Yuka (music)

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For other uses, see Yuka (disambiguation).
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Yuka is a style of Cuban music and dance and a type of drum, of Congolese origin. The word Yuka is Bantu, and means 'to beat'. For preference, the drums are made from hollowed-out trunks of the avocado tree. Leather is nailed to one of the open ends, and the player hits the skin with both hands, the drum being slanted between his legs. The drums come in three sizes: caja (large), mula and cachimba (a term referring to its small size). Rhythms may also be played on the drum body, the drummer using a small mallet or a stave in one hand, the other hand slapping the leather. The drummer wears two small rattles (nkembí), made of metal or gourds, on his wrists. The drums may be accompanied by staves on a guagua (hollow wooden slit drum) or the drum body, and by percussion on a piece of iron, the muela (a pick used for plowing).[1]

The secular dance is performed by a couple as a stylised contest: the man chases, the woman avoids.[2] Despite the similarity of this theme with the guaguancó, there is no clear evidence to suggest that the two forms are connected by anything other than their African style. The origin of the yuka lies in Oriente, especially Santiago de Cuba, whereas the origin of the guaguancó (a rumba form) lies in Matanzas and Havana. Yuka drums may also be used in sacred dances of the palo type: Palo Mayombe, for example.


  1. ^ León, Argiliers 1964. Del canto y el tiempo. La Habana. p67
  2. ^ Orovio, Helio 2003. Cuban music from A to Z. p230