El Espiritu De La Rumba: “Pa Ke Tu Me Llama”
African slaves first arrived in Cuba in the 16th century with the early Spanish settlers. Due to the reliance on sugar as an export during the late 18th and early 19th century, great numbers of slaves were brought to work on the sugar plantations. Where large populations of slaves lived, African religion, dance, and drumming were clandestinely preserved from generation to generation.
During the 19th century in Cuba, specifically in urban Havana and Matanzas, people of African descent originally used the word Rumba as a synonym for party. The term Rumbón is frequently used to denote rumba performances in the streets.
Rumba is a secular genre of Cuban music involving Dance, Drum, and Song. It originated in the central regions of Cuba, mainly in urban Havana and Matanzas, during the late 19th century. It is based on African music and dance traditions, namely Abakuá and Yuka, as well as the Spanish-based coros de clave.
Traditionally the Rumba has been classified into three distinct styles: Yambú, Guaguancó and Columbia. Both Yambú and Guaguancó originated in the solares, large houses in the poorest districts of Havana and Matanzas mostly inhabited by the descendants of African slaves.
Rumba instrumentation has varied historically depending on the style and the availability of the instruments. The core instruments of any rumba ensemble are the Claves, two sticks that are struck against each other, and the conga Drums: Quinto (lead drum, highest-pitched), Tres Dos (middle), and Tumba or Salidor (lowest-pitched). Other common instruments include the Katá or guagua, a wooden cylinder; the Palitos, sticks to struck the catá; shakers such as the Chekeré and the maracas; scrapers such as the güiro; bells, and cajones, wooden boxes that preceded the congas.
Yambú is considered the oldest style of Rumba, originating in colonial times. Hence, it is often called “yambú de tiempo España” – yambú of Spanish times. It has the slowest tempo of all Rumba styles and its dance incorporates movements feigning frailty. Although Male dancers may flirt with Female dancers during the dance, they do not use the vacunao of Guaguancó.
Guaguancó is the most popular and influential rumba style. It is similar to Yambú in most aspects, having derived from it, but it has a faster tempo. The term “guaguancó” originally referred to a narrative song style which emerged from the coros de clave of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Columbia is a fast and energetic Rumba, originated in the hamlets, plantations, and docks where men of African descent worked together. Unlike other Rumba styles, columbia is traditionally meant to be a solo male dance. Columbia originated from the drum patterns and chants of religious Cuban Abakuá traditions. The drum patterns of the lowest conga drum is essentially the same in both Columbia and Abakuá. The rhythmic phrasing of the Abakuá lead drum bonkó enchemiyá is similar, and in some instances, identical to columbia quinto phrases.
Men may also compete with other men to display their agility, strength, confidence and even sense of humor. Columbia incorporates many movements derived from Abakuá and Yuka dances, as well as Spanish flamenco, and contemporary expressions of the dance often incorporate breakdancing and hip hop moves. In recent decades, women are also beginning to dance Columbia.
In Cuba, Rumba is a generic term covering a variety of musical rhythms and associated dances. The Rumba has its influences in the music brought to Cuba by Spanish colonizers as well as Africans brought to Cuba as slaves. Rumba is more than a music and dance genre; it is the collective expression of the Creole nature of the island itself. Rumba is a secular genre of Congolese African and Spanish flamenco influences, and is one of the primary ancestors of popular music in Cuba.
Cultural retention among the Bantu (Palo), Yoruba (Lukumi), Fon (Arará), and Efik (Abakuá) had the most significant impact in western Cuba, where rumba was born. The consistent interaction of Africans and Europeans on the island brought about what today is known as Afro-Cuban culture.