Cha-cha-chá (music)

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Chachachá is a genre of Cuban music. It has been a popular dance music which developed from the Danzón-mambo in the early 1950s, and became widely popular throughout the entire world.


Chachachá is a Cuban music genre whose creation has been traditionally attributed to Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrín, which began his career playing for the charanga band Orquesta América.[2]

According to the testimony of Enrique Jorrín, he composed some “Danzones” in which the musician of the orchestra had to sing short refrains, and this style was very successful. In the Danzón “Constancia” he introduced some montunos and the audience was motivated to join in singing the refrains. Jorrín also asked the members of the orchestra to sing in unison so the lyrics may be heard more clearly and achieve a greater impact in the audience. That way of singing also helped to mask the poor singing skills of the orchestra members.

In 1948, Jorrín changed the style of a Mexican song by Guty Cárdenas called “Nunca”, composing a separate part for the Trio or Montuno of the Danzón; and in 1951 he composed a signature Chachachá called “La engañadora”. Jorrín noticed that most of the dancers had some trouble with highly syncopated rhythms and therefore he simplified the musical texture of his pieces, trying to use as little syncopation as possible. The novel Chachachá style was born from melodies that were very easy to dance.[3]

Since its inception, Chachachá music had a close relationship with the dancer’s steps. The well-known name Chachachá came into being with the help of the dancers at the Silver Star Club in Havana. When the dance was coupled to the rhythm of the music, it became evident that the dancer’s feet were making a peculiar sound as they grazed the floor on three successive beats. It was like an onomatopoeia that sounded as: Chachachá. From this peculiar sound, a music genre was born which motivated people from around the world to dance at its catchy rhythm.[4]


Typical piano accompaniment to a cha-cha-chá (Orovio 1981:132)

According to Odilio Urfé, the Chachachá was a musical genre that was based on the rhythm of the Danzón-mambo but with a different structural conception. It utilized elements of the “Chotis madrileño” and a monodic vocal style. After “La Engañadora”, his original structure was greatly modified by Jorrín himself and other composers.[5]

Cuban musicologist Olavo Alén emphasizes the inheritance that the Chachachá received from the Danzón. He says that actually, the Chachachá appears to be a derivative of the 'Danzón. It maintains a very similar structure to that of the Danzón, just transforming the melodic and rhythmic elements used in the composition of each of its sections. The interpretative function of the flute is retained; its role as a soloist, and the characteristics of its improvisation in the Danzón reappear in the Chachachá with hardly any alteration. The melodies of the violins alternate with those of the flute and the voices in a way that became standardized in the Danzón and the Danzonete.

The principal element that differentiates the Chachachá from the Danzón is the rhythmic cell that gives its name to the genre. It is also significant that the Chachachá abandons the elements from the son that were incorporated into the Danzonete and returns to the strict utilization of elements style that arose and were developed in the context of the Danzón.[6]

Further development[edit]

According to Olavo ALén: “During the 1950s, Chachachá maintained its popularity thanks to the efforts of many Cuban composers who were familiar with the technique of composing danzones and who unleashed their creativity on the Chachachá”, such as Rosendo Ruiz, [Jr.] ("Los Marcianos" and "Rico Vacilón"), Félix Reina ("Dime Chinita," "Como Bailan Cha-cha-chá los Mexicanos"), Richard Egűes ("El Bodeguero" and "La Cantina") and Rafael Lay ("Cero Codazos, Cero Cabezazos").[7]

Although the Chachachá rhythm originated with Orquesta América, some scholars, including John Santos (1982), consider the Orquesta Aragón of Rafael Lay and Richard Egűes, and the orchestra Fajardo y sus Estrellas of José Fajardo to have been particularly influential in the development of the Chachachá. The coincidental emergence of television and 33⅓ RPM LP discs were significant factors in the sudden international popularity of the music and dance of the Cha-cha-chá.[8]

The Chachachá was first presented to the public through the instrumental medium of the charanga, a typical Cuban dance band format made up of a flute, strings, piano, bass and percussion. The popularity of the Chachachá also revived the popularity of this kind of orchestra.[9]

See also[edit]


  • Orquesta Enrique Jorrín; "Todo Chachachá"; Egrem CD-0044
  • Johnny Pacheco; "Early Rhythms"; Musical Productions MP-3162 CD
  • Randy Carlos and his Orchestra; "Pachanga con Cha Cha Cha"; Fiesta FLPS-1313
  • Various orchestras; "El chachachá me encanta"; Egrem CD-0503


  1. ^ Blatter, Alfred (2007). Revisiting music theory: a guide to the practice, p.28. ISBN 0-415-97440-2.
  2. ^ Orovio, Helio. 1981. Diccionario de la Música Cubana. La Habana, Editorial Letras Cubanas. ISBN 959-10-0048-0, p. 130
  3. ^ Orovio, Helio. 1981. Diccionario de la Música Cubana. La Habana, Editorial Letras Cubanas. ISBN 959-10-0048-0, p. 130-132
  4. ^ Sanchez-Coll, Israel (February 8, 2006). "Enrique Jorrín". Conexión Cubana. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  5. ^ Urfé, Odilio: Del Mambo y el Cha-cha-chá. In Bailes Populares Cubanos, 1974. Fernández, María Antonia. La Habana, Editorial Pueblo y Educación
  6. ^ Alén Rodríguez, Olavo. 1994. De lo Afrocubano a la Salsa. La Habana, Ediciones ARTEX.
  7. ^ Alén Rodríguez, Olavo. 1994. De lo Afrocubano a la Salsa. La Habana, Ediciones ARTEX.
  8. ^ Santos, John. 1982. The Cuban Danzón (Liner Notes). New York, Folkways Records FE 4066
  9. ^ Alén Rodríguez, Olavo. 1994. De lo Afrocubano a la Salsa. La Habana, Ediciones ARTEX, p. 87