The Rumba

The rumba is very typical Cuban and developed in the Matanzas region and the large towns, especially Havana. Rumba means something like "Festival" and comes from the Bantu language. A rumba is therefore not necessarily just a musical offering, but is always to be understood in the context of a performance, to which song and dance also belong. The dances performed to the rumba come from the traditional dances of the Yoruba and the Bantu.

The progression of a rumba.

The "Diana" forms the beginning of every rumba. The lead singer introduces the song by improvising both on the text and the improvisations themselves. An excerpt from a Diana here:

La Voz Del Congo

The "Canto" follows next, in which the text is repeated with new additions and then improvisations.

In the "Montuño" which works on the principle of call-and-response the lead singer and the choir alternate. The focus is more on the dancers.

There are three main forms of rumba which differ from each other in rhythmic structure, style of dancing and sung text:

The Guaguanco

This is the oldest and slowest form of rumba. It often tells a story as well as expressing love play, important in the Yambú.

The Yambú

Is like the Guaguanco, an erotic dance for two, which expresses the conquest of the woman. The man attempts to reach the woman's pelvis by gesture, by "aiming" with unambiguous movements at her womb. She playfully rejects these attempts. The rumba ends with the successful "implantation" of the woman, the symbolic sex act.

The Columbia

It is a very athletic solo dance, mostly by one man, and often the vehicle for a contest between several male dancers for the title of best dancer. It is very fast and lively.

The instruments for the rumba:

Depending upon the occasion the rumba is drummed on congas or on simple wooden boxes.
Normally the music is performed between three differently pitched drums, claves and palitos. The basic pattern around which the whole ensemble is centred is played on the claves. The palitos play a decorative figure based on semiquavers over and above the combined rhythm.

The great R"h"umba hoax

In the Thirties the United States, and later the whole of Europe was seized by a wave of enthusiasm for Cuban music which they called rhumba. It was not, however, real Cuban rumba but son.

Important interpreters of this boom were Septeto Habanero and Don Apizazu, and, of course, Benny Moré with songs such as Peanut Vendor.

The name was used because there was something African about it and it was reminiscent of mambo and samba. In any case if son had been used it could have been confused in English with words like: song, son or sun