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This article is about the usage of the term rumba in music. For other uses, see Rumba (disambiguation).

The term rumba may refer to a variety of unrelated music styles. Originally, the term rumba was used as a synonym for "party" in northern Cuba, and by the late 19th century it was used to denote the complex of secular music styles known as Cuban rumba.[1][2] Since the early 20th century the term has been used in different countries to refer to distinct styles of music and dance, most of which are only tangentially related to the original Cuban rumba, if at all.

In Cuba[edit]

Main article: Cuban rumba

During the second half of the 19th century, several secular dance-oriented music styles were developed by Afro-Cuban workers in the poor neighbourhoods of Havana and Matanzas.[3] These syncretic styles would later be referred to as "rumba", a word that also meant "party". Traditionally, the three main styles of rumba are yambú, columbia and guaguancó, each of which has a characteristic dance, rhythm and singing. Although still a purely folkloric genre, numerous innovations have been introduced in rumba since the mid 20th century, including new styles such as batá-rumba and guarapachangueo.[3]

In North America[edit]

Main articles: Rhumba and Rumberas film

In the US, the term "rhumba" (anglicised version of rumba), began to be used during the 1920s to refer to ballroom music with Afro-Cuban music themes, particularly in the context of big band music.[4] This music was mostly inspired by son cubano, while being rhythmically and instrumentally unrelated to Cuban rumba.[5] By the 1930s, with the release of "The Peanut Vendor", the genre had become highly-successful and well-defined. The rhumba dance developed in the East Coast of the United States was based on the bolero-son.[6] The first rumba competition took place in the Savoy Ballroom in 1930.[7] Nowadays, two different styles of ballroom rumba coexist: American-style and International-style.

During the 1940s and 1950s, the Mexican and American film industry expanded the cultural appropriation of the term rumba as rumbera films became popular.[8] In this context, rumberas were Cuban and Mexican divas, singers and actresses that sung boleros and canciones, and rarely rumbas. Notable rumberas include Rita Montaner, Rosa Carmina, María Antonieta Pons and Ninón Sevilla.[9]

In the 1970s, with the emergence of salsa as a popular music and dance genre in the US, rhythmic elements of Cuban rumba (particularly guaguancó) became prevalent alongside the son.[10] Like salsa, rhumba would then be danced to salsa ensembles instead of big bands. By the end of the 20th century, rhumba was also danced to pop music and jazz bands as seen in TV shows like Dancing with the Stars.[6]

In Spain[edit]

Main articles: Rumba flamenca and Catalan rumba

In Spain, the term rumba was introduced in the early 20th century as rumba flamenca, one of the palos (styles) of flamenco. Particularly, it is considered one of the cantes de ida y vuelta, since flamenco itself might have had an influence on Cuban rumba, particularly on its vocal style. However, musicologists agree that rumba flamenca does not truly derive from Cuban rumba, but from guaracha, a fast-paced music style from Havana.[11][12]

In the late 1950s, popular artists such as Peret (El Rey de la Rumba) and El Pescaílla developed an uptempo style that combined elements from rumba flamenca, Spanish gypsy music and pop. This became known as Catalan rumba (rumba catalana).[13] In the 1980s, the style gained international popularity thanks to French ensemble Gipsy Kings.

In the 1990s, the term tecno-rumba was used to describe the music of Camela, and later Azúcar Moreno.[14] Since the early 2000s, the term rumba has been used in Spain to refer to derivatives of Catalan rumba with hip hop and rock elements, as recorded by Estopa, Huecco and Melendi.[15]

In Colombia[edit]

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, a fusion of bambuco and Afro-Cuban music was developed in Colombia by artists such as Emilio Sierra, Milciades Garavito, and Diógenes Chaves Pinzón, under the name rumba criolla (creole rumba).[16] Rumba criolla is classified into different regional styles such as rumba antioqueña and rumba tolimense.[17]

In Africa[edit]

Main article: Soukous

In the 1930s and 1940s, Afro-Cuban son groups such as Septeto Habanero, Trio Matamoros and Los Guaracheros de Oriente were played over Radio Congo Belge in Léopoldville (Kinshasa), gaining widespread populariry in the country during the following decades.[18][19] Once local bands tried to emulate the sound of Cuban son (incorrectly referred to as "rumba" in Africa, despite being unrelated to Cuban rumba), their music became known as "soukous", a derivative of the French word "secouer" (literally, "to shake"), or "Congolese rumba".[20] By the late 1960s, soukous was an established genre in most of Central Africa, and it would also impact the music of West and East Africa. Franco's OK Jazz and Le Grand Kallé's African Jazz were amongst the most successful soukous ensembles of the 20th century.


  1. ^ Alén Rodríguez, Olavo (2010). "A History of the Congas". AfroCubaWeb. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  2. ^ Peñalosa, David (2011). Rumba Quinto. Bembe Books. p. 183.
  3. ^ a b Díaz, Román; Palenzuela Jottar, Berta (2004). "Rumba". In Candelaria, Cordelia. Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, Volume 2. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 712–725. 
  4. ^ Drake-Boyt, Elizabeth (2011). "Rhumba". Latin Dance. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood. pp. 43–46. 
  5. ^ Hess, Carol A. (2013). Representing the Good Neighbor: Music, Difference, and the Pan American Dream. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 115–116, 200. 
  6. ^ a b Miller, Terry E.; Shahriari, Andrew (2015). World Music: A Global Journey (Concise Edition). New York, NY: Routledge. p. 255. 
  7. ^ Hubbard, Karen; Monaghan, Terry (2009). "Social Dancing at the Savoy". In Malnig, Julie. Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois. pp. 135, 144. 
  8. ^ Poey, Delia (2014). Cuban Women and Salsa: To the Beat of Their Own Drum. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 13–32. 
  9. ^ Mora, Carl J., ed. (2005). Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society, 1896-2004. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 86. 
  10. ^ Pietrobruno, Sheenagh (2006). Salsa and Its Transnational Moves. Lanham, MD: Lexington. p. 36. 
  11. ^ Pérez Custodio, Diana (2005). Paco de Lucía: La evolución del flamenco a través de sus rumbas (in Spanish). Cádiz, Spain: Universidad de Cádiz. pp. 96–97. 
  12. ^ Martínez, Silvia; Fouce, Héctor (2013). Made in Spain: Studies in Popular Music. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 45. 
  13. ^ Martínez & Fouce (2013). p. 21.
  14. ^ Delgado, Lola; Lozano, Daniel (2004). Tribus urbanas (in Spanish). Madrid, Spain: La Esfera de los Libros. p. 158. 
  15. ^ Bianciotto, Jordi (2008). Guía universal del rock: de 1990 hasta hoy (in Spanish). Barcelona, Spain: Ma Non Troppo. p. 259. 
  16. ^ Bermúdez, Egberto (2008). "From Colombian national song to Colombian song". In Matter, Max; Grosch, Nils. Song and Popular Culture Special Issue: Popular Song in Latin America. Münster, Germany: Waxmann. p. 235. 
  17. ^ Miranda, Juan Carlos (1999). La rumba criolla en el folclor fresnense (PDF) (in Spanish). Fresno, Colombia: Universidad El Bosque. pp. 3–4. 
  18. ^ The Encyclopedia of Africa v. 1. 2010 p. 407.
  19. ^ Storm Roberts, John (1999). The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 217–218. 
  20. ^ "Soukous dance king rules Kinshasa (BBC)"