Author: Anonymous Submitted: 04.29.09 Word Count: 997
Cuba is a small communist country in the Caribbean. Though they may not have a lot of money and property, Cubans are among the most cheerful, musical and outgoing people on earth.
The unique sound of Cuban music traces back to the Yoruban and Congolese cultures in West Africa. Over thousands of slaves were brought over during the 1880s, and along with them their styles of music. A few of the instruments brought over are still used in Cuban music today such as the bata drums. After a while, Cubans began to invent their own instruments such as the tres (a small Cuban guitar with three pairs of strings) and bongos. Many of the instruments were made by the farmers in the Oriente, where many immigrants from different ethnic and musical backgrounds had settled. Many people embraced music during this time because it gave them hope and spirit during their time of struggle.
Another major influence on Cuban music was the Spanish. They introduced the guitar, which came with dramatic Spanish sounds. The Spanish influence also accounts for ballad singing. The tradition of singing ballads and protest songs go back a long way, and was revived in the 1970s. During the 1880s slaves were usually required to speak the language of their masters, the Spanish farmers, this was when African music began to use Spanish influences.
The son is Cuba’s national music and dance, and is the origin of many types of music in Latin America. Son was the first music to mix Spanish lyrics with African rhythm. There are many types of son, a few varieties include: mambo, salsa, and timba. The rumba, mambo, salsa, and Cuban jazz all have roots in Afro-Cuban son rhythms that originated more than two centuries ago. Son was a type of folk music sung on plantations in the hills of Oriente during the late 1800s. They sang about love, humour, and patriotism, though nowadays they include political and social views. The radio later popularized son throughout Cuba in the 1920s. As the popularity spread the guitar, double bass, bongo, tres, maracas, and claves were added. Three distinctive characteristics of son music are the rhythm made by the claves, the solo vocal element by the singer, and a repeated chorus towards the middle or end of the piece. Nowadays people have added faster rhythms and different instruments to change the style; also the lyrics reflect modern life in Cuba. Cuban rhythms have influenced jazz music, especially in the 1930s.
Cuba is home to many types’ music and dance which are related to the traditional forms of Cuban music. Most of the music and dances are copied from the traditional son music. One of the more popular ones is the mambo. The mambo originated in the Haitian settlements, and has both European and African characteristics. This musical style is a mixture of swing and traditional Cuban music. Mambo is still very popular in Cuba and many Cubans enjoy dancing the mambo, and listening to the music of the mambo as it continues to evolve into new forms of music.
Another type of popular music is salsa. Thought the term salsa is a characteristic style of Cuban music, the term actually originated in New York. Rhythms from bebop jazz, the mambo, salsa conjuntos, charangas, Puerto Rican plena and bomba music, and the bugalu all helped to shape salsa. These rhythms constantly mix and flow together to deepen the total musical base. Salsa instrumentation is quite similar to the other types of Cuban music. Some instruments that are included are the congas, timbales, and claves (which beat out a regular rhythm of three/two time or two-three time. Some other popular additions are: brass, leading guitar, and bass.
Cuban music can generally be characterized into two main areas: folk music (including both sacred and secular forms), and popular. The rumba is one of the most popular forms of folk music in Cuba. The rumba began in the early 20th century in urban centers and small settlements around sugarcane mills. It began as a lively song with irregular rhythms. In the 1920s the rumba spread to New York where orchestras had changed it into a ballroom dance with the addition of horns, and strings. Today, there are several styles of rumba, all of which include a lead singer and chorus singing in a call and response style. Each style of rumba has its own dance. The guaguanco style is a slow dance preformed by a man and woman. The colombia style is lively as the male dancers try to impress each other by performing increasingly difficult dance steps. The yambu style is very slow and the dance steps imitate the slow, unstable steps of elderly people.
Another style of traditional music is danzon, which was developed in the 1870s in Matanzas. The dance that accompanies the music is a slow elegant dance that is performed by couples. The danzon is different from any other type of Afro-Cuban music because instruments like the flute and violin are used making it sound very classical. The danzon is considered the upper-class dance of Cuba because of the distinguished and elegant appearance of the dancers.
In 1959, a young lawyer named Fidel Castro became Cuba’s leader, and introduced communism. Communism is a system of government were the government owns and controls a country’s businesses, natural resources, and industries, and it helps its people by funding education, cultural, healthcare, and housing programs. Many Cubans were unhappy with the new government so they rebelled against it. Some artists, musicians, writers, and religious leaders felt they were no longer allowed to express themselves freely, so many left the country.
Today, music in Cuba mixes many styles of music. Many Cubans nowadays can be found entertaining passersby on city streets at any time of day. Overall, Cuba has had a huge impact on music around the world, and is greatly appreciated now and by generations to come.