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Stylistic origins: African, native and Spanish music
Cultural origins: African slaves in Havana and Matanzas
Typical instruments: Quinto and tumbadoras drums and palitos
Mainstream popularity: Significant in Latin America and Africa, rare elsewhere
Guaguanco, columbia, and yambú
Fusion genres
Chachacha - Salsa music

Rumba is both a family of music rhythms and a dance style that originated in Africa and traveled via the slave trade to Cuba and the New World. The so-called rumba rhythm, a variation of the African standard pattern or clave rhythm, is the additive grouping of an eight pulse bar (one 4/4 measure) into 3+3+2 or, less often, 3+5 (van der Merwe 1989, p.321). Its variants include the bossa nova rhythm. Original Cuban rumba is highly polyrhythmic, and as such is often far more complex than the examples cited above.


Ballroom Rumba and Rhumba

There is a ballroom dance, also called Rumba, based on Cuban Rumba and Son. Also, still another variant of Rumba music and dance was popularized in the United States in 1930s, which was almost twice as fast, as exemplified by the popular tune, The Peanut Vendor. This type of "Big Band Rumba" was also known as Rhumba. The latter term still survives, with no clearly agreed upon meaning; one may find it applied to Ballroom, Big Band, and Cuban rumbas. Rumba is also called as "woman's dance", because it absolutely presents women's body line beautifully. Besides, the interation, emotion and the soft rhythm between the partners make another apposite name called "Love dance."

Gypsy Rumba

In the 1990s the French group Gypsy Kings of Spanish descent became a popular New Flamenco group by playing Rumba Flamenca (or rumba gitana, Catalan rumba) music.

African Rumba

Rumba, like salsa and some other Caribbean and South American sounds have their rythmic roots to varying degrees in African musical traditions, having been brought there by African slaves. In the late 1930s and early 1940s in the Congos, musicians developed a music known as rumba, based on West and Central African, and Caribbean and South American rythyms.

This brand of African rumba became popular in Africa in 1950s. Some of the most notable bands were Franco Luambo's OK Jazz and Grand Kalle's African Jazz. These bands spawned well known rumba artists such as Sam Mangwana, Dr Nico Kasanda and Tabu Ley Rochereau, who pioneered Soukous, the genre into which African rumba evolved in the 1960s. Soukous is still sometimes referred to as rumba.

Cuban Rumba

Rumba arose in Havana in the 1890s. As a sexually-charged Afro-Cuban dance, rumba was often suppressed and restricted because it was viewed as dangerous and lewd.

Later, Prohibition in the United States caused a flourishing of the relatively-tolerated cabaret rumba, as American tourists flocked to see crude sainetes (short plays) which featured racial stereotypes and generally, though not always, rumba.

Perhaps because of the mainstream and middle-class dislike for rumba, danzón and (unofficially) son montuno became seen as "the" national music for Cuba, and the expression of Cubanismo. Rumberos reacted by mixing the two genres in the 1930s, 40s and 50s; by the mid-40s, the genre had regained respect, especially the guaguanco style.

Rumba is sometimes confused with salsa, with which it shares origins and essential movements.

There are several rhythms of the Rumba family, and associated styles of dance:

  • Yambú (slow; the dance often involving mimicking old men and women walking bent)
  • Guaguancó (medium-fast, often flirtatious, involving pelvic thrusts by the male dancers, the vacunao)
  • Columbia (fast, aggressive and competitive, generally danced by men only, occasionally mimicking combat or dancing with knives)
  • Columbia del Monte (very fast)

All of these share the instrumentation (3 conga drums or cajones, claves, palitos and / or guagua, lead singer and coro; optionally chekeré and cowbells), the heavy polyrhythms, and the importance of clave.

Rumba rhythm

The rhythm which is known now as "rumba rhythm" was popular in European music beginning in the 1500s until the later Baroque, with classical music era composers preferring syncopations such as 3+2+3. It reappeared in the nineteenth century. (ibid, p.272) Examples include:

Bach, The Little Music Book of Anna Magdalena Bach, Musette rumba rhythm Bach, The Little Music Book of Anna Magdalena Bach, Musette rumba rhythm


  • van der Merwe, Peter (1989). Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0193161214.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.