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What is Afro-Cuban Rumba?
In Cuban music, 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 Africans brought to Cuba as slaves as well as Spanish colonizers. Rhythmically, rumba is based on the five-stroke pattern called clave (rhythm) and the inherent structure it conveys.
Rumba developed in the Cuban provinces of Havana and Matanzas in the late 19th century. As an energetic Afro-Cuban dance, Rumba was often suppressed and restricted because it was viewed as dangerous and lewd.
Afro-Cuban rumba is entirely different than Ballroom Rumba, or the African style of pop music called rumba. Rumba developed in rural Cuba, and is still danced in Havana, Mantanzas and other Cuban cities as well as rural areas, especially those with a significant or predominant African community, although now it is infused with influences from Jazz and Hip hop.
A Cuban Rumba song often begins with the soloist singing meaningless syllables, which is called 'diana(s)'. He then may proceed to improvise lyrics stating the reason for holding the present Rumba ('decimar'; span.: to make ten-line stanzas), or instead tunes into a more or less fixed song such as: "Ave Maria Morena" (Yambú, Anónimo), "Llora Como Lloré" (Guaguancó, S. Ramirez), "Cuba Linda, Cuba Hermosa" (Guaguancó, R.Deza), "China de Oro (Laye Laye)" (Columbia), "Malanga (Murió)" (Columbia)".
Cuban Rumba can be broken down into three types: Yambú (the oldest and slowest style), Columbia, and Guaguancó (the most popular style, which can be heard in songs such as "Quimbara" by Celia Cruz).
Yambú is the oldest and slowest known style of rumba, sometimes called the Old People's Rumba. It uses the slowest beat of the three Rumba styles and incorporates movements feigning frailty. It can be danced alone (especially by women) or by men and women together. Although male dancers may flirt with female dancers during the dance, they do not use the vacunao of Rumba Guaguancó.
 Rumba Guaguancó
is faster than yambú, with more complex rhythms, and involves overtly flirtatious movements between a man and a woman in the roles of "Rooster" and "Hen".The woman both entices and "protects herself" from the man, who tries to catch the woman off-guard with a vacunao -- tagging her with the flip of a handkerchief or by throwing his arm, leg or pelvis in her direction in an act of symbolic sexual contact. To defend herself, she may cover with her hand, or use her skirt to protect her pelvis and whip the sexual energy away from her body. Guaguancó most likely inherited the idea of the 'vacunao' from yuca or macuta dances, which were both brought to Cuba by Bantú ethnic groups.
Musical Form of Rumba Guaguancó
The Rumba Guaguancó consists of two main sections. The first, the canto, features the lead vocalist, who performs an extended text that is sometimes partially improvised. Underneath the vocal three interlocking rhythmic parts are played: one or two drummers playing on differently tuned congas perform an ostinato (recurring pattern), while another musician taps a pattern on the side of one drum with two hard sticks, called palitos. Another, usually the lead singer, plays a standardized clave part. This section usually lasts a few minutes, until the lead vocalist signals for the other singers to repeat a short refrain, in call and response. This signals the beginning of the second section, the montuno which features the dancers, as they engage in their "rooster and hen" antics, and also the band, with extended instrumental solos. Cuban music group Vocal Sampling has performed an all-vocal version of Rumba Guaguanco on the song "Conga Yambumba".
Rumba Columbia (not "Colombia") is a fast and energetic Rumba, with a 6/8 feel, which is often accompanied by a 6/8 (Spanish 'seis por ocho') beat struck on a hoe or a bell. It is assumed that the Columbia originated in hamlets in the interior of Cuba rather than the suburbs of the larger cities from where other types of Cuban Rumba stem. Solo, traditionally male, dancers provoke the drummers, especially the player of the smallest drum (Quinto, here also soloist drum), to play complex rhythms that they imitate through their creative and sometimes acrobatic movements. Men may also compete with other men to display their agility, strength, confidence and even sense of humor. All of these aforementioned aspects of Rumba Columbia are derived from a colonial Cuban martial art/dance called El Juego de Maní which is similar in origin and execution to Brazilian Capoeira. Columbia incorporates many movements derived from Congo dances as well as Spanish flamenco, and more recently dancers have incorporated breakdancing and hip hop moves. Women are also beginning to dance Columbia, too. According to Cuban percussionist, singer, composer and historian Gregorio 'el Goyo' Hernandez, who became widely accepted as a specialist in Cuban Rumba after his album "La Rumba Es Cubana: Su Historia", Cuban Rumba Columbia has its origins in the drum patterns and chants of religious Cuban Abakuá traditions. Fact is that the 'cáscara' or 'palito' rhythm of Columbia, either beaten with two sticks on a piece of bamboo or on the rim of the congas, is the same as the one played in Abakuá chants, which is played with two small plaited rattles ('erikundi') filled with beans or similar objects. The drum patterns of the lowest conga drum is essentially the same in both Columbia and Abakuá as well.