The Cuban rumba (not to be confused with the ballroom rhumba popularized in the United States in the 1950s and '60s) is the purest expression of Afro-Cuban culture. A battery of drums and bells accompany a lead vocalist and chorus with dancers creating a hypnotic and dizzying pulsing web of sound that clearly betrays its African origins. While it shares features with African religious santería ceremonies of Cuba, rumba itself is not religious. Rumba instead began—and remains to this day—an informal street dance and music, which emerged from poorer black neighborhoods in the cities of Havana and Matanzas in the 19th century.
Today rumba is universally recognized as Cuba's national dance music, a rich musical tradition that has given birth to the Cuban son, mambo, cha-cha-cha and countless other Latin-influenced music styles from around the world.
In a series of videos, learn more about the story of rumba and also watch performances by the legendary rumba group Yoruba Andabo, also featured in Zankel Hall as part of Voices from Latin America.
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In this excerpt from the documentary Roots of Rhythm, Harry Belafonte traces the roots of rumba back to the historic Havana neighborhood of Belén.
In another excerpt from Roots of Rhythm, Harry Belafonte further examines the origins of the "uniquely Cuban music known as rumba."
Voices from Latin America artists Yoruba Andabo perform "Maria Rafaela."