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The Caribbean island of Cuba has developed a wide range of creolized musical styles, based on its cultural origins in Europe (Spain) and Africa. Since the nineteenth century its music has been hugely popular and influential throughout the world. It has been perhaps the most popular form of world music since the introduction of recording technology.

The original guajira was simple, rural acoustic music, possibly related to Puerto Rican jibaro. It appeared in the early 20th century, and is led by a 12-string guitar called a tres, known for a distinctive tuning.

Música Campesina
Música campesina is a rural form of improvised music derived from a local form of décima and verso called punto. Over the years it has remained mostly unchanged, and has become an important influence on modern Son.

The European influence on Cuba's later musical development is most influentially represented by danzón, which is an elegant dance that became established in Cuba before being exported to popular acclaim throughout Latin America, especially Mexico. Its roots lay in European ballroom dances like the English country dance, French contredanse and Spanish contradanza. Danzon developed in the 1870s in the region of Matanzas, where African culture remained strong. It had developed in full by 1879. Played by orquesta tipica, an informal military marching band, danzóns evolved from the habanera by incorporating African elements.

Other forms of Cuban folk music include the bolero ballads from Santiago, and small French creole bands called charangas. Charangas come from Haitian refugees during the Haitian Revolution (1791), who settled in the Oriente and established their own style of danzón, forming a kind of cabildo called the tumba francesa and became known for comparsa, mambo, chachachá and other kinds of folk music.

Changuí is a rapid form of son from the eastern provinces (Santiago and Guantánamo). It is unclear how the changuí originated, and whether it is a precursor to the classical son, but it seems that the two developed along parallel lines. Changuí is characterised by its strong emphasis on the downbeat, as well as being fast and very percussive.

Son is a major genre of Cuban music, and has helped lay the foundation for most of what came after. It arose in the eastern part of the island, among Spanish-descended farmers, and is thought to have been derived from changui, which also merged the Spanish guitar and African rhythms and to which son is closely related. Son's characteristics vary widely today, with the defining characteristic a bass pulse that comes before the downbeat, giving son and its derivatives (including salsa) its distinctive rhythm; this is known as the anticipated bass.

Batá and Yuka
One of the most vibrant cabildos was the Lukumí, which became known for batá drums, played traditionally at initiation ceremonies, and gourd ensembles called abwe. In the 1950s, a collection of Havana-area batá drummers called Santero helped bring Lucumí styles into mainstream Cuban music, while artists like Mezcla and Lázaro Ros melded the style with other forms, including zouk. The Kongo cabildo is known for its use of yuka drums, as well as gallos (a form of song contest), makuta and mani dances, the latter being closely related to the Brazilian martial dance capoeira. Yuka drum music eventually evolved into what is known as rumba, which has become internationally popular. Rumba bands traditionally use several drums, palitos, claves and call and response vocals.

Abroad, rumba is primarily thought of as a glitzy ballroom dance, but its origins are spontaneous, improvised and lively, coming from the dockworkers of Havana and Matanzas. Percussion (including quinto and tumbadoras drums and "palitos", or sticks, to play a cáscara rhythm) and vocal parts (including a leader and a chorus) are combined to make a danceable and popular form of music. The word rumba is believed to stem from the verb rumbear, which means something like to have a good time, party. The rhythm is the most important part of rumba, which is always music primarily meant for dancing.There three kinds of rumba rhythms, with accompanying dances: columbia, guaganco and yambú. The columbia, played in 6/8 time, is danced by one man and is very swift, with aggressive and acrobatic moves. The guagancó, played in 2/4, is danced with one man and one woman, and is much slower. The dance simulates the man's pursuit of the woman, and is thus sexually charged. The yambú, known as "the old people's rumba", is a precursor to the guaguancó and is played more slowly. Yambú has almost died-out and is played almost exclusively by folkloric ensembles.

In the late 19th century, the habanera developed out of the contradanza which had arrived from Haiti after the Haitian revolution. The main innovation from the contradanza was rhythmic, as the habanera incorporated Spanish and African influences into its repertoire.

In the 1970s and onwards, son montuno was combined with other Latin musical forms, such as the mambo and the rumba, to form contemporary salsa music, currently immensely popular throughout Latin America and the Hispanic world

Since its appearance in the early 1990s timba has become the most popular dance music in Cuba. Though related to salsa, timba has its own characteristics and history, and is intimately tied to the life and culture of Cuba, and especially Havana. Timba is to Havana what tango is to Buenos Aires, or pagode to Rio de Janeiro.


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