rolando Antonio Pérez coincide in thinking that Punto and Zapateo are based on Spanish dance –songs (such as chacone and sarabande) that arrived first at the most important population centers such as Havana and Santiago de Cuban and then spread throughout the surrounding rural areas where they where adopted and modified by the peasant (campesino) population at a later time.[59]

Punto guajiro[edit]

Punto guajiro or Punto Cubano, or simply Punto is a sung genre of Cuban music, an improvised poetic-music art that emerged in the western and central regions of Cuba during the 17th century.[61] Although Punto appears to come from an Andalusian origin, it is a true Cuban genre because of its creole modifications.[62]

Punto is played by a group with various types of plucked string instruments: the tiple (a treble guitar currently in disuse), the Spanish guitar, the Cuban tres, and the laúd. The word punto refers to the use of a plucked technique (punteado), rather than strumming (rasgueado). Also some percussion instruments have been utilized such as the clave, the güiro and the guayo ( a metallic scraper). Singers gather themselves in contending teams, and improvise their lines.

They sing fixed melodies called “tonadas” which are based on a meter of ten strophe verses called “décimas”, with intervals between stanzas to give the singers some time to prepare the next verse.[63] Early compositions were sometimes recorded and published, as were the names of some of the singers and composers. Beginning around 1935, Punto reached a peak of popularity on Cuban radio.

Punto was one of the first Cuban genres recorded by American companies at the beginning of the 20th century, but at a later time the interest decayed and little effort was made to continue recording the live radio performances. A fan of this genre, stenographer Aida Bode, wrote down many verses as they were broadcast and finally, in 1997, her transcriptions were published in book form.[64]

Celina González and Albita Rodríguez both sang Punto at the beginning of their careers, proving that the genre is still alive. Celina had one of the great voices in popular music, and her supporting group Campo Alegre was outstanding. For aficionados, however, Indio Naborí (Sabio Jesús Orta Ruiz, b. 30 September 1922) is the greatest name in Punto for his “decima” poetry, which he wrote daily for the radio and newspapers. He is also a published author with several collections of his poetry, much of which has a political nueva trova edge.[65]


Main article: Zapateo
Cuban güiro.

Zapateo is a typical dance of the Cuban “campesino” or “guajiro,” of Spanish origin. It is a dance of pairs, involving tapping of the feet, mostly performed by the male partner. Illustrations exist from previous centuries and today it survives cultivated by Folk Music Groups as a fossil genre. It was accompanied by tiple, guitar and güiro, in combined 6/8 and 3/4 rhythm (hemiola), accented on the first of every three quavers.


Main article: Criolla

Criolla is a type of Cuban music and song; the term is said to derive from canción criolla, or creole song. This genre developed in the late 19th century, and is similar to some other forms of that period, such as the Canción, the Guajira and the Bolero. Criollas usually consist of a short introduction, followed by two sections of sixteen bars each. They are written in a slow tempo in 6/8 time. Many criollas were first heard in the Bufo Theatre.[66]


Main article: Guajira (music)

A genre of Cuban song similar to the Punto and the Criolla.[66] It contains bucolic countryside lyrics, rhyming, similar to décima poetry. Its music shows a mixture of 3/4 and 6/8 rhythms. According to Sánchez de Fuentes, its first section is in a minor key, its second section in a major key.[67] The term Guajira is now used mostly to describe a slow dance music in 4/4 time, a fusion of the Son and the Guajira. Guillermo Portabales was the most outstanding representative (singer-guitarist) of this genre.

African heritage[edit]

Origins of Cuban African groups[edit]

Clearly, the origin of African groups in Cuba is due to the island's long history of slavery. Compared to the USA, slavery started in Cuba much earlier and continued for decades afterwards. Cuba was the last country in the Americas to abolish the importation of slaves, and the second last to free the slaves. In 1807 the British Parliament outlawed slavery, and from then on the British Navy acted to intercept Portuguese and Spanish slave ships. By 1860 the trade with Cuba was almost extinguished; the last slave ship to Cuba was in 1873. The abolition of slavery was announced by the Spanish Crown in 1880, and put into effect in 1886. Two years later, Brazil abolished slavery.[68]

Subsequent organization[edit]

The roots of most Afro-Cuban musical forms lie in the cabildos, self-organized social clubs for the African slaves, separate cabildos for separate cultures. The cabildos were formed mainly from four groups: the Yoruba (the Lucumi in Cuba); the Congolese (Palo in Cuba); Dahomey (the Fon or Arará). Other cultures were undoubtedly present, more even than listed above, but in smaller numbers, and they did not leave such a distinctive presence.

Cabildos preserved African cultural traditions, even after the abolition of slavery in 1886. At the same time, African religions were transmitted from generation to generation throughout Cuba, Haiti, other islands and Brazil. These religions, which had a similar but not identical structure, were known as Lucumi or Regla de Ocha if they derived from the Yoruba, Palo from Central Africa, Vodú from Haiti, and so on. The term Santería was first introduced to account for the way African spirits were joined to Catholic saints, especially by people who were both baptized and initiated, and so were genuinely members of both groups. Outsiders picked up the word and have tended to use it somewhat indiscriminately. It has become a kind of catch-all word, rather like salsa in music.[13]p171; p258

African sacred music in Cuba[edit]

All these African cultures had musical traditions, which survive erratically to the present day, not always in detail, but in general style. The best preserved are the African polytheistic religions, where, in Cuba at least, the instruments, the language, the chants, the dances and their interpretations are quite well preserved. In what other American countries are the religious ceremonies conducted in the old language(s) of Africa? They certainly are in Lucumí ceremonies, though of course, back in Africa the language has moved on. What unifies all genuine forms of African music is the unity of polyrhythmic percussion, voice (call-and-response) and dance in well-defined social settings, and the absence of melodic instruments of an Arabic or European kind.

Yoruba and Congolese rituals[edit]

Religious traditions of African origin have survived in Cuba, and are the basis of ritual music, song and dance quite distinct from the secular music and dance. The religion of Yoruban origin is known as Lucumí or Regla de Ocha; the religion of Congolese origin is known as Palo, as in palos del monte.[69] There are also, in the Oriente region, forms of Haitian ritual together with its own instruments, music etc.


Main article: clave (rhythm)
3-2 clave and 2-3 clave written in cut-time.

The clave rhythmic pattern is used as a tool for temporal organization in Afro-Cuban music, such as rumba, conga de comparsa, son, mambo (music), salsa, Latin jazz, songo and timba. The five-stroke clave pattern (distributed in groups of 3 + 2 or 2 + 3 beats) represents the structural core of many Afro-Cuban rhythms.[70] Just as a keystone holds an arch in place, the clave pattern holds the rhythm together in Afro-Cuban music.[71] The clave pattern originated in sub-Saharan African music traditions, where it serves essentially the same function as it does in Cuba. The pattern is also found in the African diaspora musics of Haitian Vodou drumming and Afro-Brazilian music. The clave pattern is used in North American popular music as a rhythmic motif or ostinato, or simply a form of rhythmic decoration.


Main article: Conga (comparsa)

In Cuba, the word comparsa refers to the “Cabildos de Nación” neighbourhood groups that took part in the carnival authorized by the Spanish government on the Three Kings Day (Día de Reyes) during the colonial period. Conga is of African origin, and derives from street celebrations of the African spirits. The distinction is blurred today, but in the past the congas have been prohibited from time to time. Carnival as a whole was banned by the revolutionary government for many years, and still does not take place with the regularity of old. Conga drums are played (along with other typical instruments) in comparsas of all kinds. Santiago de Cuba and Havana were the two main centers for street carnivals. Two types of dance music (at least) owe their origin to comparsa music:

Conga: an adaptation of comparsa music and dance for social dances. Eliseo Grenet may be the person who first created this music,[13]p408 but it was the Lecuona Cuban Boys who took it round the world. The conga became, and perhaps still is, the best-known Cuban music and dance style for non-latins.

Mozambique is a comparsa-type dance music developed by Pello el Afrokan (Pedro Izquierdo) in 1963. It had a brief period of high popularity, peaked in 1965, and was soon forgotten. Apparently, to make it work properly, it needed 16 drums plus other percussion and dancers...[72]

Tumba francesa[edit]

Main article: Tumba francesa

Immigrants from Haiti settled in Oriente and established their style of music, called Tumba Francesa, which uses its own type of drum, dance and song. It embodies one of the oldest and most tangible links to the Afro-Haitian heritage of Cuba’s Oriente province and developed from an eighteenth- century fusion of music from Dahomey in West Africa and traditional French dances. This fossil genre survives to the present day in Santiago de Cuba and Haiti, performed by specialized folk ensembles.


Main articles: Contradanza and Contra dance

The Contradanza is an important precursor of several later popular dances. It arrived in Cuba in the late 18th century from Europe where it had been developed first as the English country dance, and then as the French contradanse. The origin of the word is a corruption of the English term.[73] Manuel Saumell wrote over fifty contradanzas (in 2/4 or 6/8 time), in which his rhythmic and melodic inventiveness was astonishing.

The Contradanza is a communal sequence dance, with the dance figures conforming to a set pattern. The selection of figures for a particular dance was usually set by a master of ceremonies or dance leader. There were two parts of 16 bars each, danced in a line or square format. The tempo and style of the music was bright and fairly fast.

The earliest Cuban creole composition of a Contradanza appeared published in Havana in 1803 and was named San Pascual bailón. This version shows for the first time the well known rhythm of “Tango” or “Habanera” which differentiates it from the European contradance. The Cubans developed a number of creolized version, such as the paseo, cadena, ostenido and cadazo. This creolization is an early example of the influence of the African traditions in the Caribbean. Most of the musicians were black or mulatto (even early in the 19th century there were many freed slaves and mixed race persons living in Cuban towns). "The women of Havana have a furious taste for dancing; they spend entire nights elevated, agitated, crazy and pouring sweat until they fall spent." [74]

Rhythm of Tango or Habanera. About this sound Play 

The contradanza supplanted the minuet as the most popular dance until from 1842 on, it gave way to the habanera, a quite different style.[75]


This genere, the offspring of the contradanza, was also danced in lines or squares. It was also a brisk form of music and dance in double or triple time. A repeated 8-bar paseo was followed by two 16-bar sections called the primera and segunda. One famous composer of danzas was Ignacio Cervantes, whose forty-one danzas cubanas were a landmark in musical nationalism. This type of dance was eventually replaced by the danzón, which was, like the habanera, much slower and more sedate.[76]


Main article: Habanera (music)

The habanera developed out of the contradanza in the early 19th century. Its great novelty was that it was sung, as well as played and danced. Written in 2/4 meter, the Habanera is characterized by an expressive and languid melodious development and its characteristic rhythm called “Habanera Rhythm.”

The dance style of the habanera is slower and more stately than the danza. By the 1840s habaneras were written, sung, and danced in Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Spain.[77] Since about 1900 the habanera has been a relic dance; but the music has a period charm, and there are some famous compositions, such as from Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes, which has been recorded in many versions.

Versions of habanera-type compositions have appeared in the music of Ravel, Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Fauré, Albeniz. The rhythm is similar to that of the tango, and some believe the habanera is the musical father of the tango.[78]


Main articles: Danzón and Charanga (Cuba)
Orquesta Enrique Peña. Peña seated left, Barreto (violin) and Urfé (clarinet)

The European influence on Cuba's later musical development is represented by danzón, an elegant musical form that was once more popular than the Son in Cuba. It is a descendent of the creollized Cuban contradanza. The danzón marks the change from the communal sequence dance style of the late 18th century to the couple dances of later times. The stimulus for this was the success of the once-scandalous walz, where couples danced facing each other, independently from other couples and not as part of a pre-set structure. The danzón was the first Cuban dance to adopt such methods, though there is a difference between the two dances. The walz is a progressive ballroom dance where couples move round the floor in an anti-clockwise direction; the danzón is a 'pocket-handkerchief' dance where a couple stays within a small area of the floor.[79]

The danzón was developed by Miguel Faílde in Matanzas, the official date of origin being 1879.[80] Failde's was an orquesta típica, a form derived from military bands, using brass, kettle-drums etc. The later development of the charanga was more suited to the indoor salon and is an orchestral format still popular today in Cuba and some other countries. The charanga uses double bass, cello, violins, flute, piano, paila criolla and güiro. This change in instrumental set-up is illustrated in Early Cuban bands.

Charanga de Antonio (Papaíto) Torroella (1856–1934)

From time to time in its 'career', the danzón acquired African influences in its musical structure. It became more syncopated, especially in its third part. The credit for this is given to José Urfé, who worked elements of the son into the last part of the danzón in his composition El bombin de Barreto (1910).[81] Both the danzón and the charanga line-up have been strongly influential in later developments.

The danzón was exported to popular acclaim throughout Latin America, especially Mexico. It is now a relic, both in music and in dance, but its highly orchestrated descendents live on in charangas that Faílde and Urfé would likely not recognize. Juan Formell has had a huge influence through his reorganization of first Orquesta Revé, and later Los Van Van.


Early danzons were purely instrumental. The first to introduce a vocal part was Aniceto Diaz in 1927 in Matanzas: Rompiendo la rutina. Later, the black singer Barbarito Diez joined the charanga of Antonio María Romeu in 1935 and, over the years, recorded eleven albums of danzonetes. All later forms have included vocals.


Main article: Guaracha
María Teresa Vera & Rafael Zequeira

On January 20, 1801, Buenaventura Pascual Ferrer published a note in a newspaper called “El Regañón de La Habana,” in which he refers to certain chants that “run outside there through vulgar voices”. Between them he mentioned a “guaracha” named “La Guabina”, about which he says: “in the voice of those that sings it, tastes like any thing dirty, indecent or disgusting that you can think about…” At a later time, in an undetermined date, “La Guabina” appears published between the first musical scores printed in Havana at the beginning of the 19th century.[82]

According to the commentaries published in “El Regañón de La Habana”, we can conclude that those “guarachas” were very popular within the Havana population at that time, because in the same previously mentioned article the author says: “…but most importantly, what bothers me most is the liberty with which a number of chants are sung throughout the streets and town homes, where innocence is insulted and morals offended… by many individuals, not just of the lowest class, but also by some people that are supposed to be called well educated…”. Therefore, we can say that those “guarachas” of a very audacious content, were apparently already sung within a wide social sector of the Havana population.[82]

According to Alejo Carpentier (quoting Buenaventura Pascual Ferrer) at the beginning of the 19th century there were held in Havana up to fifty dance parties every day, where the famous “guaracha” was sung and danced, among other popular pieces.[83]

The guaracha is a genre of rapid tempo and comic or picaresque lyrics.[84] It originated at the end of the 18th century, and during the early 20th century was still often played in the brothels and other places in Havana.[85][86] The lyrics were full of slang, and dwelt on events and people in the news. Rhythmically, guaracha exhibits a series of rhythm combinations, such as 6/8 with 2/4.[87]

Many of the early trovadores, such as Manuel Corona (who worked in a brothel area of Havana), composed and sang guarachas as a balance for the slower boleros and canciones. The satirical lyric content also fitted well with the son, and many bands played both genres. In the mid-20th century the style was taken up by the conjuntos and big bands as a type of up-tempo music. Today it seems no longer to exist as a distinct musical form; it has been absorbed into the vast maw of Salsa. Singers who can handle the fast lyrics and are good improvisors are called guaracheros or guaracheras.

Musical theatre[edit]

Main article: Cuban musical theatre
Adolfo Colombo

From the 18th century (at least) to modern times, popular theatrical formats used, and gave rise to, music and dance. Many famous composers and musicians had their careers launched in the theatres, and many famous compositions got their first airing on the stage. In addition to staging some European operas and operettas, Cuban composers gradually developed ideas that better suited their audience. Recorded music was to be the couduit for Cuban music to reach the world. The most recorded artist in Cuba up to 1925 was a singer at the Alhambra, Adolfo Colombo. Records show he recorded about 350 numbers between 1906 and 1917.[88]

The first theatre in Havana opened in 1776. The first Cuban-composed opera appeared in 1807. Theatrical music was hugely important in the 19th century[89] and the first half of the 20th century; its significance only began to wane with the change in political and social weather in the second part of the 20th century. Radio, which began in Cuba in 1922, helped the growth of popular music because it provided publicity and a new source of income for the artists.


Main article: Zarzuela

Zarzuela is a small-scale light operetta format. Starting off with imported Spanish content (List of zarzuela composers), it developed into a running commentary on Cuba's social and political events and problems. Zarzuela has the distinction of providing Cuba's first recordings: the soprano Chalía Herrera (1864–1968) made, outside Cuba, the first recordings by a Cuban artist. She recorded numbers from the zarzuela Cadíz in 1898 on unnumbered Bettini cylinders.[90]

Rita Montaner in 1938 during shooting of El romance del palmar

Zarzuela reached its peak in the first half of the 20th century. A string of front-rank composers such as Gonzalo Roig, Eliseo Grenet, Ernesto Lecuona and Rodrigo Prats produced a series of hits for the Regina and Martí theatres in Havana. Great stars like the vedette Rita Montaner, who could sing, play the piano, dance and act, were the Cuban equivalents of Mistinguett and Josephine Baker in Paris. Some of the best known zarzuelas are La virgen morena (Grenet), La Niña Rita (Grenet and Lecuona), María la O, El batey, Rosa la China (all Lecuona); Gonzalo Roig with La Habana de noche; Rodrigo Prats with Amalia Batista and La perla del caribe; and above all, Cecilia Valdés (the musical of the most famous Cuban novel of the 19th century, with music by Roig and script by Prats and Agustín Rodríguez). Artists who were introduced to the public in the lyric theatre include Caridad Suarez, María de los Angeles Santana, Esther Borja and Ignacio Villa, who had such a round, black face that Rita Montaner called him Bola de Nieve ('Snowball').

However the most famous and undeniably most talented (the Madonna of her times) was Maruja Gonzalez. Born from Spanish parents in the Mexican locality of Mérida, Yucatán in 1904, she passed away in Miami in 1999. Maruja González Linares travelled from Cuba to the US at a very young age. She studied vocal techniques in Cuba, where she made her debut in 1929 as a lyrycal singer in the Company of Maestro Ernesto Lecuona. Maruja González performed in several theaters of Havana before going on a tour through the United States and upon her return to Havana she sung La Bayadere and the Merry Widow in the same city. At the beginning of the 30s, she signed a number of contracts in Latin America and in Spain. She married Perico Suarez. The Cuban Revolution caught her abroad and she never returned to her country.

Bufo theatre[edit]

Cuban bufo theatre is a form of comedy, ribald and satirical, with stock figures imitating types that might be found anywhere in the country. Bufo had its origin around 1800-15 as an older form, tonadilla, began to vanish from Havana. Francisco Covarrubias the 'caricaturist' (1775–1850) was its creator. Gradually, the comic types threw off their European models and became more and more creolized and Cuban. Alongside, the music followed. Argot from slave barracks and poor barrios found its way into lyrics that are those of the guaracha:

Una mulata me ha muerto!
Y no prenden a esa mulata?
Como ha de quedar hombre vivo
si no prenden a quien mata!
La mulata es como el pan;
se debe comer caliente,
que en dejandola enfriar
ni el diablo le mete el diente! [8]p218
(A mulata's done for me!
What's more, they don't arrest her!
How can any man live
If they don't take this killer?
A mulatta is like fresh bread
You gotta eat it while it's hot
If you leave it till it's cool
Even the devil can't get a bite!)

The “guaracha” occupied a predominant place within the development of vernacular theater in Cuba, which appearance at the beginning of the 19th century coincides with the emergence of the first autochthonous Cuban musical genres, the “guaracha” and the”contradanza.”. Since 1812, Francisco Covarrubias (considered as the father of the Bufo Theater) gradually substituted in his theatrical pieces the typical characters of the Spanish “tonadilla escénica” with creole characters such as “guajiros”, “monteros”, “carreteros” or “peones”. Those structural transformations were also associated to certain changes in the musical background of the pieces. Thus, the Spanish genres sucha as “jácaras”, “tiranas”, “boleras” or “villancicos”, were substituted by “guarachas”, “décimas” and “canciones cubanas.”[83]

Other theatrical forms[edit]

Vernacular theatre of various types often includes music. Formats rather like the British Music Hall, or the American Vaudeville, still occur, where an audience is treated to a pot-pourri of singers, comedians, bands, sketches and speciality acts. Even in cinemas during the silent movies, singers and instrumentalists appeared in the interval, and a pianist played during the films. Bola de Nieve and María Teresa Vera played in cinemas in their early days. Burlesque was also common in Havana before 1960.

The Black Curros (Negros Curros)[edit]

In reference to the emergence of the Guaracha and, at a later time, also of the Urban Rumba in Havana and Matanzas, it is important to mention an important and picturesque social sector called Black Curros (Negros Curros). Composed of free blacks that had arrived from Seville on an undetermined date, this group was integrated to the population of free blacks and mulattos that lived in the marginal zones of the city of Havana.[91]

José Victoriano Betancourt a Cuban “costumbrista” writer from the 19th century described them as follows: “…they [the curros] had a peculiar aspect, and was enough to look at them to recognize them as curros: their long hunks of kinky braids, falling over their face and neck like big millipedes, their teeth cut (sharp and pointed) to the carabalí style, their fine embroidered cloth shirts, their pants, almost always white, or with colored stripes, narrow at the waist and very wide in the legs; the canvas shoes, cut low with silver buckles, the short jacket with pointed tail, the exaggerated straw hat, with black hanging silk tassles, and the thick gold hoops that they wore in their ears, from which they hung harts and padlocks of the same metal, forming an ornament that only they wear; …those were the curros of El Manglar (The mangrove neighborhood),”[92]

The curro was dedicated to laziness, theft and procuring, while his companion, the curra, also called "mulata de rumbo", exercised the prostitution. According to Carlos Noreña, she was well known for the use of burato shawls of meticulous work and plaited fringes, for which they used to pay from nine to ten ounces of gold", as well as by the typical clacking (chancleteo) they produced with their wooden slippers.[93]

But the Curros also provided entertainment, including songs and dances to the thousands of Spanish men that came to the Island every year in the ships that followed the “Carrera de Indias”, a route established by the Spanish Crown for their galleons in order to avoid attacks from pirates and privateers, and stayed for months until they returned to the Port of Seville.

Being subject to the influence of both the Spanish and the African culture fom birth, they are supposed to have played an important role in the creolization of the Spanish song-dances original proto-type (copla-estribillo) that originated the Cuban Guaracha. The Black curro and the Mulata de Rumbo (Black Curra) disappeared since the mid 19th century by integrating to the Havana general population, but their picturesque images survived in social prototypes manifested in the characters of the Bufo Theater.[94]

The famous “Mulatas de Rumbo” (mulatto characters) Juana Chambicú and María La O, as well as the black “cheches” (bullies) José Caliente “who rips in half those who oppose him,” [95] Candela, “negrito that flies and cuts with the knife,” as well as the Black Curro Juán Cocuyo, were strongly linked to the characteristic image of the Black Curro and to the ambiance of the Guaracha and the Rumba.[96]


Guaracha and Rumba[edit]

The word Rumba is an abstract term that has been applied with different purposes to a wide variety of subjects for a very long time. From a semantic point of view, the term rumba is included in a group of words with similar meaning such as conga, milonga, bomba, tumba, samba, bamba, mambo, tambo, tango, cumbé, cumbia and candombe.[58] All of them denote a Congolese origin due to the utilization of sound combinations sucha as, mb, ng and nd, that are typical of the Niger-Congo linguistic complex.[97]

Maybe the most ancient and general of its meanings is that of a feast or “holgorio”. As far as the second half of the 19th century we can find this word utilized several times to represent a feast in a short story called “La mulata de rumbo”, from the Cuban folklorist Francisco de Paula Gelabert: “…I have more enjoyment and fun in a rumbita with those of my color and class…”, or “ Leocadia was going to bed, as I was telling you, nothing less than at twelve noon, when one of his friends from the rumbas arrived, along with another young man that he wanted to introduce to her…” [98] According to Alejo Carpentier “…it is significant that the word rumba have passed to the Cuban language as a synonym of holgorio, lewd dance, merrymaking with low class women (mujeres del rumbo).” [99]

As an example, In the case of the Yuka, Makuta and Changüí feasts in Cuba, as well as the Milonga and the Tango in Argentina, the word rumba was originally utilized to nominate a festive gathering; and after some time it was used to name the musical and dance genres that were played at that gatherings.

Some scholars have pointed out hat in reference to the utilization of the terms rumba and guaracha, we possibly encounter a case of polysemy, or the use of two different words to denominate the same thing. According to María Teresa Linares: “… during the first years of the 20th century, there were used at the end of the vernacular (Bufo) theater plays some musical fragments that the authors sang, and that were called closing rumba (rumba final)…” and she continues explaining that those (rumbas)“…were certainly guarachas.” [100] The musical pieces used to close those plays may have been indistinctly called rumbas or guarachas, because those terms didn’t denote any generic or structural difference between them. Linares also said in reference to this subject: “Some recordings of guarachas and rumbas have been preserved that do not differentiate between them in the guitar parts – when it was a small group, duo or trio, or by the theater orchestra or a piano. The labels of the recordings stated: dialogue and rumba (diálogo y rumba).” [100]

Urban Rumba[edit]

Main articles: Cuban Rumba and Rumba
Rumba drummer

Urban Rumba (also called Rumba de Solar o de Cajón), is an amalgamation of several African drumming and dance traditions, combined with Spanish influences. According to Cuban musicologist Argeliers León: “In the feast that constituted a rumba concurred, therefore, determined african contributions, but also converged other elements from hispanic roots, that were already incorporated to the expressions that appeared in the new population emerging in the Island.” [101]

Rumba de Cajón is a secular musical style from the docks and the less prosperous areas of Havana and Matanzas. A the beginning, Rumba musicians used a trio of wooden boxes (cajones) to play, that were subsitutued at a later time by drums, similar in appearance to conga drums. The treble drum is called “quinto”, the medium range drum is called “macho or tres-dos” (three-two), because its essential rhythm is based on the cuban clave pattern, and the bass drum is called “hembra o salidor,” because it usually began or “broke in” (rompía) the Rumba.[102] In the Rumba ensemble they also utilize two sticks or spoons to beat over a hollow piece of bamboo called “guagua” or “catá,” as well as the Cuban Claves, the Güiro and some rattles from bantu origin called “nkembi”.[103]

The vocal part of the Rumba corresponds to a modified version of the ancient Spanish style of “copla-estribillo” (quatrain-refrain), including a “montuno” section that we may consider an expanded or developed “refrain” that constitute an independent section which include the call and response style, so typical of the African traditions.[104]

Rumba drummers

From the many Rumba styles that began to appear during the end of the 19th century called “Spanish times” (Tiempo’españa), such as tahona, jiribilla, palatino and resedá, three basic Rumba forms have survived: the columbia, the guaguancó and the yambú. The Columbia, played in 6/8 time, is often as a solo dance performed only by a male performer. It is fast and swift and also includes aggressive and acrobatic moves. The guagancó is danced by a pair of one man and one woman. The dance simulates the man's pursuit of the woman. The yambú, now a relic, featured a burlesque imitation of an old man walking with a stick. All forms of rumba are accompanied by song or chants.[105][106]

Among many others, some ultizations of the term Rumba include a cover-all term for faster Cuban music which started in the early 1930s with The Peanut Vendor. This term was replaced during the 70s by salsa, which is also a cover-all term for marketing the Cuban music and other Hispano-Caribbean genres to non-Cubans. In the international Latin-American dance syllabus Rumba is a misnomer for the slow Cuban rhythm more accurately called Bolero-Son.

Rumba de Solar o de Cajón is today a fossil genre usually seen in Cuba in performances of professional groups. There are also amateur groups based on Casas de Cultura (Culture Centers), and on work groups. Like all aspects of life in Cuba, dance and music are organised by the state through Ministries and their various committees.[107]

Rural Rumba[edit]

Cuban rural landscape

In a similar way as the first Spanish song-dances spread from the cities to the countryside, also the characteristics of the Cuban Guaracha, that enjoyed great popularity in Havana, began to spread to the rural areas in an undetermined time during the 19th century. This process was not difficult at all if we considered how close one to the other were the urban and the rural areas in Cuba at that time. That was the reason why the Cuban peasants (guajiros) began to include in their parties called “guateques” or “changüís”, and in feasts such as the “fiestas patronales” (Patron Saint Celebrations) and the “parrandas”, some Rumbitas (little rumbas) that were very similar to the urban Guarachas, which binary meter contrasted with the ternary beat of their traditional “tonadas” and “zapateos”.[108]

Those little rural rumbas have been called by renowned musicologist Danilo Orozco “proto-sones”, “soncitos primigenios”, “rumbitas”, “nengones“or “marchitas,” and some of them, such as: Caringa, Papalote, Doña Joaquina, Anda Pepe and the Tingotalango have been preserved until the present time.[109]

The Rumbitas were considered as Proto-sones (primeval Sones), because of the evident analogy that its structural components show with the Son, which emerged in Havana during the first decades of the 20th century. The Rumbitas may be considered as the original prototype of this popular genre.[110]

According to musicologist Virtudes Feliú, those Rumbitas appeared in cities and towns throughout the entire territory of the Island, sucha as: Ciego de Ávila, Sancti Espíritus, Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Puerta de Golpe in Pinar del Río and Bejucal in Havana, as well as Remedios in Villa Clara and Isla de Pinos (Pines Island).[111]

We can find many references to the Cuban Independence Wars (1868-1898), related to the rural Rumbitas, in the Eastern region of the country as well as in the Western region and Isla de Pinos, which suggest that their emergence took place approximately during the second half of the 19th century.[112]

The Rural Rumbitas included a greater number of African characteristics in comparison with the Cuban Guaracha, due to the gradual integration of free Afro-Cuban citizens to the rural environment .[113]

Since the 16th century, thanks to a government approved program called “manumisión”, the black slaves were allowed to pay for their freedom with their own savings. Therefore, a larger number of free blacks were dedicated to the manual labors in the fields than in the cities and some of thems were also able to become proprietaries of land and slaves.[114]

Characteristics of the Rural Rumba[edit]

Tres cubano.

One of the most salient characteristics of the Rural Rumbitas was its own form, very similar to the African typical song structure. In this case, the entire piece was based on a single musical fragment or phrase of short duration that was repeated, with some variations, time and time again; often alternating with a choir. This style was called “Montuno” (literally “from the countryside”) due to its rural origin.[115]


Another characteristic of the new genre was the superposition of different rhythmic patterns simultaneously executed, similarly to the way it is utilized in the Urban Rumba, which is also a common trait of the African musical tradition.[116] Those layers or “franjas de sonoridades” according to Argeliers León, were assigned to different instruments that were gradually incorporated to the group. Therefore, the ensemble grew from the traditional Tiple and Güiro, to a one that included: guitar, “bandurria”, Cuban lute, claves, and other instruments such as the“tumbandera”, the “marímbula”, the ”botija”, the bongoes, the common “machete” (cutlass) and the accordion.[117]

Some important musical functions were assigned to the sonority layers, such as the: “Time Line” or Clave Rhythm performed by the claves, a “1-eighth note + 2-sixteenth notes” rhythm played by the güiro or the machete, the patterns of the “guajeo” by the Tres (instrument), the improvisation on the bongoes and the anticipated bass on the “tumbandera” or the “botija”.[118]


We can trace the origin of the Cuban Son to the The Rural Rumbas, called Proto-Sones (Primeval Sones) by musicologist Danilo Orozco. They show, in a partial or embryonic form, all the characteristics that at a later time were going to identify the Son style: The repetition of a phrase called montuno, the clave pattern, a rhythmic counterpoint between different layers of the musical texture, the guajeo from the Tres, the rhythms from the guitar, the bongoes and the double bass and the call and response style between soloist and choir.[119] According to Radamés Giro: at a later time the refrain (estribillo) or montuno was tied to a quatrain (cuarteta – copla) called regina, which was how the peasants from the Eastern side of the country called the quatrain. In this way, the structure refrain–quatrain–refrain appears at a very early stage in the Son Oriental, like in one of the most ancient Sones called “Son de Máquina” (Machine Son) which comprises three reginas with its correspondent refrains.[120]

During an investigative project about the Valera-Miranda family (old Soneros) conducted by Danilo Orozco in the region of Guantánamo, he recorded a sample of Nengón, which is considered an ancestor of the Changüí. It shows the previously mentioned refrain–quatrain–refrain structure. In this case the several repetitions of the refrain constitute a true “montuno.”

Refrain: Yo he nacido para ti nengón, yo he nacido para ti nengón, yo he nacido para ti Nengón… (I was born for you Nengón…)[121]


The “Nengón” is considered a Proto-Son, precursor of the Changüí and also of the Oriental Son. Its main characteristic is the alternance of improvised verses between a soloist and a choir. The Nengón is played with Tres, Guitar, Güiro and Tingotalango or Tumbandera.[122]


Main article: Changüí

Changüí is a type of son from the eastern provinces (area of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo), formerly known as Oriente. It shares relevant characteristics with the Oriental Son in regard to rhythms, instruments and choral refrains; and at the same time it shows certain original elements.[123]

Changüí exists today in the form of half-a-dozen small groups, mostly from Guantanamo.[124] The instrumentation is similar to that of the early Son groups who set up in Havana before 1920. These son groups, for example the early Sexteto Boloña and Sexteto Habanero, used either marimbulas or botijas as bass instruments before they changed over to the double bass, musically a more flexible instrument.

It is an open question whether today Changüí is still a genuinely distinctive music, or simply an archaic form of Son artificially preserved by state support. Some modern orchestras, such as Orquesta Revé, have claimed Changüí as their main influence. Whether this is accurate, or not, is unclear.


We can also find in Isla de Pinos, at the opposite Western side of the Island a primeval Proto-Son called Sucu-Sucu, which also shows the same structure of the Oriental Proto-Sones. According to Maria Teresa Linares, In the Sucu-Sucu the music is similar to a Son Montuno in its formal, melodic, instrumental and harmonic structure. A soloist alternates with a choir and improvises on a quatrain or a “décima.” The instrumental group initiates an introduction to which the instruments gradually incorporates, beginning with the Tres. The introduction of eight measures is followed by the refrain by the choir that alternates with the soloist several times.[125]


Main article: Trova

In the 19th century here grew up in Santiago de Cuba a group of itinerant musicians, troubadors, who moved around earning their living by singing and playing the guitar.[126] They were of great importance as composers, and their songs have been transcribed for all genres of Cuban music

Pepe Sánchez, born José Sánchez (1856–1918), is known as the father of the trova style and the creator of the Cuban bolero.[127] He had no formal training in music. With remarkable natural talent, he composed numbers in his head and never wrote them down. As a result, most of these numbers are now lost for ever, though some two dozen or so survive because friends and disciples transcribed them. His first bolero, Tristezas, is still remembered today. He also created advertisement jingles before radio was born.[128] He was the model and teacher for the great trovadores who followed him.[129]

Guarionex & Sindo Garay

The first, and one of the longest-lived, was Sindo Garay (1867–1968). He was an outstanding composer of trova songs, and his best have been sung and recorded many times. Garay was also musically illiterate – in fact, he only taught himself the alphabet at 16 – but in his case not only were scores recorded by others, but there are recordings. Garay settled in Havana in 1906, and in 1926 joined Rita Montaner and others to visit Paris, spending three months there. He broadcast on radio, made recordings and survived into modern times. He used to say "Not many men have shaken hands with both José Martí and Fidel Castro!" [13]p298 [130]

José 'Chicho' Ibáñez (1875–1981)[131] was even longer-lived than Garay. Ibáñez was the first trovador to specialize in the son; he also sung guaguancós and pieces from the abakuá.

The composer Rosendo Ruiz (1885–1983) was another long-lived trovador. He was the author of a well-known guitar manual. Alberto Villalón (1882–1955), and Manuel Corona (1880–1950) were of similar stature. Garay, Ruiz, Villalón and Corona are known as the four greats of the trova, though the following trovadores are also highly regarded.

Patricio Ballagas (1879–1920); María Teresa Vera (1895–1965), Lorenzo Hierrezuelo (1907–1993), Ñico Saquito (Antonio Fernandez: 1901–1982), Carlos Puebla (1917–1989) and Compay Segundo (Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz: 1907–2003) were all great trova musicians. El Guayabero (Faustino Oramas: 1911–2007) was the last of the old trova.

Trova musicians often worked in pairs and trios, some of them exclusively so (Compay Segundo). As the sexteto/septeto/conjunto genre grew many of them joined in the larger groups. And let's not forget the Trio Matamoros, who worked together for most of their lives. Matamoros was one of the greats.[132]


Main articles: Bolero § Cuba and Trova

This is a song and dance form quite different from its Spanish namesake. It originated in the last quarter of the 19th century with the founder of the traditional trova, Pepe Sánchez. He wrote the first bolero, Tristezas, which is still sung today. The bolero has always been a staple part of the trova musician's repertoire.

Rosendo Ruiz, Manuel Corona, Sindo Garay & Alberto Villalon

Originally, there were two sections of 16 bars in 2/4 time separated by an instrumental section on the Spanish guitar called the pasacalle. The bolero proved to be exceptionally adaptable, and led to many variants. Typical was the introduction of sychopation leading to the bolero-moruno, bolero-beguine, bolero-mambo, bolero-cha. The bolero-son became for several decades the most popular rhythm for dancing in Cuba, and it was this rhythm that the international dance community picked up and taught as the wrongly-named 'rumba'.

The Cuban bolero was exported all over the world, and is still popular. Leading composers of the bolero were Sindo Garay, Rosendo Ruiz, Carlos Puebla, and Agustín Lara (Mexico).[127][133][134][135][136]


Main article: Canción

Canción means 'song' in Spanish. It is a popular genre of Latin American music, particularly in Cuba, where many of the compositions originate. Its roots lie in Spanish, French and Italian popular song forms. Originally highly stylized, with "intricate melodies and dark, enigmatic and elaborate lyrics" [137] The canción was democratized by the trova movement in the latter part of the 19th century, when it became a vehicle for the aspirations and feelings of the population. Canción gradually fused with other forms of Cuban music, such as the bolero.[138]

Tropical waltz[edit]

The waltz (El vals) arrived in Cuba by 1814. It was the first dance in which couples were not linked by a communal sequence pattern. It was, and still is, danced in 3/4 time with the accent on the first beat. It was originally thought scandalous because couples faced each other, held each other in the 'closed' hold, and, so to speak, ignored the surrounding community. The waltz entered all countries in the Americas; its relative popularity in 19th-century Cuba is hard to estimate.

Indigenous Cuban dances did not use the closed hold with couples dancing independently until the danzón later in the century, though the guaracha might be an earlier example. The waltz has another characteristic: it is a 'travelling' dance, with couples moving round the arena. In Latin dances, progressive movement of dancers is unusual, but does occur in the conga, the samba and the tango.

The Tropical waltz was performed in a slower tempo and frequently included a sung melody with a text. Those texts usually referred to the beauties of the Cuban countryside, the longing of the Siboneyes (Cuban aboriginee) and other creole themes. With accents on its three beats, its melody was fluid and composed of equal value notes. It was similar to many other songs in which the melody was treated in a sylabic way, where the first beat was not stressed by a brief anacrusis but had a tendency to move toward the second beat like in the peasant (guajiro) song.[139]


Main article: Son (music)
Guitar and Tres

Son cubano is a style of music and dance that originated in Cuba and gained worldwide popularity during the 1930s. Son combines the structure and traits of the Spanish canción with Afro-CUban stylistic and percussion instruments elements. The Cuban Son is one of the most influential and widespread forms of Latin American music: its derivatives and fusions, especially salsa, have spread across the world.[140]

The Son, said Cristóbal Díaz, is the most important genre of Cuban music, and the least studied.[141] It can fairly be said that son is to Cuba what the tango is to Argentina, or the samba to Brazil. In addition, it is perhaps the most flexible of all forms of Latin-American music. Its great strength is its fusion between European and African musical traditions. Its most characteristic instruments are the Cuban instrument known as the tres, and the well-known double-headed bongó; these are present from the start to the present day. Also typical are the claves, the Spanish guitar, the double bass (replacing the early botija or marímbula), early on the cornet or trumpet and finally the piano.

In spite of a traditional tendency to attribute the origin of Cuban Son to the Eastern region of Cuba (Oriente), most recently, some musicologists have shown a more inclusive stance. Although Alejo Carpentier, Emilio Grenet and Cristóbal Díaz Ayala support the “Eastern origin” theory, Argeliers León doesn’t mention anything about it in his pivotal work “Del Canto y del Tiempo”, as well as María Teresa Linares in “The Music between Cuba and Spain.” [142] Ramadamés Giro states about this subject: “If Son was an artistic phenomenon that was developing since the second half of the 19th century – and not just in the old Oriente (Eastern) province -, it is logical to suppose, but not to affirm, that long before 1909 it was heard in the Capital City (Havana) because of the aforementioned reasons...”[143]

It was in Havana where the encounter of the Rural Rumba and the Urban Rumba, that had been developing separately during the second half of the 19th century, took place. The guaracheros and rumberos that used to play with the Tiple and the Guiro finally met other Rumberos that sung and danced accompanied by the wooden box (cajón) and the Cuban Clave, and the resut was the fusion of both styles in a new genre called Son.[144] Around 1910 the Son most likely adopted the clave rhythm from the Havana-based rumba, which had been developed in the late 19th century in Havana and Matanzas.[145]

The mass popularization of Son music led to an increased valorization of Afro-Cuban street culture and of the artists who created it. It also opened the door for other music genres with Afro-Cuban roots to become popular in Cuba and throughout the world. .[146]

Cuban Jazz[edit]

The history of jazz in Cuba was obscured for many years; however it has become clear that its history in Cuba is virtually as long as its history in the USA.[147][148][149][150][151][152]

Much more is now known about early Cuban jazz bands, though a full assessment is plagued by the lack of recordings. Migrations and visits to and from the USA and the mutual exchange of recordings and sheet music kept musicians in the two countries in touch. In the first part of the 20th century there were close relations between musicians in Cuba and those in New Orleans. The orchestra leader in the famous Tropicana Club, Armando Romeu Jr, was a leading figure in the post-World War II development of Cuban jazz. The phenomenon of cubop and the jam sessions in Havana and New York organized by Cachao created genuine fusions that influence musicians today.

A key historian of early Cuban jazz is Leonardo Acosta.[147][148] Others have explored the history of jazz and Latin jazz more from the U.S. perspective.[149][150][151][152]

Early Cuban jazz bands[edit]

Jazz Band Sagua, 1920s

The Jazz Band Sagua was founded in Sagua la Grande in 1914 by Pedro Stacholy (director & piano). Members: Hipólito Herrera (trumpet); Norberto Fabelo (cornet); Ernesto Ribalta (flute & sax); Humberto Domínguez (violin); Luciano Galindo (trombone); Antonio Temprano (tuba); Tomás Medina (drum kit); Marino Rojo (güiro). For fourteen years they played at the Teatro Principal de Sagua. Stacholy studied under Antonio Fabré in Sagua, and completed his studies in New York, where he stayed for three years.[153]

The Cuban Jazz Band was founded in 1922 by Jaime Prats in Havana. The personnel included his son Rodrigo Prats on violin, the great flautist Alberto Socarrás on flute and saxophone and Pucho Jiménez on slide trombone. The line-up would probably have included double bass, kit drum, banjo, cornet at least. Earlier works cited this as the first jazz band in Cuba,[154] but evidently there were earlier groups.

In 1924 Moisés Simons (piano) founded a group which played on the roof garden of the Plaza Hotel in Havana, and consisted of piano, violin, two saxes, banjo, double bass, drums and timbales. Its members included Virgilio Diego (violin); Alberto Soccarás (alto saz, flute); José Ramón Betancourt (tenor sax); Pablo O'Farrill (d. bass). In 1928, still at the same venue, Simons hired Julio Cueva, a famous trumpeter, and Enrique Santiesteban, a future media star, as vocalist and drummer. These were top instrumentalists, attracted by top fees of $8 a day.[147]p28

During the 1930s, several bands played Jazz in Havana, such as those of Armando Romeu, Isidro Pérez, Chico O'Farrill and Germán Lebatard. Their most important contribution was its own instrumental format itself, which introduced the typical Jazz sonority to the Cuban audience. Another important element within this process were the arrangements of Cuban musicians such as Romeu, O'Farrill, Bebo Valdés, Peruchín Jústiz and Leopoldo "Pucho" Escalante.[155]

Afro-Cuban Jazz[edit]

Main article: Afro-Cuban Jazz
Machito and his sister Graciella Grillo

Afro-Cuban jazz is the earliest form of Latin jazz. It mixes Afro-Cuban clave-based rhythms with jazz harmonies and techniques of improvisation. Afro-Cuban jazz first emerged in the early 1940s with the Cuban musicians Mario Bauza and Frank Grillo "Machito" in the band Machito and his Afro-Cubans, based in New York City. In 1947 the collaborations of bebop innovator Dizzy Gillespie with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo brought Afro-Cuban rhythms and instruments, most notably the tumbadora and the bongo, into the East Coast jazz scene. Early combinations of jazz with Cuban music, such as Dizzy's and Pozo's "Manteca" and Charlie Parker's and Machito's "Mangó Mangüé", were commonly referred to as "Cubop", short for Cuban bebop...[156] During its first decades, the Afro-Cuban jazz movement was stronger in the United States than in Cuba itself.[157] In the early 1970s, the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and later Irakere brought Afro-Cuban jazz into the Cuban music scene, influencing new styles such as songo.

Diversification and popularization[edit]

Cuban music enters the United States[edit]

In the 1930 Don Azpiazú[158] had the first million-selling record of Cuban music: The Peanut Vendor (El Manisero), with Antonio Machín as the singer.[159] This number had been orchestrated and included in N.Y. theatre by Azpiazú before recording, which no doubt helped with the publicity. The Lecuona Cuban Boys[160] became the best-known Cuban touring ensemble: they were the ones who first used the conga drum in their conjunto, and popularized the conga as a dance. Xavier Cugat at the Waldorf Astoria was highly influential.[161] In 1941 Desi Arnaz popularized the comparsa drum (similar to the conga) in the U.S with his performances of Babalú. There was a real 'rumba craze' at the time.[162] Later, Mario Bauza and Machito set up in New York and Miguelito Valdés also arrived there.

1940s and '50s[edit]

In the 1940s, Chano Pozo[163] formed part of the bebop revolution in jazz, playing conga with Dizzy Gillespie and Machito in New York City. Cuban jazz had started much earlier, in Havana, in the period 1910–1930.

Arsenio Rodríguez, one of Cuba's most famous tres players and conjunto leaders, emphasised the son's African roots by adapting the guaguancó style, and by adding a cowbell and conga to the rhythm section. He also expanded the role of the tres as a solo instrument.[164]

In the late 1930s and 40s, the danzonera Arcaño y sus Maravillas incorporated more syncopation and added a montuno (as in son), transforming the music played by charanga orchestras.[165]

The big band era[edit]

Alfredo Ruiz del Río and Dámaso Pérez Prado

The big band era arrived in Cuba in the 1940s, and became a dominant format that survives. Two great arranger-bandleaders deserve special credit for this, Armando Romeu Jr. and Damaso Perez Prado. Armando Romeu Jr. led the Tropicana Cabaret orchestra for 25 years, starting in 1941. He had experience playing with visiting American jazz groups as well as a complete mastery of Cuban forms of music. In his hands the Tropicana presented not only Afrocuban and other popular Cuban music, but also Cuban jazz and American big band compositions. Later he conducted the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna.[147][166][167]

Damaso Perez Prado had a number of hits, and sold more 78s than any other Latin music of the day. He took over the role of pianist/arranger for the Orquesta Casino de la Playa in 1944, and immediately began introducing new elements into its sound. The orchestra began to sound more Afrocuban, and at the same time Prado took influences from Stravinsky, Stan Kenton and elsewhere. By the time he left the orchestra in 1946 he had put together the elements of his big band mambo.:[168] "Above all, we must point out the work of Perez Prado as an arranger, or better yet, composer and arranger, and his clear influence on most other Cuban arrangers from then on." [147]p86

Benny Moré, considered by many as the greatest Cuban singer of all time, was in his heyday in the 1950s. He had an innate musicality and fluid tenor voice, which he colored and phrased with great expressivity. Although he could not read music, Moré was a master of all the genres, including son montuno, mambo, guaracha, guajira, cha cha cha, afro, canción, guaguancó, and bolero. His orchestra, the Banda Gigante, and his music, was a development – more flexible and fluid in style – of the Perez Prado orchestra, which he sang with in 1949–1950.

Cuban music in the US[edit]

Main articles: Mambo (music) and Chachachá

Three great innovations based on Cuban music hit the USA after World War II: the first was Cubop, the latest latin jazz fusion. In this, Mario Bauza and the Machito orchestra on the Cuban side and Dizzy Gillespie on the American side were prime movers. The rumbustious conguero Chano Pozo was also important, for he introduced jazz musicians to basic Cuban rhythms. Cuban jazz has continued to be a significant influence.

The mambo first entered the United States around 1950, though ideas had been developing in Cuba and Mexico City for some time. The mambo as understood in the United States and Europe was considerably different from the danzón-mambo of Orestes "Cachao" Lopez, which was a danzon with extra syncopation in its final part. The mambo—which became internationally famous—was a big band product, the work of Perez Prado, who made some sensational recordings for RCA in their new recording studios in Mexico City in the late 1940s. About 27 of those recordings had Benny Moré as the singer, though the best sellers were mainly instrumentals. The big hits included Que rico el mambo (Mambo Jambo); Mambo No. 5; Mambo #8; Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White). The later (1955) hit Patricia was a mambo/rock fusion.[169] Mambo of the Prado kind was more a descendent of the son and the guaracha than the danzón. In the U.S. the mambo craze lasted from about 1950 to 1956, but its influence on the bugaloo and salsa that followed it was considerable.

Violinist Enrique Jorrín invented the chachachá in the early 1950s. This was developed from the danzón by increased syncopation. The chachachá became more popular outside Cuba when the big bands of Perez Prado and Tito Puente produced arrangements that attracted American and European audiences.[170]

Along with "Nuyoricans" Ray Barretto and Tito Puente and others, several waves of Cuban immigrants introduced their ideas into US music. Among these was Celia Cruz, a guaracha singer. Others were active in Latin jazz, such as percussionist Patato Valdés of the Cuban-oriented "Tipíca '73", linked to the Fania All-Stars. Several former members of Irakere have also become highly successful in the USA, among them Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval. Tata Güines, a famous conguero, moved to New York City in 1957, playing with jazz players such as Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, and Miles Davis at Birdland. As a percussionist, he performed with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra. He returned to Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro came to power in the Cuban Revolution, which he helped fund with contributions from his earnings as a musician.[171]


Main article: Filin (music)

Filin was a Cuban fashion of the 1940s and 1950s, influenced by popular music in the USA. The word is derived from feeling. It describes a style of post-microphone jazz-influenced romantic song (crooning).[172] Its Cuban roots were in the bolero and the canción. Some Cuban quartets, such as Cuarteto d'Aida and Los Zafiros, modelled themselves on U.S. close-harmony groups. Others were singers who had heard Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Nat King Cole. Filín singers included César Portillo de la Luz, José Antonio Méndez, who spent a decade in Mexico from 1949 to 1959, Frank Domínguez, the blind pianist Frank Emilio Flynn, and the great singers of boleros Elena Burke and the still-performing Omara Portuondo, who both came from the Cuarteto d'Aida. The filín movement originally had a place every afternoon on Radio Mil Diez. Some of its most prominent singers, such as Pablo Milanés, took up the banner of the nueva trova.

1960s and '70s[edit]

Modern Cuban music is known for its relentless mixing of genres. For example, the 1970s saw Los Irakere use batá in a big band setting; this became known as son-batá or batá-rock. Later artists created the mozambique, which mixed conga and mambo, and batá-rumba, which mixed rumba and batá drum music. Mixtures including elements of hip hop, jazz and rock and roll are also common, like in Habana Abierta's rockoson.

Revolutionary Cuba and Cuban exiles[edit]

Tropicana stage

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 signalled the emigration of many musicians to Puerto Rico, Florida and New York, and in Cuba artists and their work came under the protection (and control) of the Socialist state, and the monopoly state-owned recording company EGREM. The Castro government abolished copyright laws in Cuba, closed many of the venues where popular music used to be played (e.g. night clubs), and so indirectly threw many musicians out of work.[147]p202 This undoubtedly had deleterious effects on the evolution of popular music and dance.[173]

Pianist Bebo Valdés.

Many young musicians now studied classical music and not popular music. All musicians employed by the state were given college courses in music. In Cuba, the Nueva Trova movement (including Pablo Milanés) reflected the new leftist ideals. The state took over the lucrative Tropicana Club, which continued as a popular attraction for foreign tourists until 1968, when it was closed along with many other music venues (and later reopened with the rebirth of tourism).[147]p202 Tourism was almost non-existent for three decades. Traditional Cuban music could be found in local Casas de la Trova. Musicians, if in work, were full-time and paid by the state after graduating from a conservatory. The collapse of the USSR in 1991, and the loss of its support for Cuba changed the situation quite a bit. Tourism became respectable again, and so did popular music for their entertainment. Musicians were even allowed to tour abroad and earn a living outside the state-run system.

Famous artists from the Cuban exile include Celia Cruz and the whole conjunto she sang with, the Sonora Matancera. 'Patato' (Carlos Valdes), Cachao, La Lupe, Arturo Sandoval, Willy Chirino, Hansel y Raul, La Palabra, Paquito D'Rivera, Bebo Valdés and Gloria Estefan are some others. Many of these musicians, especially Cruz, became closely associated with the anti-revolutionary movement, and as 'unpersons'[174] have been omitted from the standard Cuban reference books, and their subsequent musical recordings are never on sale in Cuba.[175]


Main article: Salsa music
Rubén Blades

Salsa was the fourth innovation based on Cuban music to hit the USA, and differed in that it was initially developed in the USA, not in Cuba. Because Cuba has so many indigenous types of music there has always been a problem in marketing the 'product' abroad to people who did not understand the differences between rhythms that, to a Cuban, are quite distinct. So, twice in the 20th century, a kind of product label was developed to solve this problem. The first occasion was in the 1930s after The Peanut Vendor became an international success. It was called a 'rumba' even though it really had nothing to do with genuine rumba: the number was obviously a son pregon. The label 'rumba' was used outside Cuba for years as a catch-all for Cuban popular music.[176]

Musicians at the Hotel Nacional, Havana. October 2002

The second occasion happened during the period 1965–1975 in New York, as musicians of Cuban and Puerto-Rican origin combined to produce the great music of the post Cha-cha-cha period. This music acquired the label of 'salsa'. No-one really knows how this happened, but everyone recognised what a benefit it was to have a common label for son, mambo, guaracha, guajira, guaguancó, etc. Cubans and non Cubans, such as Tito Puente, Rubén Blades and many experts of the Cuban music and salsa have always said "Salsa is just another name for Cuban, music. Tito Puentes once said, now they call it Salsa, later they may call it Stir Fry, but to me it will alway be Cuban Music"; but over time salsa bands worked in other influences. For example, in the late 1960s Willie Colón developed numbers that made use of Brazilian rhythms. New York radio programmes offered 'salsarengue' as a further combination, like a good cook Willie Colon You look at a band of the 1940s playing Cuban music and you will see the same exact instruments in Salsa Music. Later still 'Salsa romantica' was the label for an especially sugary type of bolero. Even when, Benny Moré, Perez Prado the greatest Sonero that ever existed, was singing Boleros with a salsa cadence in the 1940s. It was not until the 1950s that Cuban music became popular for Puerto Rican bands. Plena, Bomba an other styles or music were popular at the time in Puerto Rico. Many famous Puerto Rican musicians went to learn the music styles of Cubans in the 1930s and 1940s, and it was not until the arrival of Castro in 1959 and the Cuban music stopped its exportation to the world, that Puerto Ricans in New York were able to be greatly noticed, but what is known as Salsa today, was brought to New York in the 1920s and 1930s by Dizzy and Chano Pozo,[177][178] this last one was discovered by Dizzy as he was one of the greatest percussionist that ever lived.[179][180][181]

The question of whether or not salsa is anything more than Cuban music has been argued over for more than thirty years. Initially, not much difference could be seen. Later it became clear that not only was New York salsa different from popular music in Cuba, but salsa in Venezuela, Colombia and other countries could also be distinguished. It also seems clear that salsa has receded from the great position it achieved in the late 1970s. The reasons for this are also much disputed.[182]

Nueva trova[edit]

Main articles: Nueva trova and Trova
A local musical house Casa de la Trova at Santiago de Cuba.

Paralleling nueva canción in Latin America is the Cuban Nueva trova, which dates from about 1967/68, after the Cuban Revolution. It differed from the traditional trova, not because the musicians were younger, but because the content was, in the widest sense, political. Nueva trova is defined by its connection with Castro's revolution, and by its lyrics, which attempt to escape the banalities of life by concentrating on socialism, injustice, sexism, colonialism, racism and similar issues.[183] Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés became the most important exponents of this style. Carlos Puebla and Joseíto Fernández were long-time old trova singers who added their weight to the new regime, but of the two only Puebla wrote special pro-revolution songs.

Nueva trova had its heyday in the 1970s, but was already declining before the fall of the Soviet Union. Examples of non-political styles in the nueva trova movement can be found, for example, Liuba María Hevia whose lyrics are focused on more traditional subjects such as love and solitude, sharing with the rest a highly poetical style. On the other side of the spectrum, Carlos Varela is famous in Cuba for his open criticism of some aspects of Castro's revolution.

The nueva trova, initially so popular, suffered both inside Cuba, perhaps from a growing disenchantment with one-party rule, and externally, from the vivid contrast with the Buena Vista Social Club film and recordings. Audiences round the world have had their eyes opened to the extraordinary charm and musical quality of the older forms of Cuban music. By contrast, topical themes that seemed so relevant in the 1960s and 1970s now seem dry and passé. Even Guantanamera has been damaged by over-repetition in less skilled hands. All the same, those pieces of high musical and lyrical quality, among which Puebla's Hasta siempre Comandante stands out, will probably last as long as Cuba lasts.[184]

1980s to the present[edit]

Son remains the basis of most popular forms of modern Cuban music. Son is represented by long-standing groups like Septeto Nacional, which was re-established in 1985, Orquesta Aragón, Orquesta Ritmo Oriental and Orquesta Original de Manzanillo. Sierra Maestra, is famous for having sparked a revival in traditional son in the 1980s. Nueva trova still has influence, but the overtly political themes of the 1960s are well out of fashion. Meanwhile, Irakere fused traditional Cuban music with jazz, and groups like NG La Banda, Orishas and Son 14 continued to add new elements to son, especially hip hop and funk, to form timba music; this process was aided by the acquisition of imported electronic equipment. There are still many practitioners of traditional son montuno, such as Eliades Ochoa, who have recorded and toured widely as a result of interest in the son montuno after the Buena Vista Social Club success. Europe based cuban female singer/songwriter Addys Mercedes merged her roots of Son and Filin with elements of urban, rock and pop-music, reaching mainstream airplay charts in Germany.[185]

In the 1990s, increased interest in world music coincided with the post-Soviet Union periodo especial in Cuba, during which the economy began opening up to tourism. Orquesta Aragón, Charanga Habanera and Cándido Fabré y su Banda have been long-time players in the charanga scene, and helped form the popular timba scene of the late 1990s. The biggest award in modern Cuban music is the Beny Moré Award.


Main article: Timba

Cubans have never been content to hear their music described as salsa, even though it is crystal clear that this was a label for their music. For the most part, timba equals salsa cubana, though there are claims that it is something more. Since the early 1990s timba has been used to describe popular dance music in Cuba, rivalled only lately by Reggaetón. Though derived from the same roots as salsa, timba has its own characteristics, and is intimately tied to the life and culture of Cuba, and especially Havana.

As opposed to salsa, whose roots are strictly from Son and the Cuban conjunto bands of the 1940s and 1950s, Timba represents a synthesis of many folkloric (rumba, guaguancó, batá drumming and the sacred songs of santería.[186]), and popular sources (even taking inspiration from non Afro Cuban musical genres such as rock, jazz, funk, and Puerto Rican folk). According to Vincenzo Perna, author of Timba: The Sound of the Cuban Crisis, timba needs to be spoken of because of its musical, cultural, social, and political reasons; its sheer popularity in Cuba, its novelty and originality as a musical style, the skill of its practitioners, its relationship with both local traditions and the culture of the black Diaspora, its meanings, and the way its style brings to light the tension points within society.[187] In addition to timbales, timba drummers make use of the drum-set, further distinguishing the sound from that of mainland salsa. The use of synthesised keyboard is also common. Timba songs tend to sound more innovative, experimental and frequently more virtuosic than salsa pieces; horn parts are usually fast, at times even bebop influenced, and stretch to the extreme ranges of all instruments. Bass and percussion patterns are similarly unconventional. Improvisation is commonplace.

Revival projects[edit]

Cuban bandleader and musician Juan de Marcos González

Several projects gained international attention in the 1990s due to their revival of traditional music styles such as the son cubano of the septeto and the conjunto era. Founded in 1976, Sierra Maestra (band) was one of the first revivalist groups in Cuba. In 1995, Juan de Marcos González, director and tres player of Sierra Maestra, was contacted by Nick Gold (head of World Circuit Records) to record a traditional Cuban album featuring African musicians. In the end, the African musicians could not make it to Havana, so the project became a 100% Cuban affair featuring veteran Cuban musicians such as Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and Rubén González. It spawned two bands, both of which involved American guitarist Ry Cooder: Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban All Stars. Both bands recorded their debut albums, Buena Vista Social Club and A toda Cuba le gusta, respectively, in March 1996. The release of the former in September 1997 was a true watershed event. The album became a worldwide hit, selling millions of copies and turning established musicians into globally renowned figures.

Guitarist Eliades Ochoa

Buena Vista resulted in several follow-up recordings and spawned a film of the same name, as well as tremendous interest in other Cuban groups. In subsequent years, dozens of singers and conjuntos made recordings for foreign labels and toured internationally.

The conclusion some have drawn is that the wholesale closure of popular music venues (after the revolution), which threw many musicians out of work, and subsequent control by state committees, damaged the development of Cuban popular music.[147][173]


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban economy went into decline. Poverty became more widespread and visible in Cuba. In the 1990s, some Cubans start to protest this situation by means of rap and hip-hop. The rappers became a 'revolution within a revolution'.[188] In Cuba, hip hop is used to describe life and aspirations.[189]

During the Special Period, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban government then took steps to improve the economy. Tourism was mildly encouraged, and Havana's music venues started to cater for visitors as well as locals. Before then, tourists were quite a rarity.[190] When hip-hop emerged, the Cuban government opposed the vulgar image that rappers portrayed, but later accepted (1999) that it might be better to have hip-hop under the influence of the Ministry of Culture as an "authentic expression of Cuban Culture".[191]

Unlike salsa, which is an indigenous dance music, rap music in Cuba is culturally of foreign origin. Although some rap groups have prided themselves in remaining loyal to true hip hop essence, others (like the Orishas, the only Cuban rap group to succeed in Latin America), have been criticized for using salsa rhythms to generate commercial appeal.

The government and hip-hop[edit]

Hip-hop being tolerated by the government of Cuba is something out of the ordinary, because performers are provided with venues and equipment by the government.[192] The Cuban rap and hip-hop scene sought out the involvement of the Ministry of Culture in the production and promotion of their music, which would otherwise have been impossible to accomplish. After the Cuban government provided luke-warm endorsement, the Cuban Rap Agency provided the Cuban rap scene, in 2002, with a state-sponsored record label, magazine, and Cuba's own hip-hop festival.[191]

Under this scheme, the government gives rap and hip-hop groups time on mass media outlets in return for hip-hop artists limiting self-expression and presenting the government in a positive way.[193] The hip-hop artists talk about everyday life in Cuba. However, most critics believe that the Cuban Rap Agency will hide rappers' opinions of the Cuban government.[194] The government evidently recognises that rap and hip-hop is growing in Cuba, and would be difficult or impossible to eliminate.[citation needed]


Main article: Cubatón

Like Spanish reggae from Panama is a new genre for the Cubans but by 2012 was so massively popular that "the face of Cuban pop music" was considered to be Cuban reggae (cubatón) singer, Osmani García "La Voz".[195] The advent of web software helped to distribute music unofficially. Both lyrics and dance movements have been criticised. Reggaeton musicians such as responded by making songs that defended their music. Despite their efforts, the Ministry of Culture has ruled that reggaeton is not to be used in teaching institutions, parties and at discos,[196] and in 2011 restricted its airplay after massive popularity of García's "Chupi Chupi", which referred to oral sex. Other popular cubatón artists include Eddy K and Gente de Zona ("People from the 'Hood").


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  140. ^ Orovio, Helio 2004. Cuban music from A to Z. p203.
  141. ^ Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1994. Cuba canta y baila: discografía de la música cubana 1898–1925. Fundación Musicalia, San Juan P.R. p317
  142. ^ "The origin of Cuban music. Myths and realities". pp. 77–79. Retrieved July 4, 2015. 
  143. ^ Giro, Radamés: Los Motivos del son. Panorama de la música popular cubana. Editorial Letras Cubanas, La Habana, Cuba, 1998, p. 200.
  144. ^ "The origin of Cuban music. Myths and realities". p. 90. Retrieved July 4, 2015. 
  145. ^ Peñalosa (2009: 83) The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins. Redway, CA: Bembe Inc. ISBN 1-886502-80-3.
  146. ^ Moore, R. “Afrocubanismo and Son.” The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Ed. Chomsky, Carr, and Smorkaloff. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. 198. Print.
  147. ^ a b c d e f g h Acosta, Leonardo 2003. Cubano be, cubano bop: one hundred years of jazz in Cuba. Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Acosta" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  148. ^ a b Giro Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. Extensive essay on Cuban jazz in vol 2, p261–269.
  149. ^ a b Roberts, John Storm 1979. The Latin tinge: the influence of Latin American music on the United States. Oxford.
  150. ^ a b Roberts, John Storm 1999. Latin jazz: the first of the fusions, 1880s to today. Schirmer, N.Y..
  151. ^ a b Isabelle Leymarie 2002. Cuban fire: the story of salsa and Latin jazz. Continuum, London.
  152. ^ a b Schuller, Gunther 1986. Early jazz: its roots and musical development. Oxford, N.Y.
  153. ^ Giro Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. vol 2, p261.
  154. ^ Orovio, Helio 1981. Diccionario de la música cubana. La Habana. p306
  155. ^ Acosta, Leonardo: Otra visión de la música popular cubana, Ediciones museo de la música, Habana, Cuba, 2014, p. 228.
  156. ^ Fernandez, Raul A. (2006). From Afro-Cuban rhythms to Latin jazz. University of California Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780520939448. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  157. ^ Acosta, Leonardo (2003: 59). Cubano be, cubano bop: one hundred years of jazz in Cuba. Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Books. ISBN 158834147X
  158. ^ Giro, Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. Vol 1, p79.
  159. ^ Sublette, Ned: Cuba and its music. Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2004, p. 395
  160. ^ Sublette, Ned: Cuba and its music. Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2004, p. 383
  161. ^ Orovio, Helio: Cuban music from A to Z. Tumi Music Ltd. Bath, U.K., 2004. p. 63
  162. ^ Orovio, Helio: Cuban music from A to Z. Tumi Music Ltd. Bath, U.K., 2004. p. 20
  163. ^ Orovio, Helio: Cuban music from A to Z. Tumi Music Ltd. Bath, U.K., 2004, p. 168
  164. ^ Orovio, Helio: Cuban music from A to Z. Tumi Music Ltd. Bath, U.K., 2004, p. 180
  165. ^ Orovio, Helio: Cuban music from A to Z. Tumi Music Ltd. Bath, U.K., 2004, p. 17.
  166. ^ Orovio, Helio 2004. Cuban music from A to Z. p187
  167. ^ Lowinger, Rosa and Ofelia Fox 2005. Tropicana nights: the life and times of the legendary Cuban nightclub. Harcourt, Orlando FL.
  168. ^ See, for example the number Llora in Memories of Cuba: Orquesta Casino de la Playa (1937-1944) Tumbao TCD-003, and the numbers La ultima noche, Guano seco and Ten jabon in Orlando Guerra 'Cascarita', El Guarachero, con la Orchesta Casino de la Playa. Tumbao TCD-033.
  169. ^ Consult Tumbao TCD-006 Kuba Mambo; Tumbao TCD-010 El Barbaro del Ritmo; Tumbao TCD-013 Go Go Mambo
  170. ^ RCA Victor LP 1459 Latin Satin: Perez Prado and his orchestra offered a number of Latin standards in chachachá style.
  171. ^ Boadle, Anthony (2008-02-12). "Tata Güines; percussionist called 'King of the Congas' - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  172. ^ Diaz Ayala, Cristobal 1981. Música cubana del Areyto a la Nueva Trova. 2nd rev ed, Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. p257
  173. ^ a b Juan Formell in Padura Fuentes, Leonardo 2003. Faces of salsa: a spoken history of the music. Translated by Stephen J. Clark. Smithsonian, Washington, D.C. p69
  174. ^ A word coined by George Orwell, see Nineteen Eighty-Four
  175. ^ At last Cruz has been recognized in a Cuban work of reference: Giro Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. The Cruz entry is in volume 2.
  176. ^ Diaz Ayala, Cristobal 1981. Música cubana del Areyto a la Nueva Trova. 2nd rev ed, Cubanacan, San Juan P.R.
  177. ^ Williams, Richard (2011-06-17). "Chano Pozo meets Dizzy Gillespie". The Guardian (London). 
  178. ^ "Andy Montañez Murio Chano Pozo". YouTube. 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  179. ^ Roberts, John Storm 1979. The Latin tinge: the impact of Latin American music on the United States. Oxford.
  180. ^ Steward, Sue 1991. Salsa: musical heartbeat of Latin America. Thames & Hudson, London.
  181. ^ Calvo Ospina, Hernando 1995. Salsa! Havana heat, Bronx beat. Latin American Bureau.
  182. ^ Rondon, César Miguel 2008. The book of salsa: a chronicle of urban music from the Caribbean to New York City. University of North Carolina Press.
  183. ^ Orovio, Helio 2004. Cuban music from A to Z. p151
  184. ^ Cristóbal Díaz selected two nueva trova mumbers for his list of 50 canciones cubanas en el repertorio popular internacional: they are Unicornio azul (Silvio Rodríguez) and Yolanda (Pablo Milanés): Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1998. Cuando sali de la Habana 1898-1997: cien anos de musica cubana por el mundo. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. p221
  185. ^ Addys Mercedes' Website
  186. ^ Cuban Music from A to Z, by Helio Orovio, p210 (Duke University Press, Durham 2004)
  187. ^ West-Duran, Alan. "A Resonant Rum for the Ears: Afro-cuban Music." Journal of Popular Music Studies 20.1 (2008): 79-91.
  188. ^ "Cuban hip-hop: The rebellion within the revolution". CNN. 2002-11-22. 
  189. ^ Cuban Hip-hop: making space for new voices of dissent. In The Vinyl ain’t final: Hip-hop and the globalization of black popular culture. Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle (eds). Pluto Press, London & Ann Arbor, Michigan. p167-179
  190. ^ Baker, Geoffrey. 2006. "La Habana que no conoces: Cuban rap and the social construction of urban space." Ethnomusicology Forum 15, #2, 215-246
  191. ^ a b " - Cuban hip-hop: The rebellion within the revolution - Nov. 25, 2002". 2002-11-22. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  192. ^ Baker G: Hip Hop revolucion, nationalizing Rap in Cuba. Ethnomusicology 49 #3 p399.
  193. ^ Thurston, J: "Cuban Rap Agency pushes smart subcultural rap to the margins", "The Tartan Online", 30 April 2007.
  194. ^ Baker, Geoffrey. 2006. La Habana que no conoces: Cuban rap and the social construction of urban space. Ethnomusicology Forum 15 #2
  195. ^ "Considerado actualmente como el exponente más popular de Cuba" in "Osmani García “La Voz” llega el lunes a Miami", La Nación Dominicana, March 23, 2012
  196. ^ Fairley, Jan. 'Como hacer el amor con ropa' (How to make love with your clothes on): dancing regeton and gender in Cuba.


The works below are reliable sources for all aspects of traditional Cuban popular music. Spanish titles indicate those that have not been translated into English.

  • Acosta, Leonardo 1987. From the drum to the synthesiser. Martí, Havana, Cuba. Articles written from 1976 to 1982.
  • Acosta, Leonardo 2003. Cubano be, cubano bop: one hundred years of jazz in Cuba. Transl. Daniel S. Whitesell. Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.. Outstanding review by former conjunto trumpeter.
  • Betancur Alvarez, Fabio 1993. Sin clave y bongó no hay son: música afrocubano y confluencias musicales de Colombia y Cuba. Antioqia, Medellín, Colombia.
  • Blanco, Jesús 1992. 80 años del son y soneros en el Caribe. Caracas.
  • Cabrera, Lydia 1958. La sociedád secreta Abakuá. Colección del Chicerekú, La Habana.
  • Calderon, Jorge 1983. Maria Teresa Vera. La Habana.
  • Calvo Ospina, Hernando 1995. Salsa! Havana heat, Bronx beat. Latin American Bureau.
  • Cañizares, Dulcila 1995. La trova tradicional. 2nd ed, La Habana.
  • Cañizares, Dulcila 1999. Gonzalo Roig, hombre y creador.
  • Carpentier, Alejo 2001 [1945]. Music in Cuba. Minneapolis MN. A standard work on the history of Cuban music up to 1940.
  • Chediak, Natalio 1998. Diccioanrio del jazz latino. Fundacion Author, Barcelona.
  • Collazo, Bobby 1987. La ultima noche que pase contigo: 40 anos de fanandula Cubana. Cubanacan, Puerto Rico.
  • Depestre Catony, Leonardo 1989. Homenaje a la musica cubana. Oriente, Santiago de Cuba. Biographies of Abelardo Barroso, Joseíto Fernández, Paulina Alvarez, Roberto Faz and Pacho Alonzo.
  • Depestre Catony, Leonardo 1990. Cuatro musicos de una villa. Letras Cubanas, La Habana. Biographies of four musicians from Guanabacoa: Ernesto Lecuona, Rita Montaner, Bola de Nieve and Juan Arrondo.
  • Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1981. Música cubana del Areyto a la Nueva Trova. 2nd rev ed, Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. Excellent history up to the 1960s, with a chapter on Cuban music in the USA.
  • Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1988. Si te quieres por el pico divertir: historia del pregón musical latinoamericano. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R. Music based on street-sellers cries; title is taken from lyricof Peanut Vendor.
  • Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1994. Cuba canta y baila: discografía de la música cubana 1898–1925. Fundación Musicalia, San Juan P.R. A vital research tool.
  • Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 1998. Cuando sali de la Habana 1898-1997: cien anos de musica cubana por el mundo. Cubanacan, San Juan P.R.
  • Failde, Osvalde Castillo 1964. Miguel Faílde: créador musical del Danzón. Consejo Nacional de Cultura, La Habana.
  • Fairley, Jan. 2000. Troubadours old and new, and ¡Que rico bailo yo! How well I dance. In S. Broughton and M. Ellingham, with J. McConnachie and O. Duane, (eds) World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific p386-413. Rough Guides, Penguin. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Fajardo, Ramon 1993. Rita Montaner. La Habana.
  • Fajardo, Ramon 1997. Rita Montaner: testimonio de una epoca. La Habana.
  • Fernandez Robaina, Tomas 1983. Recuerdos secretos de los mujeres publicas. La Habana.
  • Galan, Natalio 1983. Cuba y sus sones. Pre-Textos, Valencia.
  • Giro, Radamés (ed) 1993. El mambo. La Habana. Nine essays by Cuban musicians and musicologists.
  • Giro, Radamés (ed) 1998. Panorama de la musica popular Cubana. Letras Cubanas, La Habana. Reprints some important essays on Cuban popular music.
  • Giro, Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. 4 vols, La Habana. An invaluable source.
  • Grenet, Emilio 1939. Popular Cuban music. Havana.
  • Leal, Rine 1986. Teatro del siglo XIX. La Habana.
  • Leon, Carmela de 1990. Sindo Garay: memoria de un trovador. La Habana.
  • Leon, Argeliers 1964. Musica folklorica cubana. Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, La Habana.
  • Leymarie, Isabelle (1998). Cuba: La Musique des dieux. Paris: Éditions du Layeur. ISBN 2911468163. 
  • Leymarie, Isabelle (2002). Cuban Fire: The Story of salsa and Latin jazz. New York: Continuum. ISBN 0826455867. 
  • Leymarie, Isabelle (2003). La Música cubana: Cuba. Barcelona: Océano. ISBN 8449424097. 
  • Linares, María Teresa 1970. La música popular. La Habana, Cuba. Illustrated introduction.
  • Linares, María Teresa 1981. La música y el pueblo. La Habana, Cuba.
  • Lowinger, Rosa and Ofelia Fox 2005. Tropicana nights: the life and times of the legendary Cuban nightclub. Harcourt, Orlando FL. Fox (1924–2006) was the wife of the owner.
  • Loyola Fernandez, Jose 1996. El ritmo en bolero: el bolero en la musica bailable cubana. Huracan, Rio Piedras.
  • Manuel, Peter (ed) 1991. Essays on Cuban music: North America and Cuban perspectives. Lanham MD.
  • Manuel, Peter, with K. Bilby and M. Largey. 2006. Caribbean currents: Caribbean music from rumba to reggae 2nd ed. Temple University. ISBN 1-59213-463-7
  • Martinez, Orlando 1989. Ernesto Lecuona. La Habana, Cuba.
  • Naser, Amín E. 1985. Benny Moré: perfil libre. La Habana, Cuba.
  • Orovio, Helio 1995. El bolero latino. La Habana.
  • Orovio, Helio 2004. Cuban music from A to Z. Revised by Sue Steward. ISBN 0-8223-3186-1 A biographical dictionary of Cuban music, artists, composers, groups and terms. Duke University, Durham NC; Tumi, Bath.
  • Ortiz, Fernando 1950. La Afrocania de la musica folklorica de Cuba. La Habana, revised ed 1965.
  • Ortiz, Fernando 1951. Los bailes y el teatro de los negros en el folklore de Cuba. Letras Cubanas, La Habana. Continuation of the previous book; contains transcriptions of percussion innotation and lyrics of toques and cantos a los santos variously in Lucumi and Spanish.
  • Ortiz, Fernando 1952. Los instrumentos de la musica Afrocubana. 5 volumes, La Habana.
  • Padura Fuentes, Leonardo 2003. Faces of salsa: a spoken history of the music. Translated by Stephen J. Clark. Smithsonian, Washington, D.C. Interviews with top musicians, recorded in the 1989–1993 era.
  • Peñalosa, David 2009. The clave matrix; Afro-Cuban rhythm: its principles and African origins. Redway, CA: Bembe Inc. ISBN 1-886502-80-3.
  • Pérez Sanjuro, Elena 1986. Historia de la música cubana. Miami.
  • Perna, Vincenzo 2005. "Timba, the Sound of the Cuban Crisis". Ashgate, Aldershot, UK-Burlington, USA
  • Pichardo, Esteban 1835 (repr 1985). Diccionario provincial casi razionado de voces y frases cubanos. La Habana. Includes contemporary explanations of musical and dance names.
  • Roberts, John Storm 1979. The Latin tinge: the impact of Latin American music on the United States. Oxford. One of the first on this theme; still excellent.
  • Roberts, John Storm 1999. Latin jazz: the first of the fusions, 1880s to today. Schirmer, N.Y.
  • Rodrígeuz Domíngues, Ezequiel. El Trio Matamoros: trienta y cinco anos de música popular. La Habana.
  • Rondon, César Miguel 2008. The book of salsa: a chronicle of urban music from the Caribbean to New York City. University of North Carolina Press.
  • Roy, Maya 2002. Cuban music: from son and rumba to the Buena Vista Social Club and timba cubana. Latin American Bureau/Wiener.
  • Steward, Sue 1991. Salsa: musical heartbeat of Latin America. Thames & Hudson, London. Highly illustrated.
  • Sublette, Ned 2004. Cuba and its music: from the first drums to the mambo. Chicago. ISBN 1-55652-516-8 First of two planned volumes, covers up to March 1952.
  • Sweeney, Philip 2001. The Rough Guide to Cuban music: the history, the artists, the best CDs. Rough Guides, London. Small format.
  • Thomas, Hugh 1971. Cuba, or the pursuit of freedom. Eyre & Spottiswoode, London. Revised and abridged edition 2001, Picador, London. The abridged edition, a slim-line 1151 pages, has shortened the section of Cuba's early history. The standard work in English.
  • Thomas, Hugh 1997. The slave trade: the history of the Atlantic slave trade 1440-1870. Picador, London. 925 pages.
  • Urfé, Odilio 1965. El danzón. La Habana.

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