Son known as the ‘The Father of Salsa’ is derived from Cuba’s African and Spanish roots, Son the dance, starts with the formal, closed embrace of the man and woman. The couple maintain a very upright frame, with quick flirtatious and sensual side-to-side movements of the shoulders, torso and hips accenting the underlying six count rhythm of the feet. Son is danced off the beat, so the couple moves on the half beat before one.
Son comes from Santiago, in the east of Cuba and was brought to Havana in around 1917, where it rapidly caught on as a popular music and dance style. Important son bands of this era were Sexteto Habanero and Septeto Nacional. One of the most famous orignal son tunes is Manisero (The Peanut Vendor) sung my Rita Montaner.
In the 1940′s, there was a rise in the popularity of son music, spearheaded by the Cuban tres player Arsenio Rodriguez. He expanded line-up of musicians from single trumpet,tres (Cuban guitar, bass, bongo, maracas to include extra trumpets, congas and piano. This laid the foundation for the salsa explosion that was to come.
Changüí, Mother of Son.
Changüí was born due to different mixtures of pigmentation and culture. The word Changüí, according to Serva Universal Encyclopedic Dictionary, means in Cuba, ancient dance of ordinary people, this definition coincides with that exposed at Achete Castello Encyclopedic Dictionary and in Sopena.
This musical genre came to light from Northeast part of Guantánamo where are located minicipalities of Salvador, Yateras and Manuel Tames, rich and famous due to its musical traditions in Changüí genre.
When Changüiseros added Pasos to Pasos de Calle, having ethnic concentrations of Tainos, Antilleans, Andalusians, Estremeños, Negroes, Pantues, Congoes, Paleros and French, there, existed buds of Changüí. That’s why, these are unique places of Cuba in keeping this musical genre alive approaching original and traditional forms.
It can be catalog as montuna music born in the middle of mountains and it is the most popular of all the music of this territory. It also has Las Reginas as antecedent form.
The current Changüí can be divided into three branches: Primary, Traditional and Contemporary. In its morphological analysis, there`s a division starting from a call to montuno, afterwards, a repetitive execution, pasos or pasos de calle, chant, descarga and farewell climax. Changüí is the fourth embryo species within the whole living species that further more, formed and characterized what everybody knows as Son.
Many are the luminaries that were brighting on past centuries and are still living within the folklore of people in Guantánamo,among them, Nene Manfugaz, who was one of the pioneers history knows of this genre and other sonorous forms, taking them to Santiago de Cuba on 1892.
Cuban musician Orestes Lopez is credited with inventing the mambo alongside his brother, the renowned bassist, Israel ‘Cachao’ Lopez. In 1938 Orestes Lopez composed a danzon entitled ‘Mambo’ in Havana for the group he was a member of “Arcano y sus Maravillas”. The tune was a new type of Danzon moving straight to the cowbell section after a brief introduction.
In the 1940′s Cuban band leader and composer Damaso Perez Prado, took the mambo first to Mexico and then onto the USA. Damaso Perez Prado “The Mambo King” reshaped the mambo from its original danzon beginnings into a commercial format, replacing the strings and flute with trumpets and saxophones.
The the most significant mambo bandleaders however were Machito and The Afro Cubans, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez, it was from the New York dance hall ‘The Palladium’ that these three artists laid the foundations of modern salsa music and dance.
Cha Cha Cha
Created in 1951 by the “Maestro” Enrique Jorin with the “American Orchestra”. This music style was very popular in the fifties and remains so today. It is particularly useful to improve fluency in women dancers. It is a partner dance that contains several figures and turnings to embellish the dance. Famous musical numbers are: “La Englinadura”, El Alardoso “and “Olga La Tamalera”.
The three basic types of rumba include:
Rumba Yambú - 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 - 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.
Rumba Columbia - In this fast and energetic style of rumba, with a 6/8 feel, solo male dancers provoke the drummers 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 humour. Columbia incorporates many movements derived from Congo dances as well as Spanish flamenco, and more recently dancers have incorporated break dancing and hip hop moves. Women are also beginning to dance Columbia, too.
Cuban Orisha Percussion / Batá Drums
Batá drums are a set of three double-headed religious drums used in Cuba: The Iya, Itotele and Okonkolo. Sacred to Yoruba religion and Santeria, they have also been used in secular music such as salsa and jazz.
Percussion is a crucial component of the Orisha religion, in that it is the vehicle through which devotees communicate with the Orishas (deities). For the most important religious ceremonies, an ensemble of three double-headed batá drums is employed and frequently augmented by the acheré (a small gourd rattle). Batá drums are ritually consecrated and are particularly pleasing to the orishas.
In ceremonies where there is a less rigorous protocol, other instruments can be used, such as shekerés (large gourd rattles that are strung with beads or seeds), conga drums and a guataca (a hoe blade or cowbell played with a striker). Orisha percussion generally accompanies singing in which deities are praised and invited to descend upon their devotees.
Though most Orisha percussionists play mainly for religious ceremonies, some occasionally appear in nightclub shows, museum programs or similar settings. Orisha percussionists believe that, when they perform in secular contexts, they help audiences gain a new perspective on a religion that is often misunderstood.
The Orisha Elegguá is one of the most respected deities of the tradition. He is the trickster Orisha, represented as a child or an old man, and the owner of all roads, which he can open — or block. As a messenger between humans and Orishas, he must always be honored first at ceremonies and religious events. He loves candy, toys, rum and cigars, and his colors are red, black and white.
The Orisha of iron, war and labor, Ogún uses his machete to clear the pathways opened by his fellow warrior Eleggua. A blacksmith, he is a solitary fellow who lives in the forest with his friend Ochosi, the hunter Orisha. He gave humans our tools and technology, and is both destroyer and producer. He likes rum and his main colors are green and black.
Ochosi is the hunter Orisha, who scouts the forest so that a path can be opened and clear by his fellow warriors, Eleggua and Ogun. He helps us focus our attention on our desired goals and results, and shows human the fastest path to our destiny. He is also associated with justice, and is friends with Obatalá.
Oshún is popular, beautiful and seductive Orisha of love, wealth, sensuality, fertility and art. She owns the rivers, and loves the color yellow, honey, sweets, pumpkin and champagne. She is both loved and feared, since she has a terrible temper. She renews the process of creation.
The older sister of Oshún, Yemayá is the mother of all, who rules over the ocean and is well-loved by sailors and fisherman. She is the maternal force of life and creation. Fish are sacred to her, and her colors are blue, white and silver.
The fiery warrior Orisha Oyá guards the cemetary and rules over the egun or dead. She is also the ruler of the winds, tornados and hurricanes, and wears a skirt of nine different colors. She is a strong protectoress of women and an Orisha of change. Her colors are burgundy and purple, as well as the colors of the sparkle, which she represents as well.
The warrior Orisha Chango rules lightning, dance and drums, fire and passion. He is the consuming energy of virility, power and passion. He is handsome and very masculine, and loves women and music. He uses a double-bladed axe and his colors are red and white.
Obatala is considered to be the father of the other Orishas, the oldest Orisha and the creator of mankind. He is a peaceful and compassionate Orisha, who represents wisdom and clarity. He is also the guardian of those with mental illness, birth defects, drug addiction and alcoholism. His color is white and his ornaments are silver.
Babalu Aye is the Orisha of healing and disease. He appears as a sick man with sores and trembling arms and legs. He teaches compassion and responsibility to others, and is often invoked by people suffering from HIV/AIDS and those rejected from society. He likes popcorn and his colors are brown, black and purple.
Rueda de Casino
During the late 1950′s in Cuba, there was a popular dance that was done in the streets, clubs and peoples homes. It was called Casino Rueda, or Rueda de Casino, or simply Rueda.
Rueda simply means “wheel”. Casino refers to the kinds of turns and breaks you might normally see in ordinary partner Salsa Dancing. What makes Rueda unique is that the dancing is done in the “wheel”, as a group, with the “followers” being passed in the wheel, rapid exchanging of partners, and many complicated moves — sometimes done as wheels within wheels — and all done in time with “hot” Salsa music. Each move, or “call”, has a name, and is called by a leader of the Rueda, sometimes in very quick succession. Many of the moves also have hand signals as well as names, in order to be able to dance in a loud club setting. The Rueda can be as small as two couples, or as large as a space can hold sometimes as many as a hundred couples.
When dancing Rueda, there is a new group dynamic that happens. What is not obvious when watching Rueda, is the new level of awareness required to have a group dance flow smoothly, and look sharp whilst keeping it fun! Dancers learn to open their sphere of awareness, their peripheral vision, beyond the normal restricted “bubble” of solo or partner dancing. In this way, dancers coordinate and adjust their individual feel and timing and style so as to make the Rueda “click”. When this happens, it is very exciting indeed!
The child of the Contradanza. Also danced in lines or squares. This type of dance was eventually replaced by the danzón, which was, like the habanera, much slower and more sedate. One famous composer of danzas was Ignacio Cervantes, whose forty-one Danzas Cubanas were a landmark in musical nationalism.
Born in Cuba in the 1850s and once the island’s official dance the Danzón evolved from the contradanza there is the misconception that the contradanza went to Cuba with the French colonists escaping the Haitian revolution. That is not so. While that musical style did get a boost of popularity in the island with the arrival of the French, it was already popular among the Spanish elite. In any case, the local bands infused the contradanza with African rhythms.
At the time most bands in Cuba were military style – composed of brass instruments and a kettle drums from which the timbales developed. Eventually one or two violins and a clarinet or two were added to what then became known as the orquesta típica (typical band). No matter what composition the bands took they became known as danzoneras.
Developed by either Miguel Failde or Manuel Saumell in Matanzas, the Danzón was at first a kind of square dance in which the couples carried ribbons and flowers. Then, came what is considered the first true Danzón, ‘Failde’s Las Alturas the Simpson’ (The Simpson Heights) in 1879, which began with a four bars introduction followed by another four bars of what is called the ‘paseo’ and then the 16 bar melody. Danzones were then, short musical pieces. Eventually, in 1910, a ‘Montuno’, in the form of a mambo or cha-cha-cha or any other faster Cuban rhythm was, added. The first danzón to incorporate the montuno was José Urfé’s El Bombín de Barreto (Barreto’s Derby).
Timba was first developed in Cuba in the ’70s, but fully emerged during the ’90s, a widely popular style of popular music and dance. By the mid-’90s most local Cuban dance bands performed timba. It was innovative and fresh — a fusion of popular Afro-Cuban dance with jazz and even funk influences. It was very popular among Afro-Cubans, who were celebrated in its songs, along with Afro-Cuban neighborhoods. But timba also provoked controversy, with its relaxed and irreverent lyrics and aggressive dance moves. It is very much influenced by rumba, and is so enticing to dancers that they may dance until exhausted!
Reached its climax in the second half of the 19th century and kept an important position until the first quarter of the following century. Many Cubans still remember how to dance Zapateo and square dances, especially in the province of Ciego de Avila. Of the three, Majagua, Najasa and Holguin, only the first one is still alive in peasant celebrations in Ciego de Avila. These dances entered Cuba from France and Spain at the end of the 18th century, extending throughout the country in the following century. Zapateado underwent various changes in Cuba, like all dance expressions brought by the various migrant groups.
The dance consists of bending the knee and lowering the body at the same time as lifting up a foot while returning the body to its normal upright position, continuing to bend the knees, and lowering the body. The dance looks like a cross between the “timeless” Afro-Cuban rumba and son, and the African American twist, which was popular in the States during the early 1960s.
Mozambique peaked in 1965, when Pello took a group to the Olympics in Paris, then was quickly discarded. Despite its short time in the spotlight, first Pello, and later his son, have kept the mozambique alive through recordings and live performances. Mozambique was the first new genre of post-revolution Cuba, and the first popular band music to systemically use rumba clave. The mozambique began a new trajectory in band rhythms, which can be heard in its descendants—songo and timba
Pilon is a Cuban musical style and dance which was very popular in the 1950’s. Originating from the village of the same name, it imitates the movements, rhythms and steps are according the movement of pounding the sugar cane. Pacho Alonso is believed to be the father of the Pilon.
Palo traditions come from the Bantú people of Central Africa (particularly from Congo). The Bantú represent the majority of African slaves coming into Cuba during the 17th and early 18th century; later the Yoruba (from Nigeria) became the primary group brought to Cuba as slaves. Drums and hand rattles are used in this music, which is based upon communication with ancestral spirits, the dead, as opposed to the Orishas. The songs and chants, often in a hybrid combination of Spanish and Bantú words, play a central role in the rituals of Palo. Music of this tradition has had a strong influence on popular music forms like Rumba, Son and Mambo.
Yuka is a popular form of secular Congo music that was played during the 19th century and incorporated Yuka drums. Yuka dancing imitates the body language of chickens and roosters, and features the vacunao, a pelvic thrust that is also used in rumba and other dances derived from the Congo.
Abakua comes from the Calabar region of West Africa. Its special songs and drums are derived from all-male secret societies. These traditions retain many of the elements of African mystical ritual practice.
From the Fon people and the Arara kingdom of the Dahomean region, now known as Benin, Arara rhythms, songs and dances were introduced into eastern Cuba through Haiti, where many of those rituals and ceremonies are still practiced.
Makuta is a social dance of Congo origin. The makuta drums are a forebear of the conga drums. In Cuba, makuta refers to a festive gathering or a type of ritual staff, which is used at certain moments in Palo ceremonies to strike the ground in a rhythmic accompaniment to a song or dance.
CONGAS AND COMPARSA
Cuban comparsa is the dance of the street carnival — and is more commonly known as a conga line. It is loud, flashy and fun, with dancers in colorful and flamboyant attire and musicians playing horns (trumpets, trombones, tubas, etc.), percussion instruments (maracas, bongos, congas, guiros, batas, claves, checkeres, surdos, tamborines) and whistles. In a comparsa some people hold farolas, large and elaborately decorated processional items on long sticks that are usually carried at the front of the parade and twirled or spun by their carriers, in time to the music.