Rumba the Night Away in Havana

When painting a picture of Cuba, the colour that bring the island to life invariably involves the Rumba. A part of Cuba's national identity, this style of dancing is a cross between African rhythms and Spanish melody.

Culture Facts

Where: Havana, Cuba
What’s it about: A sensual throbbing dance groove combining African rhythm with Spanish melody
Where to hear: 
Buena Vista Social Club movie or album soundtrack, better still on the streets and clubs of Havana!

 

When painting a picture of Cuba, the colour that bring the island to life invariably involves the Rumba. A part of Cuba’s national identity, this style of dancing is a cross between African rhythms and Spanish melody. You would be hard pressed to visit Cuba and not experience the throbbing beat of the Rumba, it’s on display, it’s in the backstreets of Havana, it’s everywhere, and it’s hard not to get sucked in!

The type of Rumba danced in Cuba is quite different to the western ballroom dancing version. The name Rumba represents both a type of music and a style of dancing. When dancing the Rumba, there are actually three types of Rumba dance moves. The Yambu is a slow, simple and relaxed form of the Rumba. Guaguanco is a sensual form of the Rumba with flirtatious movements playing out a mating dance, and Columbia is the fastest Rumba, usually danced by solo males, who spice up their performance with feats of acrobatics and strength.

Cuban Rumba music has had a revival in the west recently, lead by the Buena Vista Social Club, and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. However, Rumba has always been heard in Cuba. The state of their economy means that few records are available to the Cuban people, so live music is often the only music available to the people.

Where to Rumba the Night Away

When in Havana, why don’t you seek out some of your own Rumba action? You could try the UNEAC club (17y H Vedado), El Palenque (Calzada y 4 Vedado or El Callejon (Hamel Centro Habana). You never know what might happen under the influence of the Rumba beat!

 

MORE INFORMATION

History of Dance
Read how Rumba music has infiltrated the western dancing scene.

Buena Vista Social Club featuring Ry Cooder
The classic and essential Rumba soundtrack from the movie
Order this CD from Amazon.com

A Toda Cuba Le Gusta – Afro Cuban All Stars (1997)
Class album from old Cuban maestros
Order this CD from Amazon.com

 

By Lorna Musgrove

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