One hour east of Havana lies the port city of Matanzas, where rumba emerged in the late 19th century. Brought to Cuba by Africans who were transported to the island to work as slaves, rumba was created around a flamboyant and boisterous combination of Congolese-derived drumming styles and Spanish flamenco-singing influences. It has grown to become one of Cuba’s most important Afro-Cuban dance and music genres.
The rhythms of rumba have given rise to three very different forms of dance. Yambú is the oldest and slowest; it is rarely performed today. Guaguancó is a flirtatious dance, performed by couples. Columbia, the fastest and most athletic, is performed by a male dancer.
By the mid-20th century, rumba was merging with son to form the precursor of salsa. To many, rumba is more than a music and dance genre; it is the collective expression of the Creole nature of the island itself
The music of Cuba is largely based on its cultural origins in Europe and Africa. The arrival on the island of thousands of African slaves over the course of three hundred years created a wealth of new musical forms. Deeply rooted in African rhythms, the country’s distinctive music owes its melodic power to its Spanish colonial heritage. The lively, energetic Cuban sound has profoundly influenced musical styles throughout the world, an impact that continues to this day. Distinct dance forms, related to specific types of music, over time have cross-pollinated, evolving into new styles of expression.